Dan Pelosi Doubles Down on the Sheet-Pan Dinner
The Great Ones is a celebration of humans we admire — and an exploration of why they cook, not just how. Dan Pelosi (aka @GrossyPelosi) grew up in the kitchen, cooking with his Italian-Portuguese family. During the pandemic, the self-deprecating, self-proclaimed “meatball” evolved from weekend cook to full-on recipe guru, dishing up resources and delightful puns (“this too shall pasta,” “pumpkin to talk about”) on his new website. Here, Dan shares how he cultivated his brand.
I was not a super-active kid. I just wanted to be with my family, creating meals, cooking, chatting, going to the grocery store. From morning to night, we talked about what we were eating and what we’d eat next — which is very classic Italian and also Portuguese.
As a baby, I was on the countertop and my hands were always in everything. I spent a lot of time watching my grandparents cook in their Italian, family-style basement kitchen. It had huge freezers and refrigerators and a little room that was almost like a bodega, full of cans and nonperishables. My grandfather (aka Bimpy) was obsessed with ShopRite’s Can Can sale, so twice a year he’d stock up on the cheapest groceries ever. We would always joke that when the Apocalypse hit, Bimpy would live the longest because he had all the rations.
I never really manned a kitchen until I spent a year in Italy. I went to the Rhode Island School of Design, and they had a study-abroad program for 30 of us to live in a RISD villa in Rome. The second I got there, I realized these kids just didn't know how to cook. I found the Campo de Fiori, which is this gorgeous farmers’ market near our villa, and I’d walk to the market every morning to pick up groceries. Then at night I would be in the kitchen with a 10-person crew, and I was like, “Okay, you do this, you do that, you do that!” That year in Rome I really owned the knowledge I gained from observing my whole life, and I put it into action. And from there it became a no-brainer. I was cooking all the time.
When people come over and are like, “What can I bring?” I’m like, “You can bring wine or weed — that's it.” I don't want anything else; I have a very tight aesthetic!
I have a day job, so I’d spend weekends in the kitchen and have friends over. It’d take up the whole day, from grocery shopping all the way to setting the table. We’d leisurely cook, and I’d share everything I was eating through Instagram. People would be like, Why aren’t you doing this as a career? I had a really tough year in 2019, so I was like, Okay, 2020! I'm gonna focus my Instagram on food and just see what happens!
I started with my annual cookie party, which is the best day of the year. I was very casual about sharing and just doing what made me happy. A few months in, it quickly became less casual but more exciting because people caught on to what I was doing and saw me as a resource for recipes, instructions, and all their questions.
Once we started working from home because of the pandemic, I became a seven-day-a-week cook, which was incredible. Cooking was the main thing on @GrossyPelosi, but I’m an oversharer, so I was explaining how to stock a pantry on day one of the pandemic. I joke that everyone else I know got a fuck buddy, and I stocked my pantry, like, Shit, how am I gonna get through this?!
It was wild timing because here we are, eight months later — I’ve launched a website with 55 recipes and a Grossery List. I launched a charity project for SAGE, and we've raised $20,000 already. So it’s not casual!
I’ve always worked with big brands, and I understand marketing and branding. I have a really strong point of view on aesthetics and color, and I have a really strong point of view on food, so I guess we shouldn't be surprised. But the website is actually more for me. People ask me questions all the time — I say seven times a day, “It's all on my website!” It saves me time, and it’s a resource for people, so it's such a win for everyone involved.
I also wanted to make a website because I have such a deep interest in moms, grandmas, aunts, uncles, and grandparents, because that's where all of my knowledge comes from. But they’re not really on Instagram. I was getting messages from people being like, “I love this. I want to share it with my mom” or “My mom would love this; my grandma used to make it.” I wanted a really simple website that looks like it was made in 2004, so people can text their mom a link and she can open it on her phone.
I was explaining how to stock a pantry on day one of the pandemic. I joke that everyone else I know got a fuck buddy, and I stocked my pantry, like, Shit, how am I gonna get through this?!
I have a big dining table, and my favorite thing is concepting what I'm going to cook, all the way down to what it's going to be served on, how it's going to be plated, and what the color story is going to be like. With the Great Jones Holy Sheet, I got the red and orange peppers, and the colors all came together on the blue plan — it’s the full picture. When people come over and are like, “What can I bring?” I’m like, “You can bring wine or weed — that's it.” I don't want anything else; I have a very tight aesthetic!
Today, I made Sausage and Peppers … and Potatoes and Onion. (I don't understand how sausage and peppers are the only things that are mentioned.) I like to say that I'm like a gay Pinterest mom because I secretly want to be like a straight woman who has five kids and is, like, killing it on Pinterest. And something I love about Pinterest is the sheet-pan recipes. This one is my ultimate Pinterest-mom meal, but what's funny is that it's actually a two-pan meal.
I learned this technique a while ago from my grandfather. I really want everything to be super crispy, but there's not enough room on the pan for each piece to have the space, and the sausage needs to cook for less time than everything else. If you cook the sausage on top of the vegetables, there’s too much going on and the grease from the sausage messes it up. With two trays, you never have to worry about either of them. You can cook your vegetables and your sausage, and you put the sausage and all the drippings on top of the vegetables. It’s perfect.
I love making this dish with the Holy Sheet because we just eat out of the pan. I don't know why you would want to take sausage and peppers out of the pan with all the gorgeous drippings and everything, and then put it in something else. The Holy Sheet is beautiful, and it feels more special than your silver sheet pan — it’s functional, but it’s also a “serving pan” for me.
I put red-wine vinegar on everything so that it gets that vinegary, sweet caramelization. I also put fennel seeds on this. Obviously, they’re in the sausage, but it's nice to have them in the dish as a textural thing. This batch is gone — my roommates ate it all already. But if you have leftovers you can repurpose it the next morning with some eggs, and it's genius.