“I can go through every trip we ever went on and tell you what we did, based on what we ate there,” says Top Chef judge and cook Gail Simmons. As a young woman, Simmons traveled the world– hitchhiking, bartending, backpacking. But a particular roadside snack in New Zealand inspired this week’s recipe, her ‘Spaghetti Pie.’
During her time in Oceania, Simmons says she’d stop into little truck stop diners and for $1.75, she’d grab– what she calls– ‘a sexy, sexy spaghetti sandwich.’ It’s exactly what it sounds like: overcooked noodles, drenched in marinara sauce, slapped between two pieces of white bread and toasted, “which, when you’re 19, is pretty awesome.”
From those side-of-the-road cheap eats to her first cookbook, Simmons drew on these defining moments in her left to craft thoughtful, down-home recipes that reflect her life and career that’s put food and the kitchen at the heart of all her experiences.
This ‘Spaghetti Pie’ is an homage to those comforting, pressed sammies down under. Although, Evan points out a timballo is roughly the Italian equivalent to her pie, Simmons adds, “I don’t think Stanley Tucci would approve” of this Italian-crossover recipe. Enjoy!
YIELD: Serves 8 to 10
Unsalted butter for greasing the pan
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3/4 lbs broccoli or broccoli rabe, trimmed, stems and florets chopped into 1/4-inch pieces (about 21/2 cups)
1 lbs hot or sweet Italian sausage, removed from casings
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, drained, tomatoes crushed by hand
1 lbs dried spaghetti
3/4 cup whole milk
3 large eggs
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 cups grated sharp yellow cheddar cheese
2 1/2 cups grated fontina cheese
1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh sage
Special equipment: 91/2-inch springform pan
Boil pasta water: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Heat the oven to 425ºF.
Prepare springform pan: Butter a 91/2-inch springform pan. Tightly wrap the bottom of the pan with a large sheet of foil, crimping the foil against the outer edges to tightly seal.
Combine sauce ingredients: 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.
Cook pasta: 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.
Combine dairy: 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.
Put it together: Add the sausage mixture and spaghetti; stir until well combined. Transfer the pasta mixture to the prepared pan. Using a spatula, smooth the top.
Bake: Set the pan on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until the edges are golden and bubbling, about 35 minutes.
Create a crispy crust: 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.
Enjoy: 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.