Recipes

3-ingredient Thursday: deliciously easy weeknight recipes

April 17, 2014 at 2:04 PM ET

Spaghetti with herbed goat cheese and peas
Kristin Donnelly
Goat cheese is the secret ingredient in this creamy spaghetti tossed with crisp green peas.

No time for ambitious supermarket trips and elaborate dinners? Three ingredients are all you need (OK, not counting salt, pepper or olive oil) to pull off a flavorful, nutritious, home-cooked dinner tonight—whether you're craving pasta, chicken, meat, seafood or a fresh spring vegetable like asparagus.

Spaghetti with herbed goat cheese and peas

When goat cheese is tossed with hot pasta, it melts to form a creamy, instant sauce. Goat cheese with herbs already mixed in does double duty here, but this dish is delicious even if you use plain goat cheese.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

  • 2 cups frozen peas
  • Salt
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • ½ pound (two 4-ounce packages) herbed or plain fresh goat cheese, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground pepper

Spread out the peas on a plate and let thaw while you prepare the rest of the dish. 

Bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente. Scoop out and reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta. Return the pasta to the pot. Add the goat cheese, olive oil and three-quarters of the pasta water and cook over moderate heat, tossing the pasta with tongs, until the cheese has melted into a creamy sauce, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the peas and cook, tossing, until the peas are hot, about 30 seconds. Season with salt and pepper.
Mix in the remaining pasta water if the sauce seems dry, then transfer the pasta to bowls and serve immediately.

Chicken cutlets with lemony shaved asparagus salad

Lemon juice acts as both a quick marinade for chicken breasts and a dressing for the asparagus. Shaving the asparagus with a vegetable peeler is an elegant way to serve it raw; if you have trouble shaving the last portion of each spear, lift it off your work surface by propping it on the flat handle of a wooden spoon or spatula.

Makes 4 servings

  • 1 lemon
  • Eight 4-ounce skinless, boneless chicken breast cutlets, each about 1/3-inch thick
  • 1 pound asparagus, tough ends snapped off
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Finely grate the zest off the lemon and transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Arrange the chicken on two plates and drizzle with the juice of half of the lemon; turn to coat. Let stand while you prepare the asparagus.

Using a vegetable peeler, shave the asparagus into long, thin strips. Put the asparagus in the bowl with the lemon zest and toss with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the juice from the other lemon half. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the chicken cutlets in a single layer (you may need to cook them in two batches) and cook over moderately high heat until browned on the bottom, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip the chicken cutlets and cook until browned and cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes longer. Transfer the chicken cutlets to plates and serve with the asparagus salad.

Sausage sliders with pickled peppers

Sausage sliders with pickled peppers
Kristin Donnelly

Sweet-and-tangy pickled peppers make a terrific topping for sausage. To make these sandwiches even juicier, brush the buns with just a little mayo.

Makes 12 sliders

  • 6 large sausage links or 1 ½ pound loose pork sausage
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 12 slider buns, split
  • 12 sweet pickled peppers, such as Peppadews, quartered

If you’re using sausage links, squeeze the meat out of the casing into a bowl. Form the sausage meat into twelve 2-inch patties.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil. Arrange the sausage patties in a single layer (you may need to do this in two batches) and cook over moderately high heat until nicely browned on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Flip the sliders and cook until browned and cooked through, about 3 minutes longer. Transfer the sausage sliders to buns, top with the pickled pepper quarters and serve.

Salmon with potatoes and pickles

Make a quick pickle relish to use as a topping for salmon by simply slicing cornichons and mixing them with a little olive oil. Using the brine from the pickle jar to dress the potatoes makes them taste a bit like salt-and-vinegar potato chips.

Makes 4 servings

  • 1 ½ pounds red-skinned potatoes or new potatoes, halved and sliced into 1/4-inch thick half-moons
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Four 8-ounce salmon fillets
  • 20 cornichon pickles, thinly sliced (about ½ cup), plus 1 tablespoon of the brine

Preheat the oven to 400°. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or foil.

On the baking sheet, toss the potatoes with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and spread them out in a single layer. Roast for about 10 minutes, until they start to feel tender. 

Push the potatoes to the edges of the baking sheet and arrange the salmon in the center. Lightly brush or rub each fillet with olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Roast the salmon and potatoes for about 10 minutes, until the potatoes are tender and starting to brown and the salmon is opaque throughout.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the sliced cornichons with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Transfer the roasted potatoes to a bowl and toss with the 1 tablespoon of the cornichon brine. Transfer the salmon to plates and top with the cornichon relish. Serve with the potatoes.

Chicken-feta salad in lettuce cups

Feta that’s been marinated in herbed oil is creamier and packed with flavor. If you can’t find it, use any flavored feta and add an extra tablespoon or two of olive oil to the salad.

Makes 4 servings

  • 1 rotisserie chicken, meat pulled into bite-sized pieces (3 ½ to 4 cups)
  • 1 cup olive-oil-marinated feta, crumbled (about 4 ounces), plus ¼ cup oil from the container or other olive oil
  • 8 large lettuce leaves, such as Romaine, Boston or Red Leaf, halved crosswise

In a bowl, toss the pulled chicken with the feta and the olive oil. Arrange 4 lettuce-leaf halves on each of 4 plates. Pile the chicken salad in the leaves and serve. 

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