18 Recipes You Should Learn by Heart

Everyone has one or two — or 20! — recipes that they know by heart. Perhaps, at first, you referred to the instructions every time you made it, but at some point, you memorized the measurements, how it should look and exactly how it should taste when it’s done. Eventually, it became a standby, your Old Faithful.

Memorize part or any one of these 18 recipes, beloved by readers and the Food staff alike — the sauce, the technique or the flavor combinations — and you’ll be able to recreate these dishes or amplify others. However you approach them, you’ll find these recipes are unforgettable.

This recipe from Kay Chun can be broken down into three component parts: fried pepper-salt shrimp, a garlicky mayo (for smearing inside a top-split hot dog bun) and a smattering of Fresno chiles and cilantro. Best of all, the sandwiches come together in about 15 minutes — and will probably last just as long.

The beauty of this no-recipe recipe from Sam Sifton is that the two-ingredient glaze can be used on just about any kind of thick fish fillet, like haddock, cod, halibut or bluefish. If you really enjoy crunchy, caramelized bits, put the fillet under a broiler for a few minutes at the end.

Recipe: Roasted Salmon Glazed With Brown Sugar and Mustard

It’s nearly impossible to mess up this cucumber salad from Sue Li. It’s really up to you how you balance the ingredients in the one-size-fits-all peanut butter sauce — taste, taste, taste! — and you’d be hard-pressed to overdo it on the salted, roasted peanuts. For a peanut-free approach to the sauce, try tahini instead.

The topping featured in this roasted squash recipe from Tejal Rao — shredded, unsweetened coconut, dried chiles de árbol softened in hot water and smashed garlic — can be scattered over just about any winter squash, but good luck finding a savory scenario in which it wouldn’t be a runaway hit.

Recipe: Roasted Squash With Coconut, Chile and Garlic

With nearly 9,800 five-star ratings, this simple recipe from Florence Fabricant can’t be beat. Just dump the ingredients into a blender or mix by hand, and pop in a 425-degree oven for 25 minutes. The result is a blank canvas for whatever you have on hand, whether it’s powdered sugar, that expensive jam you’ve been saving for a rainy day or apples cooked down in butter.

Recipe: Dutch Baby

This recipe from Kay Chun will have you adding finely crushed Ritz crackers to all your future meatballs. It’s a foundational technique that helps keep these one-bowl pork meatballs — seasoned with fish sauce, garlic and ginger — tender and moist. Serve with rice, lettuce cups or in your favorite broth.

Recipe: Pork Meatballs With Ginger and Fish Sauce

Another day, another technique as recipe. Rather than peel, boil and mash your potatoes, this Mark Bittman recipe only requires you to cut them up (skin on, please and thank you). They’re kind of pan-fried in a lovely mixture of rosemary, garlic, butter, onions and thyme, and then left to boil in your favorite broth until they’ve soaked in every one of those flavors. Mashing arm, take the day.

Sure, store-bought marinara sauces have come a long way since Julia Moskin brought this Lidia Bastianich recipe to The Times in 2014, but let’s face it: Nothing beats the homemade stuff. This recipe takes its cue from Southern Italy, meaning no butter and no onions. Just basil, some good, canned San Marzanos and seven (or many more) cloves of garlic.

Recipe: Classic Marinara Sauce

What can’t you do with this herb-infused butter from Mark Usewicz of the Mermaid Inn? Use it to pan-roast and baste fillets of bass, fluke, salmon and all manner of thick-cut fish, or add it to shrimp, a hanger steak, bone-in pork or a nice lamb rib.

Recipe: Pan-Roasted Fish Fillets With Herb Butter

This recipe from Judy Kim gets its telltale spiciness from Sichuan chili oil and a nice nutty flavor from fragrant sesame oil. Garnish with the frazzled shallots that you usually save for the green bean casserole at Thanksgiving.

Recipe: Chile-Oil Noodles With Cilantro

Some mornings call for a fast comfort breakfast, and these light, crisp waffles from Julia Moskin are here to answer. They go beyond your basic waffle recipe by incorporating tangy buttermilk, nutty wheat germ and deeply aromatic brown sugar. As one reader points out, you can also brown the butter in this recipe to achieve waffle nirvana.

Recipe: Buttermilk-Brown Sugar Waffles

The beauty of guasacaca sauce is that it goes with just about any meat and hearty vegetable you can think of. The avocado-based condiment is used to great effect with garlic chicken and carrots in this recipe from Yewande Komolafe, but it will also complement your favorite whitefish, cast-iron steak, potatoes or yams. Will it guasacaca? Yes, it will.

Recipe: Garlic Chicken With Guasacaca Sauce

This very simple recipe — Velveeta, canned tomatoes and chiles — is a gathering go-to, one that you can buy all the parts for at a moment’s notice. That said, don’t be afraid to zhuzh it up with any combination of black beans, cumin, lime zest or whatever else fits your taste.

Recipe: Queso

With summer just around the corner (at least here in the Northern Hemisphere), you’ll need a cold noodle salad recipe in your back pocket. The trick with this five-star recipe is to triple or quadruple the slightly spicy peanut-sesame sauce so all you have to do is cook the noodles and, voilà, lunch or dinner in about 10 minutes.

This low-effort, high-reward recipe from Aaron Hutcherson calls only for dressing your sprouts in honey, red miso paste and olive oil, then finishing them with a spritz of lime and a smattering of chopped almonds. Pop them into the oven near the end of the cook time for your favorite roast chicken or other main dish.

Recipe: Roasted Brussels Sprouts With Honey and Miso

For this recipe from Hetty McKinnon, the soy dressing is essential, but the rest is up to you: Fried shallots? Absolutely. Kimchi? Yes. Pickled onions? Sounds great. You really can’t go wrong.

Recipe: Silken Tofu With Spicy Soy Dressing

Sometimes you just need something sweet, like, right now. For that, there’s this five-ingredient shortbread from Melissa Clark. Bakers at any level can pull it off, and more than likely you have all of the ingredients sitting around. No fresh rosemary? No problem. Use your favorite spice or just enjoy your buttery shortbread as is.

Recipe: Rosemary Shortbread

These chocolate- and pretzel-studded Rice Krispies treats from Genevieve Ko are a one-way ticket to Sweet-and-Saltyville. They come together in one pot, the contents of which you scrape into your favorite baking pan, and you’ve got a Grade A dessert in record time.

Recipe: Rice Krispies Treats With Chocolate and Pretzels

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