Shells & Brussels Sprouts

shells & brussels sprouts /

Growing up, I was made to eat vegetables just as much as the next kid. Broccoli was at the top of my hate list, closely followed by mushy cooked carrots (one of the only veggies I still won’t eat). But I never had to face brussels sprouts. My mom didn’t like them as a child, so she never subjected them to our family. I felt lucky about this… if the adults in my family wouldn’t eat them, they must be that bad.

shells & brussels sprouts /

I don’t know what prompted brussels sprouts to go from America’s most hated veggie to darn near the most loved one, but I’m glad they did. Like most things, I’m sure it has everything to do with the preparation. They’re so great roasted until golden, or flash fried until crisp. Here, I coat them with a little balsamic and pan-roast them, then toss with shells, a little cheese and some bright squeezes of lemon.

shells & brussels sprouts

Serves: serves 2
  • olive oil
  • ¼ red onion (less than ½ cup), chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups brussels sprouts, sliced in half
  • 1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • squeezes of lemon juice, plus some zest for the end
  • 6-8 oz. mini pasta shells
  • ½ cup pecorino cheese, shredded
  • a few pinches of red pepper flakes
  • optional meat-eater addition: crispy bacon or pancetta
  1. In a large skillet, cook the onions in just a bit of the olive oil with a few pinches of salt. Once they’re soft (3-4 minutes), add the minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds more. Turn off the heat and remove the onions from the pan.
  2. In a small bowl, toss the brussels sprout halves in a bit of balsamic vinegar, a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper.
  3. Wipe out the pan you just used for the onions and heat more olive oil and the butter. When the pan is screaming hot add the brussels sprouts, cut side down. Without moving them, let them cook for about 3-4 minutes, until they develop a nice char (check and reduce heat & time if they’re burning).
  4. Flip them over and add a good squeeze of lemon to deglaze the pan. Toss them around a bit. Reduce heat to low, and add a few tablespoons of water. Cover and let them steam until tender (approx. 4-5 minutes).
  5. Boil shells in a pot of salted boiling water until al dente.
  6. Toss together the shells, onions, brussels sprouts, more lemon juice, and most of the pecorino. Taste and adjust seasonings. Finish with remaining cheese, lemon zest and red pepper flakes.


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Rate this recipe (after making it):  

  1. mary

    looks great – would this work with a yellow onion instead of red? thanks!

  2. yao

    I am Chinese, living in Europe. Brussels sprouts are new to me, and I didn’t know how to nicely prepare them untile I found this recipe. (I tried other recipes but I was not too crazy about the results.) I have tried this recipe for myself and it tasted wonderful! I’m going to do it again today to serve my husband who absolutely hates brussels sprouts (like many Europeans who have awful memories in relation to this healthy vegetable from their childhood). Wish me good luck…

  3. laurie

    Is this for one person or four/five?

    • jeanine

      Hi Laurie, it’s for 2.

  4. ajsoares

    Yum! Made this last night. Caramelized my onions and roasted the brussel sprouts in the oven, along with some cauliflower and beets… Was excellent.

    • jeanine

      ooh, sounds delicious and so colorful with the beets!

  5. This looks to die for. So healthy and looks delicious at the same time, best combo.
    Thanks for the inspiration. Might just have to make this for dinner.

    Quinn Cooper Style

  6. Jen

    I made this for dinner tonight. My 4 year old daughter kept saying how she wanted brussels sprouts so we picked some up at the store and I ran across your recipe. We used some other hard cheese (husband bought it and can’t remember the name) and added bacon. Needless to say, hubs and i LOVED it. Daughter must have been confusing brussels with something else (whatever that could be). She choked down a few – but I’m convinced she’ll come around. In the meantime – I’m adding your recipe to my dinner repertoire. Thank you!

  7. I always hated Brussels as a kid. I tried them raw in a slaw, since they are all the rage, and I actually liked them! I think the pasta and cheese will help to grow my love for these little guys.

  8. Amanda from

    ” from America’s most hated veggie to darn near the most loved one, but I’m glad they did” <- THIS. I've always loved brussels sprouts, even the frozen ones my mom made as a kid, but the recent surge of roasted and fried and etc delicious sprouts is just fantastic.

  9. Sarah from

    I’m going crazy for brassicas now that its getting a little colder here in the southern hemisphere. Sprouts are on the way!

  10. Ana from

    I never thought I’d like brussel sprouts until one day I decided to give them a try – so yummy!

  11. Jennifer

    I am making this for dinner tonight! Can’t wait!

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Photograph of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews in their kitchen

Hello, we're Jeanine and Jack.

We love to eat, travel, cook, and eat some more! We create & photograph vegetarian recipes from our home in Chicago, while our shiba pups eat the kale stems that fall on the kitchen floor.