2 lbs. shaved brussels sprouts (or you can tear off the leaves and use those only-will be slightly less bitter without the core)
6 oz. bacon, cut into 1" strips
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced (quarter and slice across the grain)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. fresh thyme
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 cup water (or low sodium chicken broth)
1 1/2 cups shredded parmesan or Italian blend cheese
Toasted bread crumbs, optional (process a couple slices of bread in a food processor, place on a foil-lined baking sheet and toast at 300F until just browned. Remove from oven & toss with a little olive oil.
12 oz. rotini, orecchiette, or farfalle pasta
1. Saute the bacon over medium low heat in a large skillet, 8-10 minutes until it is browned but not too crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
2. Reserve about 1 tbsp. of bacon drippings in the pan and add 1tbsp. of olive oil. Heat over medium heat until oil is hot, then add the sliced onions. Stir, then reduce heat to medium low. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes until the onions are well caramelized. Add a bit of extra olive anytime during the cooking if the pan looks too dry.
3. Add the garlic, fresh thyme, red pepper flakes, and black pepper (to taste) to the caramelized onions. Stir and cook about 1 minute. Add another splash (about 1 tbsp.) olive oil, bring up to heat, then stir in the brussels sprouts and bacon. Stir well, then add 1/2 cup of water. Cook about 10 minutes over medium-low heat or until the veggies are tender and lightly caramelized.
4. In the meantime, bring a medium stock pot of water to a boil. Add 1 tbsp. of salt and cook the pasta according to package directions (reserve the pasta cooking water).
5. Once the pasta is cooked al dente (chewy-tender), use a slotted spoon and transfer to the brussels sprout mixture. Stir well to combine. Add some of the pasta water if the pasta is too dry. Add 1 1/2 cups of shredded cheese to the pasta, toss, and serve. For a little extra crunch, top with toasted bread crumbs before serving.
Best served hot or at room temperature.