Penne with Beef and Arugula

They say you can tell a lot about a person by the food they eat, the books they read, and the company they keep. In the food world, you can tell a lot about a recipe by how often you make it. If you keep it around year after year, or if you make it once and then forget it.

This recipe is a favorite of mine, and is in the habit of winning over anyone I feed it to. I’ve made it enough times now that I can do it from memory, though failing to glance at the recipe has meant that on occasion I’ve left out basil, used spinach in place of arugula, and forgotten the olive oil all together (oops!).

There is a lot to love about this dish. The tomatoes are juicy and sweet, the steak is tender, and the balsamic sauce puckers a bit in your mouth. Whenever I can't think of what to make, I often turn to this recipe and ease comfortably into very familiar territory.

Penne with Beef and Arugula

Recipe adapted from Giada de Laurentiis

1 (1 pound) New York strip steak (any cut of meat you have is fine)
1 garlic clove, minced
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus 3 tablespoons
1 pound penne pasta (I often use whole wheat penne which works very well with such a flavorful dressing)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for steak and pasta water
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for steak
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 cups chopped arugula (spinach does no harm if you already have it on hand, just add a bit more pepper when tossing the pasta together)


Season the steak with salt and freshly ground black pepper, In a skillet, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Cook steak about 7 minutes per side. Remove the meat from pan and let it rest for 5 minutes. Thinly slice the steak or cut into cubes. Set aside.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta, reserving 1/4 cup of pasta water.

In a small bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, fresh herbs, and 3/4 cup olive oil. In a large bowl toss the pasta with half of the salad dressing and the reserved pasta water. Add the arugula and steak, more dressing, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, as needed. Toss together then serve immediately with shavings of Parmesan.