Dan Pelosi’s new cookbook, Let’s Eat, is part of a new generation of cookbooks. The internet—and Pelosi’s presence on it—are woven in seamlessly, almost as if the book is part of some kind of online cooking class. The apostrophe in its title is replaced with a heart on the book’s cover and spine, evoking an emoji, and Pelosi’s Instagram handle appears on the cover beneath his name, the same way somebody’s academic credentials might on a pop-psychology book that’s become a New York Times bestseller.
Unlike some other new cookbooks, though, there are no QR codes here; but a decent part of Let’s Eat’s introduction involves Pelosi talking about how his Instagram account, @GrossyPelosi, blew up during the pandemic due to his cooking videos and posts, leading to him becoming a bona fide social media viral cooking dude. Here, Pelosi compares books to DMs, pointing out that you can’t message him through the book, but that you can @ him on Instagram if you have questions.
During the pandemic, Pelosi’s vodka sauce—sawce, sorry—was a staple for many, even getting featured on Good Morning America. But in a deeply refreshing moment for the literature of cooking’s TikTok era, Pelosi and his book are the real deal, and they commune with something much, much deeper about food than viral baked feta pasta, sandwich videos edited in the style of Requiem for a Dream, and hot chocolate bombs.
Flipping through the pages of Let’s Eat, you really get the sense that @GrossyPelosi wants to be your friend and that he’s sincerely invested in you making and eating good food. The book is peppered with references to and pictures of his mom and his grandpa, the latter of whom he calls Bimpy (more on him soon), and Pelosi offers tips on everything from how to deep clean your kitchen and how to store herbs to how to cook pasta properly and how to construct the perfect sandwich (there’s a wonderful surprise in this section that I won’t spoil, but you’ll know it when you see it). There’s the usual pantry list and guide to menu planning, but central here are the recipes themselves, which are oriented at comfort and togetherness. This is the genuine Italian-American stuff that we all crave, and for that type of cuisine, Let’s Eat is one of my favorite books that’s been released in a minute.
Recipe-wise, you’ll find your typical pizza and calzones, marinara sauces, stuffed artichokes, polenta, porchetta, and chicken marsala. All the usual suspects are here—including fried calamari, my personal fave—but everything’s got a unique, creative twist. There’s aglio e olio (this one has anchovies and olives) and cacio e pepe (but it includes chickpeas and its directions reference the Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen film When in Rome, LOL). There’s calabrian chile crisp; there’s Italian gay wedding soup.
The heart of this book is Bimpy. Here’s an excerpt from a dish called “Bimpy’s Pizza”: “I had three separate conversations with Bimpy to get his recipe—he admitted he hadn’t made it in a decade and was a little bit rusty. I was surprised to find out he bought the dough at a local pizzeria (honestly brilliant), blended but didn’t cook the sauce (also brilliant), and basically didn’t remember the rest (he’s over one hundred, but he’s still brilliant!).” The dough is pretty straightforward, and the pizza is a thicker crust that’s not quite grandma pizza (though I guess you could say it’s grandpa pizza, hehe). It has a cheese-sauce-cheese layering that feels unique; I’ll be making it this weekend for sure.
Throughout Let’s Eat, I came to trust Bimpy and his guidance. I made “Bimpy’s Pasta e Piselli” (because of course I did), which opens with, “If Bimpy were a pasta dish, he’d be pasta e piselli. This recipe is a true Bimpy Classic™, and it’s practically effortless.” Indeed, you basically make a hella simple tomato sauce, cook some ditalini pasta, and put some peas in there. That’s literally about it. Towards the end, I made a huge mistake and questioned Bimpy’s lack of seasoning. I was quickly set straight. “One more thing: Bimpy doesn’t use salt or pepper in this sauce, which is a bold move that I stand by,” Pelosi writes. “I suggest you make the recipe as-is at least once—the guy is almost never wrong—and make any adjustments you like the next time around. Because I can assure you, you’ll be cooking this dish more than once.” I did cook the dish as-is, and it was fabulous; you could really taste the mild, sweet, slightly umami flavor of the peas and the powerful, nutty punch of garlic. It reminds me of a home-cooked, healthy, very tasty version of what you want Chef Boyardee to be. Sometimes less is more. Thanks, Bimpy.
Less is also more in “Charred Garlicky Green Beans,” which basically only uses ingredients in the recipe’s title, and the now famous “Grossy’s Vodka Sawce,” which I felt legally required (by decree of Instagram) to taste. It uses minimal ingredients—oil, butter, tomato paste, heavy cream, and vodka, basically—and is extremely creamy and flavorful. I can see why people fell in love with this recipe during the pandemic: It’s a shockingly easy staple that tastes complex and rich, while also being comforting and fun. Funnily enough, Pelosi says he enjoys playing the role of “vacation house mom” for his friends, and before reading that line, I made this dish on a weekend trip to a cabin in Michigan with some pals. Everybody likes eating vodka sauce. If you don’t, it’s hard to convincingly say you love Italian-American cuisine.
So, yeah, Pelosi is an internet-famous chef, now with a book on the shelves, but for the full picture of what it means to achieve true recipe virality, you have to take in both sides. Through both digital and printed text, we can see a right way to be online: by keeping in mind that the internet should always be in service of Real Life™, that it is cool to have a lot of followers and share mouthwatering photos of food you’ve made, but also that you can only eat pizza with (your own version of) Bimpy in reality.
TL;DR: Despite any skepticism about its food’s online origins, Let’s Eat absolutely rules, and whether you’re a TikTok cooking trend admirer, an Italian restaurant fanatic, or just a home cook looking for some bangin’ new pasta recipes, this is one $20 investment to make now and ensure a mega cozy winter (and life), replete with pizza, polenta, and, of course, vodka “sawce.”
Buy Let’s Eat on Amazon.
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