For those familiar with Gail Simmons, you probably recognize her as a standing judge on Top Chef, but if you’re unfamiliar with her work, you’ll want to change that immediately. Before she became a staple on television, the Toronto-born food personality had seen an illustrious career in the food world. She got her culinary chops from Peter Kump’s New York Cooking School (now known as the Institute of Culinary Education) in New York City, trained with chef phenoms at glitzy restaurants, managed special events for David Boulud’s restaurant empire, and was the head of special projects at Food & Wine magazine for 15 years.
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These days, when she’s not filming Top Chef, she’s writing books. She’s inked a memoir, “Talking with My Mouth Full: My Life as a Professional Eater,” and her first cookbook, “Bringing It Home: Favorite Recipes from a Life of Adventurous Eating,” brims with recipes greatly influenced by her travels, all boasting ingredients that your pantry is probably already stocked with. It’s geared toward home cooks of all levels—bound by simple techniques and entertaining inspo—so there’s something for everyone.
Bringing It Home: Favorite Recipes from a Life of Adventurous Eating, $10.44 on Amazon
And it’s a bona fide fact that everyone can get on board with Gail’s recipe for spaghetti pie. Inspired by her travels to New Zealand where roadside snacks manifest as spaghetti sandwiches, Gail’s spaghetti pie is just as cheesy, packed with plenty of vegetables and tomatoes, and crispy strands of noodles. The entire concoction is baked in the oven, then at the last minute propped under the broiler with a fresh sprinkling of parmesan, and roasted under the flames until nice and charred.
For more on Gail’s spaghetti pie, tune into Chowhound’s podcast Table Talk, where Gail’s fervent knowledge of food and passion for cooking shines through. You’ll hear everything from what it’s really like to be a food judge on TV to Gail’s life at home with her family. After listening, you’ll most likely find yourself bingeing a lot of old Top Chef episodes and committing to memory some of Gail’s best cooking advice. And don’t worry: We’re doing the exact same thing.
Adapted from “Bringing It Home: Favorite Recipes from a Life of Adventurous Eating” by Gail Simmons. Copyright © 2017 by GMS Media, Inc. Reprinted with permission from Grand Central Life & Style. All rights reserved.
Spaghetti Pie Recipe
When we were 19, my best friend Camille and I traveled through New Zealand’s North and South Islands. It didn’t take long before we became completely obsessed with a local specialty that seemed to be offered at every roadside diner along the way: spaghetti sandwiches! These grilled cheese–pasta mash-ups are toasted delights, packed with oozy, melted cheese and tangy, tomato-sauced noodles. While we might consider them a double-carb disaster today, in our college years they were a heavenly snack. The memory of those decadent sandwiches still makes me giggle, so I came up with this spin, the mere mention of which always elicits joy. Spaghetti pie is a big affair, impressive in both stature and ingredients, and meant to serve a hungry crowd. You don’t have to wait for your next party to make it, though. If you don’t have enough eaters to tackle it, there’s a bonus: Slices of the savory pie may make the best leftovers of all time.
- Unsalted butter for greasing the pan
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 3/4 pound broccoli or broccoli rabe, trimmed, stems and florets chopped into 1⁄4-inch pieces (about 2 1/2 cups)
- 1 pound hot or sweet Italian sausage, removed from casings
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, drained, tomatoes crushed by hand
- Kosher salt
- 1 pound dried spaghetti
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 3 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 2 1/2 cups (8 ounces) grated sharp yellow cheddar cheese
- 2 1/2 cups (8 ounces) grated fontina cheese
- 1 1/2 cups (3 ounces) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage
- Special equipment: 9 1/2-inch springform pan
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Heat the oven to 425oF. Butter a 9 1/2-inch spring- form pan. Tightly wrap the bottom of the pan with a large sheet of foil, crimping the foil against the outer edges to tightly seal.
- In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the broccoli and 1 tablespoon water and cook until the broccoli is crisp-tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the sausage and cook, breaking the meat into small bits, until cooked through, about 6 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook 1 minute, then add the crushed drained tomatoes and 1⁄4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally and scraping any bits from the pan, until the liquid is mostly evaporated, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- Add salt to the boiling water and cook the spaghetti just until very al dente, 7 to 8 minutes (look for a white spot in the center when you bite into a strand). Drain the pasta (do not rinse) and reserve the pot.
- In the pasta pot, whisk together the milk, eggs, pepper, and 3⁄4 teaspoon salt. Stir in the cheddar, fontina, and 1 cup of the Parmesan. Add the sausage mixture and spaghetti; stir until well combined.
- Transfer the pasta mixture to the prepared pan. Using a spatula, smooth the top. Set the pan on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until the edges are golden and bubbling, about 35 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the oven. Turn on the broiler. Sprinkle the pie with the sage and remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan. Broil 4 to 5 inches from the heat until the cheese is golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the oven and run a knife around the inside of the pan. Let the pie rest about 10 minutes then release and remove the sides of the pan. Cut the pie into slices and serve warm.
Header image by Johnny Miller.