Donal Skehan delivers another winning weeknight dish with this creamy pasta with pancetta and Brussels sprouts. For this easy meal, the pasta is tossed in a light and creamy herb sauce and topped with crispy pancetta, pan-roasted Brussels sprouts, and crispy garlic bread crumbs.
Sprouts are most definitely not just for Christmas. Shot through a food processor, they make a wonderful fresh slaw or, as in this recipe, a great addition to a creamy pasta dish sprinkled with crispy bread crumbs. Chopped rosemary or thyme is a delicious addition to the pangrattato if you have some.–Donal Skehan
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Pasta with Pancetta and Brussels Sprouts FAQs
What can I substitute for crème fraîche, if I can’t find it?
Sour cream is a suitable substitute for crème fraîche. Both sour cream and crème fraîche are cultured and have a sour tang. Sour cream has a lower fat content (20% to crème fraîche’s 30%), making it thinner and less dense. Crème fraîche is thicker, richer, and slightly less tangy. In most recipes, you can substitute sour cream 1:1 – but let your taste buds be your guide.
What is pangrattato?
The word pangrattato means “bread crumbs” in Italian. It’s simple bread crumbs that are fried with herbs, olive oil, and butter. Pangrattato is also known as “poor man’s parmesan”, as it’s sprinkled over a finished pasta dish in place of grated parmesan.
Pasta with Pancetta and Brussels Sprouts
For the pasta
- 14 ounces orecchiette
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 7 ounces pancetta cut into 1/4-inch (6-mm) dice
- 12 ounces Brussels sprouts quartered
- 3 tablespoons crème fraîche
- 3/4 ounce (scant 1/4 cup) Parmesan cheese grated
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill or flat-leaf parsley
For the pangrattato
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons (1 oz) butter
- 1 garlic clove thinly sliced
- 3 1/2 ounces (1 cup) fresh white bread crumbs
- Finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon preferably organic
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cook the pasta
- In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until just tender, according to package directions. Drain in a colander, reserving a scant 1/2 cup (100 ml) of cooking water.
Make the pangrattato
- Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, warm the oil and butter. Toss in the garlic, bread crumbs, and lemon zest, and fry, stirring frequently, until golden, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Finish the pasta
- In the same large skillet over medium heat, warm the olive oil and gently fry the pancetta until golden, 4 to 5 minutes. Scoop the pancetta out of the skillet with a slotted spoon and place in a small bowl.
- Toss the sprouts into the skillet along with a splash of water and fry until they are just tender, about 5 minutes.
- Return the crispy pancetta to the skillet along with the drained pasta, crème fraîche, Parmesan, and reserved cooking water. Stir together with half of the dill or parsley. Check the seasoning and adjust as needed.
- Sprinkle with the pangrattato and the rest of the dill or parsley and serve.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
I will add this pasta with pancetta and Brussels sprouts to my pasta repertoire from now on! My husband and I enjoyed the texture that the pangrattato added to what would by itself be an enjoyable Brussels sprouts pasta dish.
The crème fraîche just really lends some tang, but in combination with the water, it pretty much blends into the pasta. (I guess if you wanted it to be “thicker” you could add less water). The pancetta gives a nice smoky flavor.
This pasta with pancetta and Brussels sprouts was a really lovely and easy dinner for a chilly evening. The balance of flavors and textures is spot on, and there is a little bit of everything – crunchy, bright bread crumbs, creamy pasta, rich pancetta, a little bitterness from the sprouts… without any individual aspect overwhelming the dish. I was surprised how much creaminess just a little bit of crème fraîche added!
This pancetta pasta dish would also be great with another vegetable if Brussels sprouts aren’t in season. I’m planning to try it with some yellow and green squash in the summer!
I am not the world’s biggest fan of Brussels sprouts (a rarity these days, I know….) so I am always challenging myself to find ways to cook them because I *want* to like Brussels sprouts. I would say this Brussels sprouts pasta recipe shoots and scores! It’s not overloaded with them; the quartered size offers manageable bites and the sprouts get nicely caramelized in the pan; the pancetta feels like a nice reward.
The changes I would make to the recipe include swapping out the dill for parsley (the dill just feels a little wrong here) and I would definitely cut back by half on the oil and butter for the pangrattato. This is coming from a person who loves butter almost more than life itself. By the way, the pangrattato is absolutely divine and could be used for many dishes including vegetables. Don’t skip the fresh bread – I have always used dried bread crumbs in the past and this was markedly better. It’s a great use for day old bread.
In terms of the directions, I did all the prep and cooking while the water was heating and the pasta cooking. Crushed red pepper would be a welcome addition to either the pasta or the pangrattato if you like spicy food.
What a funky delight! This pasta surprised me in a multitude of ways, from the toasty pangrattato that had hints of sunshine in every bite to the textural contrasts to the indulgent, zesty, dairy-packed base. My favorite bites were the ones with bits of the bread crumbs and pancetta pocketed in the orecchiette’s curves; few things are as delightful as those mouthfuls were.
This pasta with pancetta and Brussels sprouts hits all the flavor buttons for me…Brussels sprouts, pasta, bacon, dill, and lemon zest! My non-Brussels sprouts loving husband liked this! The pangrattato offered a nice bit of crunch. All in all, this was flavorful, well-balanced and I will make this again and again.
This creamy pasta with Brussels sprouts recipe had me at creamy and pasta. Then, when I read it included pancetta and something called pangrattato (which sounded simple and amazing), I was all in. And what a payoff. A fairly simple and nearly one-pot dish that results in a pasta dish that really has it all: creaminess from the cheese and crème fraîche, saltiness from the pancetta, savoriness (plus a little crunch) from the Brussels sprouts and a wonderful hint of dill.
Orecchiette pasta is perfect for this dish because the sauce (and sometimes chunks of pancetta) gets caught in the little “cups” of the pasta. The recipe was straightforward with no tricky parts or head-scratching instructions.
The pasta was in some ways even better on day two even though it was less creamy. We reheated it in a skillet, which crisped some of the pasta edges. We added shaved Parmesan on top to get some of that cheesy creaminess back.
Oh, and that pangrattato. What a revelation. Crispy bread crumbs seasoned with garlic and lemon. Wow. That is something I think I want to have on hand just about all the time!
Originally published May 5, 2022