My friend Sue Li, who is a food stylist, is seriously kick-ass in the kitchen. But even though inspiring ingredients surround her all day, surprisingly, she typically comes home to an empty fridge. Cooking at home is sometimes the last thing she wants to do; she admits that many times the thought of having to wash another pan makes her want to cry. We’ve all been there! On those days, she just wants something simple and homemade—not takeout, not another dash of hot sauce or fish sauce—so she scrounges around her cabinets and cobbles together a servable amount of spaghetti from almost-empty boxes, scoops out the last bit of mustard, and crisps up whatever veggies are left—dinner is done!

Serves 4


  • Kosher salt
  • ¾ pound spaghetti or other long, thin pasta
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • ½ pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and pulled apart into leaves (about 6 cups)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 3 Tbsp. whole-grain mustard
  • ¼ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving


    Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 2 Tbsp. of the salt and return to a rolling boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente according to package directions.

    While the pasta cooks, heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook until golden, about 2 minutes. Working in batches of about 2 cups at a time, add the Brussels sprouts leaves and cook until the edges of the leaves are browned. Transfer the leaves to a bowl as they are cooked. Repeat until all the Brussels sprouts are cooked, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper in the bowl.

    Wipe out the pan and melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the mustard, Pecorino Romano, and about ½ cup of pasta water, swirling the pan to emulsify the sauce. Scoop the pasta directly into the skillet along with the Brussels sprouts and toss to coat, adding ¼ cup of pasta water or more (up to 1 cup), as needed to loosen up the sauce.

    Plate in bowls and top with a generous amount of black pepper and more Pecorino Romano.

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