The weeknight meal struggle is real, isn’t it? Even as someone who loves cooking, there are nights when I end up standing in the kitchen, having a major brain fart. 99% of the time, nothing comes to mind but pasta, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, except when pasta came to mind the day before, and the day before that, and the day before that….
To remedy this conundrum, I’ve found two things helpful: first, whenever I see a recipe that looks good online, I immediately bookmark it, knowing I won’t remember the recipe a week later when I try to recall it. Second, after I cook a dinner that ends up being a keeper, I quickly type it out in an email that I keep in my inbox, under drafts, so I can look at it whenever I’m stumped on ideas.
OK! Enough blabbing. Here’s what we’ve been cooking these days…
Photo by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt
This is a recipe we turn to on Friday nights or when we’re feeling like takeout. It’s a total game-changer of a recipe, and admittedly, it takes a few times to get it just right, but once you do, you’ll feel like a pizza queen (a 10 inch cast iron skillet is really key).
Flour tortillas last forever in the fridge, and I’ve found that shredded mozzarella works best for this recipe, versus the fresh stuff. Our go-to pizza is spicy Italian sausage, peppers, onions, basil, and pickled jalapeños.
Purple cabbage makes this pasta extra colorful, but you can use green cabbage, too. Surprisingly good, healthy, filling, and CHEAP, this dish is an unexpected keeper in our home. It makes a huge difference to use homemade breadcrumbs, which I make by taking out my blender and blitzing the crap out of some extra stale baguette ends. P.S. You can trust pretty much any recipe by Melissa Clark.
Andrew Scrivani for the New York Times
For nights we want a break on carbs, big thai salads are where it’s at. I barely ever eat a salad for dinner and call it a day, but this one is loaded with flavor, texture, zing — all that good stuff. I skip the tenderloin and just add whatever protein is leftover in the fridge (chicken, shrimp, beef, etc), plus rice noodles. Don’t leave out the mint, it really makes this dish.
The work horse of weeknight dinners, tacos deliver when you want something besides pasta but don’t want to make anything that will require any real brain power. Also a great dinner to delegate to nearby friends or family– assign someone chopping (veggies like radishes, cilantro, peppers, etc), or shredding (cheddar cheese). I always make a batch of my quick pickled onions as an additional topping.
Photo by Deb Perelman.
Tomato sauce on crack — briny from capers, salty from olives and anchovies — pasta puttanesca is a warrior pantry dish and I would eat it every night if I could. Keep a jar of good tomato sauce like Rao’s in your pantry (a shortcut, but it makes it that much more flavorful), some garlic, capers, anchovies, olives and parsley in your fridge — and you are good to go, any night. Not a fan of briny? Penne a la vodka might do the trick.
Plus two other recipes I’ve been loving:
For lazy nights:
And for dinner parties, I love serving:
Top photo by Nicole Franzen.