Plain steamed veggies have no business gracing a holiday table. But roasted veggies, baked in rich avocado oil, tossed with crispy matchsticks of organic bacon, garnished with large curls of sharp Parmesan cheese, and lovingly drizzled with a balsamic reduction? That sounds like my kind of holiday side dish. This recipe for Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon + Parmesan is worth going back for seconds!
Because BACON. OH. And because…CHEEEEESE.
A surefire way to make any vegetable into a celebratory dish that can stand on its own is to cover it in those two things. Okay. A surefire way to make ANYTHING special is to add those two things.
Rich. Cozy. With flavor and texture galore.
Brussels sprouts aren’t the most glamorous of the vegetable kingdom. With their spherical shape and layered leaf structure they look an awful lot like tiny cabbages (because they kind of ARE tiny little cabbages). They grow as little buds on a stem, but you can usually find them loose in the bulk bins of your produce section or bundled into little 2-lb bags for purchase.
Brussels sprouts are a cruciferous vegetable (like broccoli) + are in the same species as cabbage. If the bacon and the cheese weren’t compelling enough reasons for you to start gobbling these guys up, let me tell you a little bit about these nutritional powerhouses. These little green buds are very nutrient-dense.
Brussels sprouts are high in Vitamin C (which helps protect your immune system) + Vitamin K (important for bone building + blood clotting).
Here in California, they are most often harvested in the Fall. So this is about the time when you’ll see them piling up in the grocery store or on display at your local farmer’s market. Making them readily available and pretty affordable when purchased in season. So get while the gettin’s good, my friends!
Since they’re a cold weather vegetable, it seems fitting to give them the good old roasted treatment.
Plus that is the first way I had Brussels sprouts and the way I fell in love with eating them.
RELATED: Roasted Butternut Squash Salad
I never grew up having to choke them down. I didn’t have any past history with hating them or not liking how they tasted. I just never ever had them. Not because my parents were horrible parents who deprived their children of vegetables, but because my Dad absolutely despises them. With a passion. They never even made it into the door of our house.
The first time I had them was at BO-beau Kitchen + Bar in San Diego (a French comfort food restaurant). I got roped into going out for “drinks” with coworkers. Drinks that turned into dinner. Pressing panic button in 3-2-1…
I had juuuuust gotten this job at a high-end catering company and worked in an office surrounded by die-hard foodies. People who knew how to spell (and make) all the classic French sauces. People who could probably tell the difference between a Malbec and a Cabernet just by taste. And then there was me. The girl who didn’t eat freaking eggs (or cheese or sushi) until she was in her 20’s.
Needless to say, my social anxiety was HIGH. This was it. I was going to be found out for the picky, not-at-all-adventurous eater that I was.
So when they ordered a round of Crispy Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta, Parmesan, and Balsamic. I thought I was going to keel over. One of two things was bound to happen. (1) I was going to be found OUT as a picky eater in my new job that was all about food –OR- (2) I was going to eat a weird tiny cabbage in front of everyone and promptly barf right onto the table.
You may laugh, but I was legit afraid that the second thing might really happen.
I smiled and took the plate as it was passed around, grinning through the hesitation and doubt. Totally prepared to hate the living daylights out of this peer-pressured bite. And then it happened! Salty, sweet, crispy, soft. A seemingly lowly, rustic vegetable was dressed in all the finest flavors. Not dull or one note, but perked up by the bright, sweet tanginess of the balsamic reduction. And rounded out by the savory Parmesan pieces. It was everything all at once. I was completely hooked.
Though it could never measure up to the delightful original dish that inspired it, this dish definitely reminds me of that first bite. Here’s to hoping that this recipe helps any Brussels sprouts haters out there give the little green guys a second chance!
A few recipe + ingredient prep notes before I send you on your merry way…
How to safely cut bacon
Bacon is easiest to cut when it is cold. I cut mine when it is fresh out of the fridge – just take it out of the package, put it on the cutting board and start slicing. Or if you want you can opt to use a pair of kitchen scissors and just cut them into even pieces. Then you can just use your fingers to separate them into individual strips.
If your bacon still isn’t firm enough, you can pop it in the freezer for a bit to firm up.
Why can’t I just cook the bacon + then chop it?
In this recipe, the bacon strips are like a skinny version of a lardon (which is just the fancy term for when thick slab bacon gets cut into chunky matchstick pieces). We are cutting them into these even strips to get small, neatly shaped, bite-sized pieces that will blend well into the roasted veggies later on.
Plus making them into more uniformly sized and shape pieces before going into the pan means they will cook more evenly (and more quickly too!).
Think about when you try to pan fry several strips of bacon together at once and some start browning more quickly while others may lag behind. Or part of the bacon strip is fully cooked, while the other fattier section is still all wiggly and uncooked.
It’s because of the varied shapes and sizes that they have. The different swoops and lengths that bacon slices often come in, the leaner sections of meat interspersed with the fattier pockets. Cutting them into little strips helps avoid that frustration.
RELATED: Broccoli Carrot Crunch Salad
How to get crispy bacon (that isn’t soggy or burnt)
The easiest way to make sure you don’t burn them and end up with very crispy bacon bits is to remove the liquid fat as it renders off of the cooked bacon. This will give the bacon a better opportunity to have direct contact with the hot pan. You can just use your spatula to push the bacon to one side of the pan (away from you) and then tilt the pan (towards you) so that the liquid pools in the opposite corner from the bacon bits. Then use a spoon (or I found that a silicone flexible ladle was particularly effective) to scoop out the pan drippings.
Then remove them into a small paper towel lined plate to soak up the liquid fat. They will crisp up even more as they dry on the towel.
Wait a tic. Is that store-bought balsamic reduction I see on the recipe card?
There are just some things I have next to zero interest in making at home. Slowly reducing balsamic vinegar down to a glaze is one of those things. My mom always told me to pick my battles. And I don’t want to do battle with balsamic.
Sometimes all the word “store-bought” means to me is premade // already-done-FOR-you // time-saving // patience-sparing // magical.
The one I use (Nonna Pias, which I linked to in the recipe card down below) has only a few simple ingredients. Yes, it does use a little cane sugar. Which I don’t mind since I’m only using a small amount (and because the added sweetness really helps to balance out the sharpness of the Parm + the saltiness of the bacon).
What store-bought // ready-made items do you love to keep on hand at home? Let me know what your trusty recipe short-cuts are in the comments!!Print
Easy recipe for Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon + Parmesan! The perfect vegetable side dish for your holiday table with a delicious balsamic reduction drizzled on top (gluten free).
- 2 lbs Brussels sprouts
- 3 tbs avocado oil*
- 1 tsp salt
- 8 slices of uncured bacon
- 3 tbs balsamic reduction (also called balsamic glaze)**
- 1/3 c Parmesan cheese
- fresh cracked black pepper
- PREHEAT OVEN: To 400 degrees.
- TRIM AND HALVE BRUSSELS SPROUTS: Trim off the ends and discard. Then slice the Brussels sprouts down the center.
- ROAST BRUSSELS SPROUTS: Add all halves to a metal baking sheet. Toss with the avocado oil and then sprinkle with salt. Bake for 15 minutes. Meanwhile start crisping the bacon.
- CRISP THE BACON: Preheat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Stack all the bacon slices and cut into ½” wide matchsticks (see photos above). Separate the individual matchsticks and place them in the hot pan. Let them sit on the first side until you see the underside start to brown before stirring around the pan. They will cook more evenly and quickly if you remove the fat from the pan as it renders. You can just use your spatula to push the bacon to one side of the pan (away from you) and then tilt the pan (towards you) so that the liquid pools in the bottom side of the pan (opposite from the bacon pieces). Then use a spoon (or I found that a silicone flexible ladle was particularly effective) to scoop out the pan drippings. Remove the drippings into a small dish to use for cooking another time or to discard (be sure to throw these away in the trash and not pour down your sink, grease + oil + fat will clog your sink). Once crisp and cooked to your liking, remove the bacon to a paper towel lined plate.
- FINISH ROASTING THE BRUSSELS: After they have roasted for the first 15 min, remove tray from oven and stir the Brussels sprouts around. Then bake again for another 10-15 minutes (until softened and brown around the edges).
- MIX TOGETHER: Toss the roasted Brussels sprouts together with the crisped bacon pieces. Top with shavings of Parmesan + balsamic reduction + black pepper. Serve hot.
*Or other high-heat cooking oil of choice
**I used store-bought balsamic reduction, specifically Nonna Pia’s Balsamic Reduction (this is a link to the 3-pack available on Amazon but you can also find individual bottles for cheaper at Whole Foods in the vinegar aisle). Trader Joe’s Glaze is also good, you can also find it on Amazon or (also cheaper) in their oil + vinegar section.
FOR EASY CLEAN UP: Line your baking sheet with foil, then add veggies + oil. When you’re done you can crumple up the foil, throw it away, and not have to clean the pan afterwards.
HOW TO CUT BACON EASILY: You may find the bacon is easier to cut when the bacon is still cold. It will cut more cleanly (and without the knife wiggling) if the meat is firm from being in the fridge.
TO REHEAT LEFTOVERS: These are best reheated in a hot pan. You don’t need to add any extra oil to the pan, just add the leftovers to a pan over medium heat and stir often. You’ll see the bacon regain it’s crispiness and the Brussels sprouts will heat through quickly. If you like you can add more fresh Parmesan to the top.
- Serving Size: 1 serving