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The Food Matters Project: Penne with Brussel Sprouts, Figs, Hazelnuts, and Pradera



Here's the fourth installment of the Food Matters Project, the brainchild of Sarah of 20somethingcupcakes and Kate from Cookie + Kate. Each week we all - here's the 'we' and we've grown to just over three dozen fellow foodie bloggers - cook the same recipe, from Mark Bittman's The Food Matters Cookbook, posting our interpretations and adaptations.

This week Marcia of twentybysixty assigned us Mark's Baked Rigatoni with Brussel Sprouts, Figs, and Blue Cheese. Click here for our hostess's post. Or click here, and look in the comments, to see what the others whipped up.

I had an extremely busy weekend and needed to squeeze this dinner in today, so I skipped the baking part and I substituted ingredients to match what I had on-hand. It came together very quickly while I was on a conference call about an annual fundraising event - yes, I am a multitasking maniac - and it was a hit! But I must admit that brussel sprouts are a family favorite. When we see brussel sprouts on the stalk at Trader Joe's, my 9-year-old does a little happy dance and blurts out, "Mom! Brussel sprouts! Can we have brussel sprouts tonight?!?" I cannot tell you how many people stare at me when he does that. So proud. "Absolutely, we can have that for dinner," I always say.

2 lb brussel sprouts, halved
2 T dried figs, destemmed and halved
1/2 C Pradera* (pictured), rough chopped
1/2 C raw hazelnuts, rough chopped
fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
fresh thyme, destemmed
olive oil
1/2 C whole milk fresh ricotta
freshly ground pink Himalaya salt and flower pepper
whole wheat penne

While the penne cooks, quickly sear the brussel sprouts in a large flat-bottomed pan in a splash of olive oil. Once the sprouts are cooked by still firm, add the dried figs, Pradera, and hazelnuts. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the ricotta cheese, adding olive oil, until all of the pasta is coated evenly. Serve with fresh herbs sprinkled on top.

*A quick note about Pradera. You might see it called Roomano Pradera Gouda. It's an aged farmhouse gouda made in the Netherlands. It's a light caramel color and there are salty, sweet crystals in the brittle cheese that are like little flavor explosions in each bite. Can you tell I'm smitted? It's delicious.

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