I miss Paul Longobardi. He’s not dead, I just don’t know where he is. The last time I saw Paul he was dressed in full military garb at a Coney Island restaurant in Youngstown, Ohio, around 2009. Paul was working as a chef for Halliburton in Iraq, but he would come home every so often to see his kids. Still, this doesn’t explain why he dressed like a soldier to go get a hot dog. As we placed our order, a stranger looked at Paul and said, “Thank you for your service.” Paul saluted back and said, “Sir, yes sir!” He was an idiot.
Granted, most of us were idiots. Paul was the first chef I worked under when I was 16. I just got promoted from dishwasher to prep cook at the restaurant, and I was enthusiastic about my new employment opportunity. Paul was new to the restaurant, getting hired when the previous chef quit in a spectacular huff. After a few weeks, it became painfully obvious that Paul was going through a divorce. After the lunch rush, he would call his ex-wife and try to win her back. He perpetually looked distraught or desperately convinced that they were going to get back together. It was tough to watch. For months he would blare Hootie & the Blowfish on the kitchen radio, belting out Only Wanna Be With You with his arms in the air like he was worshiping in the church of Darius Rucker.
On the other hand, Paul was no idiot. Paul taught me, a 16-year-old kid, how to sauté. He showed me how to cook Steak Diane and how to cook perfect pasta without timing it. He taught me that your hand works better than any spatula. He taught me the pasta-water trick back when that information was sacred knowledge and not something every wannabe YouTube chef knew. He taught me the importance of tasting. Paul was my teacher, but he was also dumb as shit. He would relentlessly quote Austin Powers. His haircut and gigantic square jaw made him look like a caveman. It’s almost like he was. Paul was born in America, but most days he opted out of the English language entirely. He spoke in sentence fragments and things he heard on Saturday Night Live. He ate salad with his hands and his chin was constantly shiny because he dined like an animal. Sometimes he would just slap me across the face with a piece of ham. For three years straight I asked Paul how old he was, and each time he said, “35.” Paul will forever be my culinary mentor, and there’s not much I can do about that.
On Sundays, Paul would make spaghetti pie for family meal at the restaurant. All the leftover deli meats and vegetables would get sautéed together in a pan with spaghetti. He would then add whisked eggs and cheese before throwing it into the oven. What came out was a perfect circle of Saturday night leftovers repurposed for breakfast. Essentially, it was a frittata with spaghetti in it. We would scarf it down on upside-down milk crates before attending to the seemingly self-sustaining Sunday lunch buffet. Over the years, I’ve made spaghetti pie for friends—an easy way to wrangle in a bunch of miscellaneous ingredients into a Sunday hangover-cure.
Today, at 33, my tastes have evolved and changed. I don’t eat pounds of deli meat every week. I’ve included a recipe for spaghetti pie that’s simple, maybe even more adult-like in its execution, but know this: You can take anything, put it into a sauté pan with spaghetti and eggs, and eat it on an upside-down milk crate. The world is your spaghetti pie. And Paul, if you’re reading this: Come home.
- 8 large eggs
- 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 1 bunch parsley, diced
- 8-10 ounces guanciale, diced
- 2 large shallots, sliced
- 3 Roma tomatoes
- 1/4 package dried spaghetti
- Fresh mozzarella and Pecorino Romano
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Boil heavily salted water for spaghetti and cook according to package instructions.
Meanwhile, over medium-low heat, sauté guanciale in a 10-inch pan until it begins to cook in its own fat. Once it looks golden brown but not crisp, drain 90 percent of the fat into a small container to store away. Back on medium heat, add the diced shallots and cook until translucent. Add 3/4 of your parsley. Cook another minute or two.
Add pasta to the pan and remove from heat. Stir all of the pan’s ingredients together and season generously with black pepper. Leave off the heat.
In a separate bowl, crack eggs and add a tablespoon of olive oil to the bowl. Whisk until homogeneous. Pour the egg mixture into the sauté pan and add little “pockets” of fresh mozzarella cheese.
The whole pan goes into the oven to bake for 20 minutes. When it comes out, you’ll want to gently shimmy the pie out of the pan with a rubber spatula to keep the perfect circle intact. When it’s on the cutting board, add fresh slices of roasted Roma tomatoes and grated Pecorino. Cut like a pizza.