Lucky Spaghetti by Sam Kass


I enjoy having Sunday dinners with family and friends before the week gets hectic again.

I can, however, fall into a rut with the same old recipes, just like many of you. For this reason, I’ll be asking a variety of individuals — including chefs, artists, and politicians — for their go-to Sunday gathering meals and sharing them with you.

Next up: Sam Kass, a former chef at Avec and the Obama White House, currently holds the position of chief strategy officer for Do Good Chicken, a firm that breeds chickens using food scraps from supermarkets. Last month, the birds arrived at nearby Jewel stores.

The meal was Kass’ “Lucky Pasta,” which included penne, pesto sauce, and chicken.

What he’s saying: “This is a dish that I made for the president on Air Force One on the way to the second debate in the re-election,” Kass tells Axios and recalled on my “Chewing” podcast. “He credited his performance to my pasta,” Kass says.

The mystery: The recipe specifies chicken breast, but Kass claims that “I personally would only use a breast in this situation. Everything else about me is thighs.”

Pasta, garlic, fresh basil, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, extra virgin olive oil, baby spinach, and chicken breasts are the ingredients.


1 pound mini penne or any pasta shape you like

Kosher salt

½ garlic clove (Monica’s note: I used three whole cloves)

2 cups packed fresh basil leaves

¼ cup toasted pine nuts or pecans

⅓ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus more to finish

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 cooked Do Good Chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces, warm or room temperature

½ pound baby spinach

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the water before draining.

While the pasta cooks, drop the garlic into a food processor with the motor running and process until the garlic is finely chopped. Add the basil, nuts, cheese, half the oil, and ½ teaspoon of salt and pulse to a coarse puree. With the motor running, add the remaining oil in a slow stream and keep processing until pretty smooth.

Toss the hot pasta with pesto, chicken, spinach, and 1/3 cup of the reserved pasta water. Gradually add more pasta water if the dish seems dry. Season with salt to taste and top with more grated or shaved Parmesan.

Monica’s thought bubble: My family loved this dish. It felt like a burst of summer in winter. Just don’t overcook the chicken breasts.

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