He Said/She Said: Eating Dinner Alone

This month, we’ve been asking food bloggers what they make for dinner when they’re home alone, and today a married couple is weighing in! Jenny Rosenstrach and Andy Ward write the blog Dinner: A Love Story, and here’s their friendly debate over what makes the best solo dinner…

Cacio e Pepe
By Andy Ward of Dinner: A Love Story

Dear Jenny,

I know how this is going to sound. This is going to sound like another grumpy bald guy whining about how, ever since he had kids, he never gets to do what he wants to do any more, about how his once-independent, soundly-sleeping self has been lost forever in a sea of So You Think You Can Dance marathons, pre-dawn Candy Land sessions, Saturday afternoon trips to drug stores in search of the “right” kind of Hot Huez hair chalk, and wah wah wah. But I’m not whining about any of that here, I swear. That’s the stuff I love, to be honest. It’s the stuff I wake up thinking about at 3am, filled with dread, knowing that one day it will be gone. (And as for my once-independent self? From what little I can remember: overrated.)

No, my complaint here is far less existential. My complaint is: How the heck did my all-time favorite meal on earth, cacio e pepe, become the one meal that not a single other person in our house will eat? How did a simple bowl of pasta—with parmesan cheese, butter and pepper; the perfect combination of flavors—end up on the strict no-fly list? Of all the meals—hello, anything with eggplant—this the one you cast out?

Phoebe, our oldest daughter, is a lost cause: she hates pasta with the fire of 10,000 suns. Abby, our youngest, would rather eat pasta than pretty much anything else in the world…but only if it has marinara sauce on it. But you, my wife and family dinner compadre, the woman I love and have spent more years with than without, is—your words—“not a huge fan of pepper”? What? Not even Iris, our dog, will touch the stuff—and we’re talking here about an animal whose idea of a good meal is a few corn nuts and a roll of Charmin. I don’t want to go so far as to say it feels like the Universe has conspired against me, but come on: the Universe has kind of conspired against me! Which is why, whenever I have the chance—if I work late, or if you are out, or if everyone but me is down with the flu, or if the kids are at a sleepover and we decide to celebrate “Fend-For-Yourself” night at home—I make the exact same thing, the exact same way, and eat it on the couch while watching Jason Bourne movies.

As Billy Dee Williams once said, “Works every time.”


Recipe: Cacio e Pepe
Serves 1

You’ll need:
Spaghetti, enough for 1, about ¼ pound
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. good, freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan
Kosher salt

What to do:
Bring a pot of well-salted water to rolling boil and cook pasta according to package directions.

In a large saucepan, add olive oil, butter and pepper and saute over medium low heat until butter is melted and pepper gets slightly toasty. Remove from heat. Cook and drain the pasta, but—AND THIS RIGHT HERE IS CRUCIAL–make sure to reserve ½ cup of the pasta water.

Now, go back to your saucepan (the one with the oil, butter and pepper) and turn heat to medium. Add about half of your reserved pasta water and stir. Then add the pasta and, using a pair of tongs, toss gently until coated. Stir in the grated parm, and another dash of the reserved pasta water until the consistency is to your liking. Serve with more grated cheese on top, maybe a sprinkle of sea salt, and eat quickly.

Serves one.

Egg and Cheese Tortilla
By Jenny Rosenstrach of Dinner: A Love Story

Dear Andy,

So you like something that no one else in the house likes: This is great news! (You just don’t realize it yet.) I know I have a bad habit of glossing over the negative—a condition most people know as denial—but really, you need to reframe your thinking here. In our Meatless-Monday, soccer-on-Tuesday, ballet-on-Wednesday, 6:23-train-every-night kind of lives, isn’t it nice to know that some things just won’t ever fit into the routine? In other words, isn’t it nice to know that some things—some meals—retain a little special-occasion sheen?

Because make no mistake about it, “Fend-for-Yourself” dinners like the one you describe above are a special occasion. (Though I might trade Matt Damon for Reese Witherspoon.) And also, think about it: if the whole family liked cacio e pepe by now, it would’ve likely followed the fate of that pasta Amatriciana we used to make in our first apartment, once a week, every week, fifty-two weeks a year. Remember? Didn’t think so. I’ve tried to block it out, too.

I understand you better than you think I do. Since our daughters have refused to touch eggs for their entire lives, I have taken it upon myself to make up for this sad, sorry predicament whenever I am fending for myself—whether it’s after they’ve climbed on the bus in the morning (poached on whole wheat toast), or when I’m stranded and starving in midtown (microwaved, rubberized and wedged on a biscuit by a visor-wearing barista), or on nights when I come late or you are out and all bets are off on family dinner (scrambled, folded up and inside a warm corn tortilla with a slice of American cheese). It should be noted that this last example is my most favorite, because an egg sandwich meal is best experienced as the anti-family dinner—standing up at the counter scanning facebook or in front of X Factor while simultaneously responding to every iPhone ping. There are no utensils. There are no manners. There are no rules. There are no Please-in-God’s-Name-Finish-Your-Milks. I love my rogue egg dinners so much.

I don’t think it takes a psych major to figure out why. You probably think it’s because your bowl of spaghetti is simple, authentic, (really) peppery and takes you back to Italy, summer before senior year, where you tried it for the first time. (OK, fine, that might have a little something to do with it.) But here’s the thing: I’m convinced it’s precisely because no one else likes your cacio that makes it so special. It’s what makes it yours.


Recipe: Egg and Cheese Tortilla
Serves 1, but recipe can be doubled if a single sandwich is not enough.

You’ll need:
1 egg
Salt & pepper
1 corn tortilla
1 tbsp. butter
1 slice American cheese

What to do:
In a small bowl, beat egg with ½ teaspoon water, and salt and pepper.

Set a medium sized skillet over medium heat. Add tortilla and cook until warmed through, about 20 seconds a side. (Alternately, using tongs, just cook tortilla directly on the burner’s flame, flipping constantly to prevent scorching, until it’s bubbling and warm.) Remove.

Turn down heat slightly and add butter, brushing it all over pan’s surface as it melts.

Add egg, tilting your pan so it covers the entire surface of the pan. Lay down cheese in the middle, and after about 30 seconds, very carefully, fold one side of the egg on top, working in a circle until cheese is enclosed. (For more details on this technique, see Deb Perelman’s step-by-step.)

Again, very carefully, flip the egg-and-cheese bundle and allow to cook and melt together for another minute.

Slide onto your tortilla. Fold. Check email. Eat.

Serves one.

Haha, thank you so much, Jenny and Andy! Readers, whose side are you on?

P.S. More best recipes, including a French omelet and cheesy spaghetti sauce.

(Photos and recipe by Jenny Rosenstrach and Andy Ward of Dinner: A Love Story. Thanks to Shoko for helping with this series.)

  1. sarah says...

    I adore everything about this post! The writers AND their recipes. Although in our household both cacio e pepe and egg/cheese tortillas are beloved by (almost) everyone. Small differences: we do the pasta with pecorino rather than parmesan, and it’s always a dinner win with everyone; in our house I’m the only egg-hater, but love the simplicity of scrambled eggs and use them for simple dinners for the kids often when my husband (the person who usually cooks) is out. In fact, my 8 year old loves making scrambled eggs, so now we enjoy offloading the task of cooking them to him…an even bigger breakfast or dinner win!

  2. cach quan li tien khi choi ca do bong da says...

    I made the egg tortilla this morning! Cheese was pepper jack, and I added a spoonful of salsa before folding. Mine happens to be crappy Top Ramen dressed up with sesame oil, spinach, and sriracha!dai ly ca cuoc bong da truc tuyen
    dai ly ca do bong da tren mang

  3. So simple and so good this post. Egg is one of my favorite. I simply made the dish for myself for tifin .

  4. Love the pasta and pepper recipe and story. My new go-to solo supper with red or white or a cold craft beer. Thanks

  5. Just loved your both writing and recipe jenny. can’t wait to try it at home.
    You can try some other recipes for your hubby from my site as well.

  6. Kate says...

    Review of Cacio e Pepe Recipe- Don’t bother! Try another one!

    I’ve been wanting to Cacio e Pepe for awhile. Pasta, butter, good cheese. What could go wrong? Well, with this recipe, the proportions. I will qualify this… I love fresh ground pepper. However a whole tablespoon seemed like to much, so I used about a 3/4 of that. It still completely over powered the taste of the cheese. The I added about half of the recommended water. That was still too much. At least that could be cooked off, the same can’t be said of the oil. I will also add that I was hungry, and my portion of pasta was more than called for here, and it was STILL to much! It was edible, but certainly not worth the calories.

  7. Lisa B says...

    I make spaghetti aglio olio when I’m dining solo. Very similar. Saute a sliced clove of garlic in 1 tablespoon olive oil instead of butter until soft, add a pinch of red chili flake instead of the black pepper, toss with cooked pasta and a touch of pasta cooking water, add cheese. Toss and eat. Yummy

  8. Just had to comment that I come back to this simple recipe time and time again when I want a “real” breakfast without too much mess or time. Easy, gooey, yummy. Made two for my husband and one for me in 5 mins this morning!

  9. Thanks for sharing and its one of the food post. See here best food on your nearest Tuna Pasta Bake

  10. I made the egg tortilla this morning! Cheese was pepper jack, and I added a spoonful of salsa before folding. YUM! Huge fan of pasta, and the pasta recipe looks good for lunch when I am in a carb-y mood.

  11. Live alone and finally got to try this tonight and loved it! So simple and so good. And he’s right, who doesn’t love black pepper? I loved this post!! Xo

  12. So I love both of these, but usually when I’m on my own it’s something eggy, as that’s a tad faster than pasta. I usually make Smitten Kitchen’s cacio e pepe but decided to try this version tonight instead as it’s slightly different. I love spicy and I love black pepper, but I can’t imagine I could eat this with a full tablespoon of freshly ground pepper. I used just over half that, and it is really too much even for me. Maybe I’ll aim for more like 1-2 teaspoons next time!

  13. mmm, both of those are fairly regular go-to meals for me as well, although I didn’t know there was a name for the pasta besides “the pasta you make when it isn’t worth the effort to open tomato sauce”, hahaha.

  14. I love their blog, and I am firmly on Andy’s side since I hate eggs more than any food.

    (I know I know, and believe me it makes going out to breakfast not half as fun as other peoples’ experiences)

    I haven’t made cacio e pepe in forever, that might be accompanying our fish tomorrow night.

  15. I loved this article! They sound like an awesome couple! I can’t wait to try the pasta! I hope it’s as delicious as it sounds. It actually made me hungry!

  16. Dear Jenny and Andy,
    I have just finished re-reading this post on my iPhone WHILE standing at the kitchen counter, eating a bowl of cacio e pepe, while my 5mo chewed on Sophie the Giraffe and my 2.5yo played on the Kindle nearby. You have just made me , for five precious minutes, a happy mama on a napless Friday. And for that, I thank you.

  17. Love these recipes and love Jenny & Andy!
    My go-to solo dinner is a bit of a merge of both of these — pasta w/ butter, parm, black pepper, whatever greens I can find in the fridge (preferably arugula) – topped off with a fried egg (or two…) — love the rich sauciness added by the gooey yolk!
    But sometimes when I’m feeling more ambitious and like I should be healthy I make a big everything-but-the-kitchen-sink salad… and throw a fried egg or two on top! :)

  18. haha, this was quite adorable! i can totally relate!!!

  19. Sorry Andy, not a pasta fan. My fend-for-yourself meal tends to be cereal–even though I can cook, I’m never motivated enough to do it if I’m the only one eating.

    Check out my blog, if you’d like:

  20. They both look amazing–pinning twice!

  21. This post is hilarious! I love the idea of a fend-for-yourself meal. Mine happens to be crappy Top Ramen dressed up with sesame oil, spinach, and sriracha!

  22. This morning I whipped up an egg and cheese tortilla but I added bacon as well. Sooo good! And so easy too!

  23. Salad or baked potato with ranch for me when The Hubs is out of town. ALWAYS pizza for him when I’m out of town. Love this post ;)

  24. No choosing for me. Pasta and eggs I love equally. Yum yum!! My 3 yo doesn’t like eggs either. It breaks my heart.

  25. Poor-NYC-twenty-something-couple:

    Avi- A Faicco’s sandwich the size of his head, snacks from Murray’s and a beer from Blind Tiger
    Eva (me)- Half a can of soup.

    These look great though!

  26. I love their letters to each other. So witty. Personally, I make the egg meal for one all of the time! It takes so little effort, love it!

  27. I’m with Andy on this one – that is one of my fave meals too (except I use red pepper flakes).

  28. Definitely on the PASTA side considering I just made Ina Garten’s version last night and my whole family devoured it. (Although my 6 year old did say it was a tad too spicy from all the pepper), but then she also requested the leftovers in her lunch the next day. I looooove a good simple pasta like that. When I am alone on the other hand, it’s more of an excuse for me NOT to cook, since I do every night for my family of 5. So I happily make myself a bowl of cereal and eat it on the couch while watching Friday Night Lights re-runs.

  29. This is great!! Both recipes look yummy!! Perfect for when you’re stuck eating by yourself!


  30. Great options! This single blogger gal can write you a whole cookbook on meals to eat alone!

  31. Was putting together my food store list earlier today when I read this. Bought some fresh parmesan at the store today and whipped up the cacio de pepe for dinner tonight- have never had something like this before. Used half the amount of pepper and still had a lot of kick to it. Very light and delicious!

  32. they are both really great writers ! genuinely enjoyed this post !

  33. I love this post, and Dinner: A Love Story is one of my favorite blogs. They are great, and I agree that when you’re dining by yourself, you should enjoy something you typically don’t get to. In my case, it’s often a big salad (since my kids won’t eat salads yet). I’ll start with greens (lettuce, spinach, kale…doesn’t matter), and top it with whatever needs to be used up. Tomato, peppers, carrots, leftover veggies (green beans, squash…), nuts, maybe an apple or pear…whatever’s around. Pile it up and enjoy!

  34. Ah, what a great couple (and delicious recipes!).

  35. mmm they both sound so good, but as a favourite I’d have to go with the egg. When he’s being particularly sweet my husband will make us some Louise sandwiches, named after me, and one of my favourite things to eat. It’s just a fried scrambled egg with some melted cheese, served between some toast, with a daub of ketchup. Very simple but oh so well loved!

  36. I love both meals! Egg makes a great dinner item. I don’t really like big breakfasts and the eggs are just wasted on breakfast meals when they make excellent staples for dinner. Cute blog post.


  37. Best food post ever!

  38. They really are the cutest couple. My go-to solo meal always involves pasta and I throw in whatever fresh or frozen vegetables I have, a grating of parmesan cheese, and boom – dinner. Sometimes I’ll let my BF have the delicious leftovers and I’ll make myself the veg pasta and he always (without fail) says, “You didn’t make any of that for ME?”

  39. I love love love this. Both letters are so well written. I love Andy’s description of father hood and the things that you would think would drive you crazy he loves. Mostly because it reminds me of my father. Anyway with that being said I never knew that that pasta dish had a real name LOL I’ve gone 27 years without knowing this!! My mother use to make it and I just would call it butter noodles. Andy I love it too. Also my fiancee is not so much in agreement with it either. Much like your daughter he’s a sauce fan. Also I couldn’t help but giggle at your daughters not liking eggs. My cousin, who is also the same age as me, as gone all these years without eating eggs. She despises them. Me on the other hand I like eggs…just a tad picky with them.


  40. This is great. Inevitably, when I make dinner for just myself, it is either pasta an egg dish. Both are super easy to control the portion size.

  41. Andy is not alone! Cacio e Pepe is my fave go-to when I’m alone….it’s so secret and so cherished my husband doesn’t even know about it. :)

  42. This reminds me of the book I just finished–Alone in the Kitchen With an Eggplant: a book of essays and some recipes about eating alone. I think these were excellent additions! :)

  43. pasta in theory. egg sammy in practice.

  44. I love this back and forth and can’t wait to try both recipes :)

  45. I love this back and forth and can’t wait to try both recipes :)

  46. I’m so happy to find out that there is another person that also hates pasta! People usually think I’m crazy! haha I like the egg wrap better.
    My go to dinner alone is usually chipotle hummus with pita chips (not much of a dinner I know but I love it so!)

  47. This is such a cute post, I love it. I think the pasta sounds better, but if I couldn’t eat eggs with my family, I’d definitely be making them when I’m fending with myself, too. Perhaps just sunny-side up with toast ;)

  48. I love these two so much. Cutest banter ever. And also, I’m with Jenny… but I like anything wrapped in a tortilla!

  49. I am very liable to eat just popcorn for dinner if left to my own devices! When we eat together though, sometimes the meals get a little out of control weirdo. Last night’s example was splitting a homeade pot pie (individual size) with a side of chilli cheese fries with onions, jalepenos and sour cream. Definitely weird.

  50. I love this post! So funny!

    By the way, I just made the pasta dish for myself for lunch… perfection!

  51. OMGosh! I love the Dinner: A Love Story blog and *love* that they were on your site too!! My favorites together!
    I am going to choose though! I love Andy’s favorite meal, it’s one of my favorite go-tos too! However, I side with Jenny in the best meal is sometimes the standing-at-the-counter-scrolling-FB-answering-Pings-forgetting-the-“Please Finish Your Milk!”-demands!
    Thanks for the fun post! XO

  52. jm says...

    OMG, you guys are hilarious! My single meal is pasta and cheese or a baked potato and cheese. And I love eggs, so oth of these recipes work for me. ( I am definitely making that cacio e pepe.) Love the direction “Slide onto your tortilla. Fold. Check email. Eat. Thank you, Joanna!

  53. I live their blog- but this post…fabulous! Love it! I sometimes think I can’t have a family as I’ll miss my single dinners- the ‘is that even a meal!?’ Dinners that you don’t tell anyone about.

  54. This is adorably charming and perfectly describes how I could for myself on those days that are just like that.

  55. Egg and cheese burrito is one of my favorite single girl meals too! It’s probably what I will have tonight, actually.

    KK @ Preppy Pink Crocodile

  56. This is the sweetest and best food post yet!

  57. A says...

    This is so well written!!! Thank you!

  58. That is effing cute and I am going to eat and love both. :)

  59. These guys are amazing! I love the robust his-and-hers sides to this story. Thanks to Jenny and Andy, and to Joanna!

  60. I’d eat happily both!

    My husband will eat anything you put in front of him, and since we haven’t any kids yet, there’s not much that I miss cooking or eating. My usual go-to meal if I’m alone or if I haven’t any time to cook a proper meal is chicken quesadillas. I can’t get enough. The cheese, the guacamole, the crispy tortilla… it’s all very good.

    I think chicken quesadillas might be on the dinner menu tonight :)

  61. Mmm I might have to run out tonight and buy the ingredients for that pasta dish, it looks so perfectly simple and delicious.

  62. I love this post :) I love your blog :)

  63. This was absolutely brilliant!

  64. I love this! I always struggle with making ANYTHING when my husband is gone! I usually keep myself busy and forget to eat!

  65. That pasta sounds delicious…and if she doesn’t like pepper, why is it in her recipe? :)

  66. either of these is my classic go-to! I switch between them :)

  67. Also, one more: I love how Jenny and Andy love each other, it comes through on the blog and in this post. They seem so self aware and like true partners.

  68. This is hilarious!

    I’m famous for saying that when my husband is away, I’ll starve, because he’s the cook in the family…it’s usually a PBJ sandwich for me when I’m solo!

  69. And, this post is wonderful! I happen to like both meals they presented. My solo meal is much less glamorous, probably cheese and crackers and a class of wine!

  70. I’ve been known to make cacio e pepe when I’m home sick. However…

    …when my husband is away or out for the evening, my go-to is mashed avocado on baguette. My old roommate’s french boyfriend used to make this with a little shredded tuna or chicken, a touch of mayo, garlic, salt and pepper, all mashed together. Spread on baguette. The Mister won’t touch it. I think its perfect.

  71. This is funny to me – I cook dinner for one every night, so it is hard for me to make enough for TWO!

  72. This is so cute!! I really love it because I predict that this is exactly how my future is going to turn out. I’m a picky eater, so there are a few things that my fiance lives without when I make dinner. But then there are also things I love that he finds just plain weird. So we already have the occasional fend for ourselves nights where he gets his foods I won’t eat and I get my “weird” foods :)

    Jamie @
    The Growing Up Diaries

  73. It’t the Smitten Kitchen 5-minute egg! It’s my go-to solo meal too because no one in my house will touch it. It’s also the only time I consume American cheese (or processed cheese as we call it in Canada!). That being said, I also love Cacio e Pepe. Fun article!

  74. I LOVE this! However, I can’t choose a side because I would love either of these “single” dinners equally. What a sweet couple.

  75. LB says...

    Eggs FTW! I grew up with my parents making fried egg on toast (cutting it for us so the yolk ran evenly on each square) or cheese omelets for dinner on many occasions.

  76. @nomadic, haha, bread and nutella, we shoudl do a whole post on that. :)

    • I love nutella on toast!

  77. This is hilarious and fascinating. I think I am going to love this new series!

  78. This is one of the cutest food posts I’ve ever read! Just love it! Can’t imagine anyone not liking pasta (or cacio e pepe, which I LOVE) or eggs, but kids are weird that way. Even in our little household of two, I know that sometimes I get super excited when I’m left to fend for myself for a night, all bets off, just me and the tv and my breakfast sandwich or bowl of cereal or, yes, just bread and nutella….

  79. This is such a cute post I love everything about it! And thank you for sharing something from this blog, I always noticed it in an off-hand sort of what on your list of “rotating favorites” but never thought to check it out!


    • I agree! Adorable post, in every way!!

  80. This was so cute! I love BOTH of those meals!

  81. both recipes look so delicious, i couldn’t possibly pick a side :)