Tag Archives: pasta

A Favorite Dinner Vol. I

6 Sep

Back from Summer Hiatus with a quick easy dinner I love, steak and pasta.


NY Strip with a side of Cacio e Pepe

If I’ve learned anything over the years from favorite chefs like Patricia Wells, Suzanne Goin, Nigel Slater and more, often times when cooking simplicity is best. I may love to make cassoulet over seven days, but I love just as much a simple dinner.

One simple dinner I’ve come to enjoy over the last few years is the combination of steak and pasta. It’s not something I ate growing up; we had a cattle farm so we ate a lot of steak, but we always had steak with a baked potato. Whether loaded with everything or dressed only with butter, salt and pepper, a baked potato is a perfect food, particularly when the inside is moist and tender and the outside crispy as hell. Oh my.  After discovering the wonderful combo of steak and pasta, however, I don’t serve a baked potato with a steak nearly as often.

I believe I was turned onto this combo on my first visit to the LA institution Dan Tana’s. Located next to the equally famous Troubador on Santa Monica Blvd, Dan Tana’s has been open well over fifty years and I dare say will be open well over fifty more. An Italian steakhouse with wonderful cocktails, Dan Tana’s serves up terrific versions of Italian classics (the veal parmigiana, for instance, is to die for) but they also serve the Dabney Coleman, a 20 oz New York Strip that might be the best steak I’ve ever tasted. It comes with a side of pasta and the first time I tried this pairing, I knew I’d be having a lot of steak and pasta from then on. 

While grilling a steak is good, I prefer cooking my steaks on the stove in my cast iron skillet. You get a marvelous sear and, if you so desire, you can make a terrific pan sauce while the steak rests. You can also boil your pasta while the sauce cooks so that steak and pasta finish at the same time. Add a side of my garlic salad and a glass of red wine and you have a quick, simple, killer dinner that comes together fast even on a weeknight. 

My go to steak as of late is a New York strip. It may not be as tender as a filet or ribeye, but the flavor is by far my favorite of the three. If your preference is a filet or ribeye, each works just as well.

I love to make a lot of different pasta dishes but with a steak, I have two go-tos:  Giada’s lemon spaghetti, which is lovely and accompanies a steak beautifully, or even better, the classic and devastatingly good Cacio e Pepe. (I could eat Cacio e Pepe every night of my life and never tire of it, ever.) Both of these pastas are simple, with just a few ingredients involving very little prep. In fact, you can prep your pasta sauce while the pasta is boiling and the pan sauce cooking!

Fast, easy, delicious. 

Oh and Gluten Free friends! Both of these pasta recipes are perfect for Spaghetti Squash! I use spaghetti squash with these two preparations as much as I do regular pasta.

Below, then, I will give you my method of cooking a strip (as well as my favorite pan sauce for the strip) and the recipes for both pastas.  Try them all and enjoy!


NY STRIP with pan sauce (serves 2… double for 4)

NOTES: While I usually like to serve a steak whole, I find, with a NY strip and pasta, slicing the strip makes a lovely presentation particularly if you make a pan sauce, which I highly recommend.  I also find when eating steak with pasta, one large steak will easily serve two, another good reason to slice the steak.

Also, these instructions are detailed in order to make sure everyone knows exactly what to do but you will see, reading through them, that this is a fast, easy prep.


1 12 – 16 oz NY strip

1 large shallot, sliced (or 1/2 a small sweet or red onion, chopped)

1 fresno chili, halved then sliced into half rings

2 cloves garlic, sliced thin

white wine or dry vermouth

1 cup chicken or vegetable broth

1 T mustard


butter, salt and pepper


–  An hour before you want to cook, remove steak(s) from the fridge and salt and pepper on both sides. DO NOT BE SHY. Let the steaks sit, covered, to bring the meat to room temperature.

–  Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat for 3-5 minutes, get it really hot.

–  Add a glug or two of olive oil and let heat up for a couple of minutes.

–  Add your steak to the cast iron skillet. It should really sizzle and pop! If it doesn’t, take it out and let the oil get hotter. You’ll probably need to use your vent when cooking the steak. Let sear, without moving, for 4-5 minutes, then flip and do the same.  (This is for a pretty thick NY Strip… if you have a thinner slice of strip, it is only going to take a minute or two on each side.)

–  After the steak has cooked on both sides, turn the heat down to medium low and remove the steak from the pan, remembering the steak will continue to cook when resting out of the pan! Pull it off before it is done. You can always cook it more.

NOTE: every steak is a different thickness and we all like our steaks cooked different temps. I like medium rare, leaning towards rare, for instance. It’s impossible for me to give exact times. Get a really good sear on both sides and let the steak rest.. then cut into it. If it is too rare, let the steak cook a few minutes IN the pan sauce. You’ll still have a great sear on the top side and the pan sauce will add flavor to the steak anyway.

–  As the steak rests, add your shallot and Fresno chili and sauté over low heat, scraping up brown bits from the bottom. 

– When the shallot and Fresno chili are soft, add the garlic and sauté only a minute more so it doesn’t brown.

– Add 2 or 3 glugs of dry vermouth or white wine and turn up the heat to medium high, stirring well. Let the alcohol mostly cook off, which takes a few minutes.

– Add the broth, a few shakes of salt and pepper, 1 T mustard and the thyme. (I just throw in about 5-10 sprigs of thyme. The small leaves will fall off on their own and you can extract the stems when you serve.)

–  Let the sauce simmer and bubble and cook down, stirring occasionally to incorporate the mustard.  After 5 or so minutes, the sauce is ready though if you have time you can keep cooking it down to make it thicker. A couple of minutes before you are ready to finish, add a pad of butter and let it melt and incorporate into your sauce. Yum.

–  Slice your steak into thick strips and spoon the sauce, with the shallots and chili, on top. Serve with a side of Giada’s Lemon Spaghetti or Cacio e Pepe.



1/4 cup olive oil

1 lb dried spaghetti

2 T butter at room temperature

4-6 oz of finely grated pecorino cheese

1.5 T freshly ground black pepper

Pasta water


–  Cook the spaghetti in well salted water according to the package directions.

–  While the spaghetti cooks, mix the pecorino cheese with 2 T water and the butter. Mix well to make a paste. (While you can skip this step, it helps the cheese not to clump when mixed into the spaghetti later.)

– When the pasta is al dente, scoop out 2 cups of pasta water then drain your spaghetti.

– If using the same pot, dry it out and heat the olive oil over high heat until almost smoking. Add the spaghetti and a cup of the pasta water. This will splatter! Have fun but be careful! Toss a couple of times, then:

–  Add the ‘pecorino sauce’ and the black pepper. Continue to toss, mixing well, adding a little more pasta water if need be so the sauce thickens and clings to the pasta. Taste! If you need more pepper or cheese, go for it! Remove from the stove and it’s ready to serve.

NOTE: I get my water boiling as I cook the steaks and then throw in the pasta when I start the pan sauce. It usually times out so that I can toss the pasta while the sauce finishes its last few minutes, then everything comes together at the same time.

FINALLY: This Cacio e Pepe is perfect as is. But it is also terrific with a little fried pancetta added in!

Steak and pasta

Filet Mignon with a side of Giada’s lemon spaghetti, and buttered peas.


Spaghetti Squash Amatriciana

3 Feb

I love me some pasta but lately I’ve fallen in love with Spaghetti Squash. A quick roast in the oven turns the insides of this amazing gourd into strands pretty close to the real thing. Depending on your diet, spaghetti squash is healthier than pasta. Once you start using it, there are an almost infinite number of ways you can use the ‘noodles’. And except for pesto, every pasta sauce I’ve tried with it sings. 


Spaghetti Squash noodles

I fell in love with Spaghetti Squash making a marvelous Cacio e Pepe version. Cacio e Pepe, made with pecorino cheese and fresh ground black pepper, is a pasta dish I could eat every night of my life. After making the spaghetti squash version dozens of times, I decided to branch out and invented an oven roasted version of another classic pasta sauce, Amatriciana. The name comes from the Italian town Amatrice, recently in the news as the town was hit badly by a number of earthquakes in 2016.

A spicy tomato sauce made with red and black pepper, red onions and guanciale, I first tried Pasta Amatriciana at a wonderful neighborhood Italian restaurant in New York City, Lupa. That dish blew me away so much I ordered a second bowl at the same sitting. More please. In the years since I’ve made various versions at home, usually substituting pancetta for the guanciale. I still love the pasta version, made entirely on the stove top, but lately it’s this oven roasted version, tossed with spaghetti squash, I eat all the time. 

Don’t just trust me. A great friend of mine, Rob, who is Italian, says he loves the spaghetti squash version better than with regular pasta. (Don’t tell his mother he said that.) Trust me or trust Rob, you will love this version of the classic dish. It might not be the most beautiful plate you’ve ever served, but when it tastes this terrific, who cares?

And you can eat it guilt free!


Ingredients for Spaghetti Squash Amaticiana

Click for the recipe Continue reading

A Killer “No-Cook” Summer Pasta

30 Jun
Summer Pasta Ingredients

Ingredients for a fresh summer pasta

My favorite season is Fall for a variety of reasons, not least of which is I look best in fall clothes and it’s all about me. Summer is wonderful, however, because summer means fresh vegetables everywhere. If a bounty of fresh veg doesn’t mean happiness to you, you haven’t been served vegetables the right way.

I have a good friend who refused to eat vegetables, no matter how I served them. Only after years of cajoling did I convince her to try some of mine. She is now a vegetable freak, she can’t get enough. One night she finally explained, “My mom used to take broccoli and boil it until it was white. That’s how she cooked all our vegetables. I thought that was how vegetables tasted!”

Makes me want to weep for vegetable haters everywhere.


Summer’s Bounty

While we covered a great way to cook vegetables in an earlier post about roasting (Sunday Night Vegetable Roast) another of my favorite ways to eat fresh vegetables is with pasta. In the fall when not in season, roasted vegetables are a wonderful combination with pasta. But when you have vegetables fresh off the vine, there’s no need even to cook them! Trust me on this.

Continue reading

“Sunday Gravy”

5 Mar


A bowl of Sunday Gravy

A bowl of Sunday Gravy

Occasionally in life you meet someone who truly changes your life. This happened to me in 1998 when I decided the time was right to buy a house. On the advice of a friend, I met with a realtor, Phyllis Harb, who took me on as a client. Two and a half dizzying weeks later I found myself in escrow on a beat up but amazing old fixer-upper that is probably the house in which I will die.

Finding the house and fixing it up is a story for another day.  And if that were my only interaction with Phyllis, I would be blessed because not only has the house changed my life, she is an amazing person who guides you through a very stressful time.  Thankfully that was not my only interaction with her.  Over the years she has become a dear and trusted friend.  Phyllis is one of the more thoughtful and generous persons I’ve ever met.

Phyllis herself has a wonderful home and once a year or so she will have a few ‘former clients’ over for cocktails and dinner.  Last year about ten of us showed up for her version of what East Coast Italians call ‘Sunday Gravy’, a meat laden tomato sauce Esquire described as “A sacred meal for a sacred day born in the kitchen of an Italian-American family.”

Phyllis's kitchen during the process

Phyllis’ kitchen during the process

As any follower of this blog knows, I love tomatoes and love me a great tomato sauce. I’ve already done posts on tomato sauce here and here and here. When Phyllis served us this deep rich sauce over pasta, however,  I knew I was going to do another post because when I took my first bite, I thought I was going to die. It was so @#%#$ good!! Once again, Phyllis changed my life. I told her that night she had to teach me how to make it and she readily agreed.

Just a few of the ingredients

Just a few of the ingredients


Two pots toward the end of the process.

This is an amazing sauce. It’s incredibly thick, marvelously so. Packed with meat, it has a rich, divine flavor. I served a batch on Oscar night and everyone at my house declared it the best red sauce they had ever eaten. It truly is that good.

For more great pictures and the incredible recipe, click here: Continue reading

A Tale of Two Spaghettis

3 Aug

While we had a wonderful marinara recipe last week, care of my good friend David,  can you really have too much spaghetti? I think not. Few things are as enjoyable to me as a great bowl of pasta, and cooking it can be just as wonderful. For instance, check out one of my favorite ‘food and film’ clips from ‘The Godfather’, with Clemenza making his spaghetti sauce:

Life doesn’t get much better, even for a Mafioso. And so, this week, I give you

‘A Tale of Two Spaghettis’

I grew up in a neighborhood that seems rare today. Everyone knew, well, everyone. While we weren’t so traditional as to have sidewalks, we had big wide streets on which to ride bikes and run. There were kids of all age groups so it seemed for each person there was almost always some else with whom to play. Part of the intimacy of our particular neighborhood stemmed from it being relatively small. It was also slightly isolated in a weird way. We were buttressed on one side by a 4-lane highway, on the other by a deep cement drainage ditch followed by a wide reservoir that led to one of the local refineries. From the perspective of today’s parents, both sides of the neighborhood must seem a terrible danger… and I guess they were. As a kid, though, both sides were a thrill.

Click here to continue reading and get the recipes

Memorial Day Food and Film

24 May

The holiday weekend approaches! As I myself am going on holiday (Yellowstone, first time! Apparently it is going to, um, snow) I’m going to do a shorter less dense post with a few recommendations of, hey it’s not rocket science, food and film.

First, the food.

Savory: I stumbled on this recipe for Pasta with Carrots, Risotto-Style a couple of days ago. I had all the ingredients on hand and it sounded so intriguing, I gave it a try. Wow. This is a keeper, to be made over and over again. I’ve cooked pasta this way before, like risotto. It’s a great way to make pasta, if you don’t mind the extra stirring, as it creates a wonderfully creamy texture, much more so than when you make pasta the traditional way. With such a simple list of ingredients, however, I wasn’t expecting such a rich, satisfyingly flavorful dish. This is seriously good. It’s very savory, yet the carrots add a touch of sweet that is killer.

I used penne, given penne is what I had on hand. It worked perfectly. I also added some white wine along with the first two cups of broth. I had a bottle open on the counter, of course, and given white wine is almost always added to risotto, I figured it couldn’t be too bad of an idea here. It wasn’t. I highly recommend doing the same. Give the recipe a try, it immediately leapt onto my ‘staple’ list.

Click here for the rest of the post, more food and film picks!