Tale of the plate: Chef Bruno Macchiavello

Cuisine People

June 28, 2024

Chef Bruno Macchiavello holding plate of food

Lomo Saltado with Spaghetti Huancaina

by Asha Ellison  |  photographs by Peter Taylor

It’s a typical Wednesday night, and Chef Bruno Macchiavello is milling about the kitchen. He’s hungry, but he can’t decide what he wants to eat. He peeks into the pantry, then checks the fridge, taking a mental inventory of the ingredients on hand. He has just what he needs to make his go-to meal.

In Lima, Peru, where he’s from, it’s typical to eat lomo saltado — strips of steak sauteed with onions and tomatoes — two or three times a week. It’s the kind of meal that brings families and neighbors closer together. Same meal, different day, some might think. But in Chef Macchiavello’s kitchen, that couldn’t be further from the truth. 

When he makes it, the co-owner of Yunta Nikkei, a Japanese-Peruvian fusion restaurant in South End, and Viva Chicken, a fast-casual rotisserie empire rooted in the Elizabeth neighborhood, adds something special as a nod to his heritage: pasta.

“Lomo saltado is a household dish — it’s fast and simple to make,“ Macchiavello says. “The huancaina [cheese sauce], which comes from [the city of] Huancayo and is typically served with potatoes, is very Peruvian. When you add the spaghetti, you get me and my family,” he adds. “We’re Italian.” Macchiavello’s paternal grandfather moved from Genova to Peru following World War II, and his mother is from Sicily.

Chef Bruno cooking with fire

The sentiment of the dish isn’t lost in its simplicity. For Macchiavello, it’s amplified by nostalgia. When the aromatic fragrances of cilantro, basil and aji amarillo tickle his nose, they evoke vivid memories of happy childhood moments.

“When I start cutting the aji amarillo, it reminds me of home,” Macchiavello says. “When I close my eyes, all I can see is food,” he adds. “I see my family sitting at the big table — no less than 25 people, all having a good time.” But before that, Macchiavello remembers his father and his grandmother, his Nonna, making the dish and its respective sauces.

The memories Macchiavello has of his Nonna are like an heirloom he holds dear: She’s the woman who taught him his way around the kitchen.

“She used to make an amazing huancaina,” Macchiavello says with an endearing smile. “She made it the old way — by hand.”

While anyone can make lomo saltado with spaghetti huancaina, Macchiavello shares a few important tips. When cooking the lomo saltado, the wok or saute pan should remain very hot, he says. “The secret of lomo saltado is to keep it blazing so that [you] can get some smoky flavor.” And when serving the meal, he adds, do it bien taipa, which means “very generously.”

Lomo saltado with spaghetti huancaina is a dish made to share with family. And, with the recipe below, chef Macchiavello invites you to be a part of his. Buen provecho!

Lomo Saltado

Serves 4

1 pound beef tenderloin 
1 onion
16-20 grape tomatoes
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup olive oil 
2 garlic cloves
1/2 ounce salt 
1/2 ounce black pepper

Cut beef tenderloin into 2-inch cubes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Cut onions in 1/2-inch wedges, and cut tomatoes into halves.
Bring a wok or sauté pan to high heat and add olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add beef and cook until thoroughly seared. Next, add onions. Stir for 2 minutes, then add tomatoes, garlic and soy sauce to the pan. Set aside. 

Spaghetti

Follow cooking instructions for a store-bought or homemade spaghetti of your choice.

Huancaina Sauce

3 aji amarillo (yellow chili) peppers, cleaned
1/2 cup feta cheese
1/2 cup evaporated milk
salt and pepper to taste
canola oil
1 garlic clove
1/2 red onion, cut in pieces
olive oil

Sauté peppers, onions and garlic in olive oil over medium-high heat until softened. Once halfway done, add milk and bring to a boil.
Then, pour all the ingredients into a blender. Blend slowly, and add 1/2 cup of canola oil until creamy.
Pour sauce back into the sauté pan, and add cooked pasta. Stir and add salt if desired.
Plate the lomo saltado with the huancaina-topped spaghetti on the side.
Top with fresh chopped cilantro or basil if desired, and serve.  SP

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