On the heels of the recent recognition from the prestigious Michelin Guide, Joel Gutierrez joined me in my home kitchen to prepare a dish from his awarded cuisine. The executive chef at Lido Bottle Works in Newport Beach showed me the secrets to his irresistible Cavatelli with Sunchoke Cacio e Pepe. One bite of this “salt-and-pepper” pasta reveals scrumptious flavor and texture, attributes that might have influenced the Michelin judges’ appraisal of his American-style pub fare.
The sweet nuttiness of the sunchokes lent a delicious edge to the pasta. Too often sunchokes are an ignored ingredient, and it’s too bad because these plump, knobby roots add lovely flavor. He peeled them to prevent the sauce from being speckled with brown bits. But the peel wasn’t thrown into the bin; instead, the peels were dehydrated and fried to use later as a crunchy garnish. No waste.
The oh-so-fresh cavatelli were crafted from scratch, the thin pasta dough formed into narrow strips and shaped using a hand-cranked cavatelli gizmo. They fell higgledy-piggledy onto the counter—showy and small, ridged and curled over a hollow center.
Creamy sunchoke sauce napped the quick-blanched cavatelli. Some freshly grated Pecorino cheese came to the party. Once plated, strips of crisp sunchoke skin scattered over the top, plus more pepper and a smidgen of extra-virgin olive oil. Perfect.
He told me that when he started college, he had medical school in mind. But to earn some money, he took a job serving meals at Sunrise Senior Living in Corona del Mar. He moved from the dining room to the kitchen when he discovered the pay was better. He learned culinary basics, grew to love cooking, and moved on to work at the now-shuttered Crow Bar. He credits the restaurant’s chef, Johnny Shaw, who taught him from the bottom up. Shaw educated him as much as he could, as fast as he could, refining what he was creating.
Indeed, he learned that cooking could be an art form. This pasta was proof.
Gizmo Love: The vacuum sealer is great because it is good for so many things—marinating, pickling, compressing.
Secret Talent: I was fluent in translating Latin, with two years studying in regular high school classes and then two years of after hours, straight up college-style Latin classes.
Favorite Restaurant: Rustic Canyon in Los Angeles because a dish may look simple, but there is a lot of love, care, and talent coming from chef-owner Jeremy Fox.
Most underrated ingredient: The humble potato. I grew up loving baked potatoes, then learned to love Chef Joel Robuchon’s 50:50 mashed potatoes (half butter, half potato).
Few know: I have played competitive poker between jobs. Texas Holdem.
Best Cookbook: “Mexico from the Inside Out” by Enrique Olvera.
Comments on home kitchen: Many are surprised about the amount of commercial equipment I have at home, such as pasta machines, Vitamix, sous vide necessities, a Santa Maria grill, and a smoker.
Biggest Culinary Mistake: Assuming I knew how to do something rather than asking the proper way to do it. Early on, I thought it was better to not ask questions, but I quickly learned that in the industry you never stop learning. Always better to do it once than twice.
Lido Bottle Works, Lido Marina Village, 3408 Via Oporto, Newport Beach
Cavatelli with Sunchoke Cacio e Pepe
- Yield: 4 servings, plus leftover uncooked cavatelli
Cook’s notes: For the most accurate measurements for the pasta dough, weigh the ingredients using a scale. To make cavatelli, you will need a hand-cranked cavatelli maker, a cool device that is available online in the $30 to $40 range. I fell in love and bought two – one for me and one for videographer Curt Norris.
Chef dehydrates the peeled strips of the sunchokes and then fries them to use as garnish. The reserved sunchoke skins are dehydrated in a 200-degree oven for 2 hours. Once dehydrated the skins are fried at 325 degrees oil until golden brown and crispy. Season with coarse salt.
- 300 grams semolina flour
- 2 grams salt
- 135 grams warm (not hot) water
- For dusting; small amount of semolina flour
- Oil, neutral, such as vegetable oil or grapeseed oil
- 1/2 medium-size white onion, diced
- 10 garlic cloves, peeled, sliced
- 1 pound sunchokes
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- Salt to taste and freshly ground pepper, Tellicherry pepper preferred but not mandatory
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino cheese
- Additional freshly ground pepper
- Additional freshly grated Pecorino
- Drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil
- Optional: a few garlic flowers
- For pasta: Place flour and salt in bowl. With hands (kitchen gloves are convenient) make a well in center. Pour warm water in well in the middle of flour. Mix with hands until a rough ball begins to form. Remove from bowl and knead for 5 minutes. Once a smooth ball is achieved, cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes. Once rested, cut ball into eights. Take one small section and flatten until it is thin enough (and narrow enough) to fit through the cavatelli maker. Feed the flattened dough through the cavatelli maker. Dust cavatelli with semolina flour and set aside.
- For sauce: While the pasta is resting make the sunchoke cream. To begin peel the sunchoke and reserve skins for garnish. Once peeled slice and reserve sunchoke in water. The diced onions and garlic can be put into a pan with a little neutral oil and begin to sweat on medium-low heat, not allowing any color to form. Once translucent add the heavy cream and drained sunchokes. Cook on medium heat until the sunchoke slices are fork tender. Once fully cooked transfer sauce to a blender or food processor; blend until fully smooth and set aside.
- Cook 2/3 of the cavatelli in boiling salted water for about 4 minutes or until al dente (just barely tender); they will float to the top. Reserve remaining cavatelli for another dish. Meanwhile, heat sunchoke cream and using a slotted spoon transfer the al dente pasta into the sauce. It is desirable to transfer some of the cooking water into the sauce along with the cavatelli. Toss. Grate Pecorino and sprinkle pepper into pasta-sauce concoction and stir to combine. Pour into bowl. Top with a little additional Pecorino, more pepper, and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. Top with crispy sunchoke skins. If desired, top with a few garlic flowers.
Cathy Thomas is an award-winning food writer and has authored three cookbooks: “50 Best Plants on the Planet,” “Melissa’s Great Book of Produce,” and “Melissa’s Everyday Cooking with Organic Produce.” For more than 30 years, she has written about cooking, chefs, and food trends. She was the first newspaper food journalist to pioneer taping how-to culinary videos for the Web. CathyThomasCooks.com