Dining With the Stars

A few nights ago I went to dinner with a friend at an Italian restaurant I had been long looking forward to trying. Just after we ordered, Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Lorne Michaels (of Saturday Night Live fame) sat down at the table next to us.

It was one of those moments when even blasé New Yorkers take pause. And because my friend and I are far from blasé, it took us a few minutes to regain our composure. Okay, it took us the better part of the night. What finally got us back on track was the arrival of our entrees. My friend had ordered Cacio e Pepe, a classic pasta dish made with Pecorino cheese and toasted black peppercorns. It was delicious—-the subtle heat of the peppers perfectly offset the salty, creamy sauce created by the grated cheese and pasta water. We devoured it quickly and with full concentration. But when it was gone we were right back where we started, studiously trying to avoid staring at the celebrities sitting three feet away. At the end of the evening I promised myself our next meeting would be at a low-key, star-free venue.

But the pepper pasta stayed with me. And the next day I suggested to Real Simple’s recipe editors we do a variation on it for our “Five Easy Dinners” column. To my surprise, they were less than keen. “It’s too simple,” one replied. “Readers will find it obvious.” Maybe so, but I still think it’s one of the cleverest–and tastiest–uses of three ingredients I’ve yet to find. So, in honor of the already sorely-missed Gourmet (which closed on Monday), here is a link to the recipe as it appeared in the magazine’s March 2003 issue.

Do you have a favorite too-simple-to-call-it-a-recipe recipe? Even more to the point, what’s your best celebrity sighting?