Carbonara sounds like an exciting dish to me. I then found it to be lacking and in need of a kick of spices and bright colored veggies. As much as I love pasta, meat, and cheese, my heart and gut scream out in silence “please stop”.
Its an Italian dish, usually with spaghetti, a cured pork such as pancetta, egg, and a hard cheese like parmesan or pecorino Romano. We love a good pasta dish but tend to adapt it to our liking, which is bringing in lots of veggies. Its great for our kids and we then pair it along with a balsamic vinaigrette salad.
A great dish to host with because of its simplicity, and prep can be done the morning of.
So, we take the basic recipe, and as we always say to you, we made it our own. We tossed in some mushrooms, brussels sprouts, a handful of unique spices, some irresistible bacon, and of course, smothered it in extra sharp cheddar! Viola, its amazing, everyone in our family loves it, baby, toddler, and mom and dad.
We use this dish to host, and we use it regularly in our monthly meal planning to incorporate veggies, and pasta. And of course, to send you off, we hope this meal brings you and your family back to the table!
Family Table Talk
Here is some fun information about this recipe that can be used to spur on loving and open conversations between family and friends!
Origin – Rome, Italy
Geography – Northern Mediterranean
Root – Carbonaro/Carbonari, meaning coal worker, a secret society
1. What concession food would you want to eat in the Roman Coliseum?
2. What is the furthest geographical location that you have visited?
3. If you were in a secret society, what would be your secret?
Cheesy Brussels Sprouts Carbonara with Bacon and Mushrooms
In this recipe we use extra thick cut bacon. It just seems to have a better texture, crunch, and tear to it. We also love to top this dish with fresh tomato and chopped cilantro.
1 pound of bacon, cooked, then chopped and set aside*
8 ounces of pasta, reserving 1/4 cup of pasta water **
1/2 red onion, slivered
12 ounces of brussels sprouts, quartered***
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp dried cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp sea salt, fine
pepper to taste
4 ounces of white button mushrooms, sliced with stems removed
1 cup of cheddar cheese, shredded and packed
- Set a pot full of water with some salt on the stove top to boil. Once your water comes to a boil, add in your pasta and cook till al dente, per package instructions, reserving 1/4 of pasta water after draining. Toss your pasta with some olive oil to keep it from sticking to each other.
- Next, begin to heat up your cast iron pan over medium-high heat. When the cast iron pan is hot, add in your bacon strips. Prepare your vegetables and spices while your pasta and bacon cook.
- Remove the cooked bacon and reserve about ½ of the bacon grease and pour out the rest. While the pan is still hot, sauté the onions for about 1-2 minutes. After your bacon cools down, chop it up into 1 inch pieces.
- Next, add your brussels sprouts in and sauté for about 1-2 minutes until they are a bit browned in color. Splash in 2 tbsp of reserved pasta water, cover and let steam for 2-3 minutes until you can pierce them with a knife and not feel any resistance. Your brussels sprouts will have turned a bright green.
- Make a well in the center and add in your garlic and spices, sauté them for 30 seconds, until they become fragrant. Add in a tbsp of the pasta water again to keep garlic from burning.
- Add in your mushrooms, (do not stir as to not break them) now add in the last tbsp of pasta water to help create steam, cover and let cook about 1-2 minutes more until they are cooked.
- Add in your pasta and bacon now, give it a stir.
- Turn the heat off, sprinkle your cheese evenly. Cover again and when the cheese has all melted it will be ready to serve.
*Make sure to reserve 1/2 of the bacon grease to sauté some of the vegetables. We also love to use extra thick cut bacon, but feel free to use whatever bacon you enjoy the most.
**We love to use tri-color rotini pasta because it adds a pop of color to the dish and our children love to eat it compared to a penne or ziti.
***Also feel free to replace the brussels sprouts with other vegetables such as asparagus, broccoli, and even carrots. This is a great ‘clean out the pantry and fridge’ dish!