There are many hobbyist scattered about this world collecting beloved nostalgic or underrated or rare items ranging from classic cars to action figures to stamps. This probably goes without saying, but my weakness is of the edible variety. I collect dried pastas, and before you laugh too loudly out loud, so does one of my role models, Nigella Lawson. When I walk pass a crinkly, clear bag tied off in pretty ribbon, stuffed neatly with dried pasta, I just cannot resist it. It doesn’t even need to have fancy packaging, however. I just can’t help myself with all the varied shapes, colors, and sizes available. I can go into a cheese shop or candle store or just about anywhere and somehow always find that little tucked away section of “specialty”, “gourmet” pastas. The only reason I don’t have a bigger collection of dried pastas is simply because I eat them. Ha! Well, and in all honesty, also because my spouse cuts me off when my pasta stash gets to looking more like a fallout shelter than a well stocked pantry.
For this recipe, I broke into a bag of organic Casarecce from my collection, that I picked up at Wegmans (I think). Casarecce is a pasta I have never cooked with or eaten before, but it looks pretty, with its cute, chubby grooves and twists, and so I figured the shape would perfectly soak up a hearty alfredo sauce, while being sturdy enough to stand up alongside the crispy Brussels. You can use any hearty shell you have in your pantry, however, or even the usual Fettuccine for this Alfredo recipe. Any green veg like sweet peas, green beans, kale, chard, or broccoli can easily be substituted as well. Since we can’t leisurely run out to the grocery or farmer’s markets right now, it’s important to remain flexible in the kitchen and recipes, like Alfredo, really help keep things quick and simple.
CASARECCE A typical pasta of Puglia, the name, meaning “home style,” refers to two-inch-long thin twists. See orecchiette maritate. Pronounced cah-sah-RECH-ee.
Variations: use vegan Alfredo sauce, skip the butter, and use GF pasta shells, if you have any dietary restrictions.
1 cup dried Casarecce
2 cups Alfredo sauce of choice
2 cups Brussels sprouts, trimmed and qaurtered
1/4 tsp Aleppo pepper, optional
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp EVOO
1 tab butter
1/2 tbsp peanut oil
2 tbsp dried or fresh Italian herb blend
4 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
lemon wedges for serving
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Prepare a baking sheet by lightly coating it with the peanut oil. Set aside.
In a med sized mixing bowl, add the red wine vinegar, EVOO, Brussels, Aleppo, salt and pepper. Toss to evenly coat.
Place the oiled baking sheet in the oven and preheat it about 5 minutes. Carefully remove from the oven and place on a heat safe surface. With a pair of tongs, place the Brussels on the baking sheet flat side down leaving plenty of space between each sprout, making sure to not touch the baking sheet as it will be extremely hot. Return to the oven and roast the Brussels 20 – 25 minutes, or until the Brussels are tender and have reached the crispness you desire.
Meanwhile, fill a good sized stock or soup pot up with several cups of water and bring to a soft boil over a high flame. Once boiling, stir in a bit of salt and add the pasta. Cook a couple minutes shy of al dente, as it will finish in the Alfredo sauce.
While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a large saucepan over med flame. Once the butter has stopped foaming, add the minced garlic and herbs. Saute a couple of minutes until the garlic has softened and the herbs are very fragrant. Stir in Alfredo sauce of choice, reduce flame to low and simmer until just heated through.
With a slotted spoon of pasta fork, remove the pasta from the pasta water and stir into the Alfredo sauce. Add a ladle of the pasta water to the Alfredo sauce and discard the remaining liquid. Continue to cook the pasta in the Alfredo sauce until it is tender and the sauce has thickened to your liking, 2 – 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.
Garnish the pasta with the Brussels and serve immediately with the lemon wedges.