You probably think we all love to cook here at New York Times Cooking. And for the most part we do! We cook for work, we cook for fun. But we’d be lying if we didn’t admit that we sometimes wilt at the thought of planning another week of meals, or moan when the last ketchup runs out because it means another slog to the grocery store. Sometimes it’s just all (wild gestures in all directions) too much. These recipes are for the days when your survival instinct tells you to order takeout (which we always do), but your heart longs for something homemade.
This traditional Mexican soup from Jocelyn Ramirez is cozy and uplifting. If you can’t get good fresh tomatoes or you don’t have a blender, chop the garlic and use crushed tomatoes or canned tomato sauce like a reader’s grandmother does. Top with any combination of avocado slices, sautéed mushrooms, lime juice, queso fresco, boiled potatoes, or Mexican cream.
This vegetarian leaf-pan dinner from Ali Slagle is thankfully simple. Toss shelf-stable gnocchi, mushrooms, scallions, shallot and olive oil on a baking sheet, season well with salt and pepper and toast until gnocchi is crisp around the edges. (For more, this guide from Melissa Clark can show you how to put together a sheet pan dinner with practically anything.)
In this version of gyeran bap, a Korean pantry meal of fried eggs stirred into white rice, Eric Kim cooks the eggs in browned butter, drizzles with soy sauce and sesame oil, then sprinkles salted roasted seaweed over the finished dish. Many readers like to sprinkle it with a little furikake or sesame seeds.
One of the original recipes to forget, Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce consists of just three ingredients: canned tomatoes, a whole onion (peeled and cut in half), and butter. Let it simmer for about 45 minutes and then serve it over any noodle you like. Ms. Hazan called for the onion to be thrown away, but many readers shudder at the thought and serve pieces of it.
Thank Cuban socialite Elena Ruz Valdés-Fauli for this beauty of a sandwich, which was adapted by Christina Morales. In the late 1920s or early 1930s, Mrs. Valdés-Fauli, dining at Havana’s El Carmelo restaurant, over turkey, tinned strawberries and cream cheese on a soft bun. It became a national sensation. Replace a soft white bun, such as brioche, with the medianoche.
Recipe: Elena Ruz Sandwich
Some one-pot recipes are myths, but this one from Yasmin Fahr, which comes together in 20 minutes, is the real deal. Fry the Italian sausage until crisp, then add the crushed tomatoes, cumin, red pepper flakes, water and pasta. The pasta cooks in the seasoned liquid, so the dish is rich in flavor through and through. (Reader tips: To avoid mushy noodles, don’t add too much water and stir frequently to prevent the noodles from sticking to the bottom of the pan.)
Shrimp, hot sauce, butter, neutral oil and salt are all you really need for this quick shrimp dish from Ali Slagle. According to readers, any hot sauce will work. Serve over rice or with a hunk of crusty bread.
Alexa Weibel came up with this clever vegan riff on the classic Italian pasta dish that comes together in 30 minutes. Make a quick sauce of nutritional yeast, cashew butter, miso and roasted cracked black peppercorns, and toss with al dente noodles and a splash of starchy pasta of boiling water until glossy and emulsified.
Recipe: Vegan Cacio e Pepe
This old-fashioned Sloppy Joe recipe from Marian Burros was first published in The Times in 1989. It works well with ground beef, pork, chicken, turkey, or plant-based meats. Pop a baking sheet full of tater tots in the oven just before you start browning the meat, and you’ll have a cozy school cafeteria-style meal in less than 25 minutes.
Recipe: Sloppy Joe’s
This no-cook dish from Hetty McKinnon is a favorite among New York Times Cooking editors when kitchen ambition is low. Silken tofu is topped with a vibrant dressing of soy sauce, chili oil, sesame oil, rice vinegar, and scallions. Add fresh herbs or garnish with fried shallots or roasted peanuts. Serve it for a cheerful contrast next to a bowl of hot rice or noodles.
It may seem like a bit of Sunday dinner, but this roast chicken from Mark Bittman is one of the easiest things to make. Salt and pepper the dickens from the chicken, heat your skillet to piping hot, then pop the bird into the pan (watch out for splashing) and roast until cooked through. If you remember, slide a few potatoes on the oven rack to bake next to them. (It may take a few more minutes, but continue cooking while the chicken rests.)
Chef Roy Choi gave this delicious recipe for instant ramen with an egg and a slice of American cheese on top to The Times in 2014. It’s not authentically Korean, but it’s a dish many Korean Americans grew up with. “It’s our snack, it’s our peanut butter and jelly sandwich, it’s our bowl of cereal,” Mr. Choi said.
Recipe: Perfect Instant Ramen
This crazy easy recipe from Sam Sifton will make you feel like you’re winning in life. It’s just Dijon mustard, brown sugar, and salmon, but the result is a meltingly tender, flavorful piece of fish that’s ready in less than 20 minutes.
You may have seen this recipe from Sarah DiGregorio before, but it’s so delicious and easy it deserves to be repeated. You put boneless chicken thighs, chipotles and adobo, honey and some pantry seasoning in the slow cooker and then let it cook for 3 to 5 hours. (Here’s a Instant Pot Versionand you can make it in the Dutch Oven in a 300 degree oven for about 3 hours.)
That can of chickpeas in your closet is calling you. In this recipe, Kay Chun combines them with a lemon tahini dressing, celery and scallions and sandwiches the savory mix between two pieces of multigrain bread. It’s also great to eat from the bowl you mixed it in with tortilla or pita breads.
Recipe: Chickpea salad sandwich
This deliciously easy dish from “Indian-ish: Recipes and Antics From a Modern American Family” by Priya Krishna and Ritu Krishna is melt in your mouth. Combine cooked rice with fried onion, chilli and tomato, top with Cheddar and roast until golden brown.
Recipe: Tomato Rice With Crispy Cheddar
If you’re really wiped out, assembling, not cooking, is the name of the game. This vegetarian salad from Corinne Trang calls for cannellini beans, avocado, cilantro, and lemon juice, which are mixed with an easy garlic oil made by crisping sliced garlic in olive oil. Top the finished salad with lemon zest and the crispy fried garlic pieces – a nice textural contrast to the creaminess of the beans and avocado.
Melissa Clark calls for snow peas and mushrooms in this 30-minute red coconut curry, but you can use any veggies you have in your fridge. Honestly, it’s hard to mess up this dish. Keep in mind that you may need to increase the cooking time slightly for firmer vegetables. (For a non-veg red curry, try Ali Slagle’s edit of kua bladea southern Thai dry red curry, made with ground chicken.)
When in doubt, there is always breakfast before dinner. Genevieve Ko cleverly cooks bacon and eggs together on a baking tray, so everything cooks evenly, no turning is necessary. Be sure to start with room temperature eggs. If you forgot to take them out of the fridge in time, place them in a bowl of hot tap water and let them sit for 10 to 15 minutes.
Recipe: Crispy Oven Bacon and Eggs