We’ve shaken the sand from our shoes and tucked away our swimsuits until next summer, and the busyness of fall has begun: The calendar is filling up with to-dos and appointments, and if you can believe it, holiday plans. The days can sometimes feel like they’re slipping by, but stopping to make a simple meal and enjoy it can help you slow down and smell the proverbial roses. These recipes are blessedly easy, the kind you can cook once or twice, then cook from memory. Put them together while chatting with your loved ones about their days or booking your plane tickets home for Thanksgiving.
This party on a plate from Ali Slagle will cheer even the dreariest of diners. A salmon fillet is slathered with a fragrant combination of dill, ginger and olive oil, then gently roasted and served over a juicy citrus-radish salad and slices of just-ripe avocado. Leftovers make a great lunch, and it’s lovely served warm or cold.
One glance at the comments on this recipe, and you’ll see that the origins of Alfredo sauce are hotly debated, but this version is the most fun: In 1914, Alfredo di Lelio, a restaurant owner in Rome, came up with the recipe for his pregnant wife, Ines, who was experiencing severe nausea and couldn’t keep much down. He put it on his restaurant menu, and when Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford dined there during their honeymoon in 1920, they loved it and brought the recipe back to the United States. It’s traditionally served over noodles, but you can also drizzle it over seared chicken breasts, simmered beans or roasted vegetables.
Recipe: Alfredo Sauce
What’s not to love about this sheet-pan dinner from Yasmin Fahr? Crispy chicken thighs seasoned with cumin and coriander are tossed with tender, roasted pear wedges, then sprinkled with sunflower seeds for crunch. A scattering of arugula takes it into full-meal territory. One tip: Use not-quite-ripe pears, so they don’t turn to mush in the oven.
This orzo, a reader favorite from Melissa Clark, is an excellent light dinner as-is, but bolster it with canned chickpeas, or add raw shrimp in the last few minutes of cooking time. When seasoning, it’s worth remembering that feta is plenty salty on its own, so be careful about adding too much salt.
Make a habit of keeping a bag of dumplings in your freezer, and you will reap the rewards. Hetty McKinnon features the little pillows of goodness in this noodle soup that comes together in under a half-hour. Ginger, garlic, turmeric and miso (or soy sauce) create a tasty broth to which you can add pretty much any vegetable like carrots, peas or mushrooms.
Recipe: Dumpling Noodle Soup
Also hotly debated in Italian cuisine is the use of butter, but it’s actually a common ingredient in a lot of Northern Italian cooking. It’s a central ingredient in this surprisingly simple silky tomato sauce from Marcella Hazan. All you need is canned tomatoes, butter and a peeled onion. Let it simmer until it’s velvety and rich, then serve it over noodles, use it in a baked pasta or as pizza sauce.
Recipe: Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce
This sheet-pan meal is classic Mark Bittman: It’s easy, so satisfying and uses just a few simple ingredients. If you like punchier flavors, double the oregano, thyme and garlic.
For an impossibly tender, savory-sweet salmon, do what Genevieve Ko does: Coat a fillet with a combination of maple syrup, mustard, mayonnaise and cilantro stems, then slide it into the oven. She provides the best tip for determining salmon’s doneness, one that you’ll use over and over again: When you remove a knife from the center of the fish and touch the blade to your upper lip, it should feel very warm but not hot.
Recipe: Maple-Baked Salmon
Kind of like a Reuben without the corned beef, this open-faced sandwich from Ali Slagle hits all the right notes: cheesy, spicy and tangy. Kimchi makes a wonderful swap for the ’kraut, and pepperoncini is nice substitution for the jalapeños. One reader used a tortilla in place of the bread for a quesadilla.
Recipe: Cheddar-Sauerkraut Toast
A dinner of ginger fried rice and garlicky stir-fried greens served at Uncle Lou, a Cantonese restaurant in New York, inspired this one-pot meal from Yasmin Fahr. Everything — the ginger and garlic, the boneless chicken, the rice and the vegetables — cooks together in the same pot, so it’s a cinch to make and each ingredient lends its flavor to the other.
You can use end-of-season ripe tomatoes or the canned sort for this tomato-noodle soup from Jocelyn Ramirez. Fideo, a thin noodle similar to angel hair that’s typically included in Mexican soups, is called for here, but you can use broken thin spaghetti in a pinch. Just keep in mind that you may need to increase cook time.
This recipe was adapted from “The Silver Spoon for Children,” a kids’ cookbook, so you can be sure it’s easy and likely to please even the pickiest of palates. The apple juice may seem like an unusual addition, but when you think of the classic pairing of apples and pork chops, it all makes sense.
This smart weeknight chicken dish from Kay Chun makes use of canned green chiles, a multipurpose pantry staple. They’re already roasted, peeled and chopped, so prep is minimal. Here, they’re combined with boneless chicken chunks, oregano, cumin and aromatics for a taco filling that would also be great over a pile of white rice.
Recipe: Green Chile Chicken Tacos
Readers adore this eat-the-rainbow sheet-pan dinner from Yasmin Fahr for its ease and adaptability. Substitute similarly textured vegetables for the broccolini, and add a can of rinsed chickpeas for more oomph if you need it. And if you’ve never had baked feta, you’re in for a real treat. With a little heat, it loses its firm and crumbly texture, instead becoming creamy and almost spreadable.
Ali Slagle substitutes white beans and greens for pasta in this riff on the beloved Italian dish pasta alla vodka. Use chickpeas, great Northern or cannellini beans, and kale, collards or any other dark leafy green, then serve it with craggy bread to soak up the creamy tomato sauce.
Recipe: Beans and Greens Alla Vodka
Skip the diner and make Lidey Heuck’s classic tuna melt at home. She calls for whole-grain mustard and Cheddar for a kinda-fancy flavor, but standard yellow mustard and American cheese will delight you, too. Serve with frozen crinkle-cut fries for the full diner effect.
Recipe: Tuna Melt