vegetables + sides

Agave-Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta + Toasted Macadamias

Searching for the answers to life’s questions sometimes keep me up at night. I toss and turn. I pace. I drink tea to quell my active brain.  As of late I have been toiling over this pressing question:

Should the “B” in Brussels Sprouts be capitalized?

In my pursuit of knowledge I consulted the font of all things wise and trivial—The Google. took me to the history of sprouts, which are believed “to have been cultivated in ancient Rome, and perhaps as early as the 1200’s in Belgium. The modern Brussels sprouts we know today was first cultivated in large quantities in Belgium as early as 1587.”

That factoid implies that the sprouts should have a capital B, as in the Belgian capital of Brussels. But if that is the case, shouldn’t we also capitalize the F in French fries? SMH.

What do I usually do in such sleep-depriving circumstances?  I cook away the angst. And then I eat.


While I am no closer to a definitive answer about the capital B, I do know it is time to show some love for Brussels sprouts. They are in peak season, so invite them to your Thanksgiving feast. These Brussels sprouts are not the soggy ones you remember from your childhood. Nope. No more hiding them under the table or feeding them to the dog. The recipe for these diminutive cabbages will rock your world.  These sprouts are sexy.

Crispy on  top. Sugary on the bottom. Their caramelization occurs naturally; exposure to heat releases their natural sugars.The agave? It intensifies the sprouts’ sweetness.  The luscious pancetta fat seeps its salty way into the sprouts, making them especially savory.

macadamia nuts + shallots + agave + balsamic + crushed red pepper + crispy + caramelized == OMG.

The Man and I ate this entire recipe like it was a bowl of M&Ms.


  • When picking out your sprouts, look for tight little heads. They are not at prime freshness if they have a lot of loose leaves.
  • I like to buy them on their stalk. That way they make a dramatic appearance in the kitchen.
  • I recommend lining your baking pan with parchment paper. You will see that I lined mine with foil. Okay, so I was in the throes of cooking and ran out of parchment. Do as I say, not as I do!
  • Unlike most bacon, pancetta is surprisingly lean. Add a swirl of olive oil to the pan when you brown it .

I am excited for you to try these rockstar sprouts.

FYI, I still don’t have my answer to the “capital B” question. If you find the definitive answer, please cite your sources. Then maybe I can get some sleep.

Of course, these pair well with sparkling wine.





If you make this recipe, I would love to hear about it!  Tag your Instagram photos #nakedepicurean.

Agave-Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta + Toasted Macadamias (also known as Lip Smackin’ Brussels Sprouts)

Servings: 6-8 (6 servings if you invite The Man and me; 8 servings for normal people)


  • 2       pounds Brussels sprouts
  • 4       ounces pancetta, diced
  • ¼     cup macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped
  • ¼     cup agave syrup
  • 3      tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2      shallots, thinly sliced
  • 3      tablespoons olive oil, separated, + a swirl
  •          red pepper flakes (optional)
  •          freshly ground S&P


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Line a baking pan with parchment paper.
  3. Trim off the outer leaves off the sprouts. Slice off the bottoms and then split lengthwise.
  4. Throw them on the baking pan. Toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Coat with S&P and sprinkle with red pepper flakes. Arrange them in a single layer. Roast about 20 minutes.
  5. While sprouts are roasting, heat a swirl of olive in a large skillet. Brown the pancetta, nuts and shallots over medium heat about 4-5 minutes. You are looking for the pancetta to crisp and become fragrant, the macadamias to slightly toasted, and shallots to soften and begin to caramelize (about 4-5 minutes).
  6. After Brussels sprouts have roasted for about 20 minutes, add the pancetta, nuts, and shallots to the pan and roast about 10 minutes longer or until sprouts are caramelized and golden.
  7. While these are roasting, whisk the remaining tablespoon of olive oil with the agave and balsamic vinegar in a large bowl.
  8. Remove sprouts from oven and add to bowl. Toss sprouts in that bowl of goodness until well coated.
  9. Season with S&P and serve.
  10. Sit back smugly while everyone raves over your sprouts.

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