The Most Important Recipes You Should Master by Age 30
Learning to cook is a lifelong process. It will take years, so we find it helpful to use age markers to inspire ourselves to learn more! Now that we've tackled the most important cooking skills to master by 30, we're moving onto recipes, an equally important topic. Given where you live in the country or the world, your go-to recipes will of course vary, but we've devised a list that will serve you well on numerous occasions.
If you add these 15 dishes to your arsenal, you'll have something up your sleeve for any event on your calendar, be it a romantic dinner for two or a Super Bowl party for 25. They're all classics which allow a lot of flexibility in terms of what you can add to them (or what you can add them to). Several are easy, but many are intermediate, and dishes you should really push yourself to learn. Why? Because learning is fun. And it makes you smarter, stronger, and happier. Bon appetit.
You can't find a more decadent, yet easy, pasta than pasta carbonara. Made with bacon, eggs, and cheese, carbonara sauce has a comforting creamy texture, and it's the perfect thing to whip up on a cold night. It's also a great option for when you're cooking for one—facile to make with ingredients you often have on hand.
Every good home cook should learn to master hollandaise sauce. I use the word "master" because it's really not something you can just do. It requires study and practice. As chef Adam Steudel of Venice Beach's Barlo Kitchen + Cocktails tells me: "Hollandaise will impress people at breakfast, and it can be added to a variety of different dishes, but most importantly, Eggs Benedict"—the best breakfast of all, in our opinion.
Visit Salted for Steudle's video tutorial on making a classic hollandaise, and visit Drizzle & Drip to learn to make a delicious Eggs Benedict over roast brown mushrooms.
Lasagna is one of the ultimate comfort foods, a classic Italian dish that has become wholly American with numerous iterations like butternut squash and sage lasagna. Perhaps the best thing about it is that it feeds a family (or friends). It can also easily be frozen, making it convenient, too. If you haven't made this one yet, you can start with no-bake pasta until you get the layer of the land, but lasagna made with fresh pasta (homemade or store-bought) is truly a tasty delight.
What is a pot roast, you say? It's basically a braised beef dish made by browning a piece of beef to release its flavors and then slow-cooking it in or over liquid. With slow braising, beef becomes tender and more flavorsome; the tougher the meat, the longer it will require to cook. Carrots, potatoes, and onions, as well as seasonings like rosemary, salt, and pepper, are often added to a pot roast to simmer in the cooking liquid, making it a hearty, one-pot meal.
A well-known, traditional French recipe, beef bourguignon is a stew prepared with beef braised in red wine, flavored with onions, garlic, bouquet garni, and mushrooms. It's a simple, hearty dish that hits the spot on a cold Sunday evening, served with a side of mashed potatoes and a glass of red wine.
Let's hear it for the one-pot meals again, shall we? Unlike traditional meat hand pies, American pot pies are basically baked casseroles with an indulgently delicious pastry crust. Chicken pot pie is the most common of the pot pie family, but you can basically fill yours with whatever protein and vegetables you like.
There are a few better ways to please a hungry crowd at a casual get-together than with a hot pot of chili. This spicy stew containing chili peppers, beef (usually, and if you so please), tomatoes, and beans warmly welcomes a host of other flavors and seasonings, such as garlic, onions, cumin, even curry. Perfecting your signature chili recipe is a lifelong task, so we suggest you start now, if you haven't already. He who dies with the most beans wins.
Considering how often I see store-bought pesto in friends' refrigerators, I don't think people realize how incredibly easy it is to make. If you grow your own basil and keep a jar of pine nuts around, you'll pretty much always have what you need. Just toss pine nuts, garlic, basil leaves, parmesan, olive oil, salt, and pepper together in a food processor, pulse, and you're good to go. Pesto can amp up a basic piece of toast; make a dressing for a salad of spinach, peas, and croutons; or be used as a sauce for pasta. It has countless uses—and I suggest you try every one of them.
You should know how to make spaghetti by the time you're 15... but you're 30 now: it's time to try something that requires a little more care. "Care" is really what separates a cook from someone who knows how to make food. To make risotto, you need to simmer arborio rice in a half-cup or cup of chicken broth at a time until the liquid has evaporated and continue adding broth little by little, until the rice becomes completely soft and creamy. As chef Tom Van Lente of Chicago's TWO says, "Most people think risotto is a dish, but actually, it's a technique." It's not a "set it and forget it" kind of recipe, but it's totally worth the attention it requires. Garlic and butter is as basic as it gets where risotto flavoring is concerned, so it's great to start here and venture into other territories.
Carrot cake is a fairly basic cake recipe. It's not mille-feuille (the French pastry that has, ballpark, a million layers), but it's not as elementary as store-bought box cake... and more importantly, people love it. I think the cream cheese frosting is the secret to its allure. Needless to say, you should learn to make it, realize how easy it is, and then totally kill it at the next potluck you're invited to.
You will never look at another container of Sabra again once you taste homemade hummus. It's impossibly easy and so inexpensive to make; it's basically just chickpeas, tahini, and olive oil blended together. Add whatever veggies you have on hand to give it more flavor: spinach, kale, roasted red peppers, what have you.
Ribs can be intimidating. If you've ever visited the South and tasted how well they make them (and realized how many awesome secret recipes there are!), you might be wondering why you should even try making them your own. That's all the more reason to try, in my opinion. Ribs are such a fun recipe to tackle because they are really rewarding, and not something you get to eat every day. I mean, who doesn't get excited by the sight of barbecue? I guess vegetarians. That's about it.
Is there anything more restorative than a warm bowl of chicken noodle soup? Well, yes, a warm bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup! I'm convinced this stuff will fight a cold and flu, maybe even create world peace. The secret to a great chicken noodle soup is great ingredients. Use farmers market vegetables whenever you can, whole-grain pasta, freshly roasted chicken, and homemade broth, and you'll find yourself one slurp away from heaven.
People seem to be afraid of shellfish, but given that they usually only require a little water and butter for cooking and serving, I'll never know why. Moules marinière (mussels cooked in white wine, a little butter, garlic, shallots, and parsley) is a traditional French dish that's a great introduction to shellfish. A couple pro tips: Don't buy any mussels whose shells are cracked or open as they are likely dead or dying, and be sure to cook them immediately, as soon as you get them home.
What dishes would you add to this list? Share your must-knows below!