Skip to main content

Dinner This Week: Spaghetti Carbonara

This week’s menus include Spaghetti Carbonara, Quick Chicken Fricasee, and Easy Salmon Cakes with Smoked Salmon, Capers, and Dill for dinner in about an hour
By Published June 29, 2022

Every week, Executive Food Editor Keith Dresser pairs each main dish with a side to give you a complete, satisfying dinner without the guesswork. Look for the game plan section to learn tips on how to streamline your kitchen work so dinner comes together quicker.

Jump to a Section

Dinner 1: Spaghetti Carbonara and Insalata Mista

CarbonaraColorful salad in bowl

Game Plan: Prep all the ingredients for the salad, but wait to toss it. Make the Carbonara. As the pasta rests at the end of step 3, rewhisk the dressing and toss the salad.

For our Spaghetti Carbonara, we reduce the usual amount of water used to boil the pasta by half. This gives us a concentrated starchy liquid to use in the sauce. The extra starch coats the proteins and fats in the cheese and prevents them from separating or clumping together. The starch also works in concert with the egg white proteins to lend viscosity. Egg yolks introduce a pleasant custardy richness. Insalta Mista uses a mix of mild lettuces along with smaller amounts of spicy greens (watercress and arugula) and bitter greens (radicchio and endive). For color and textural contrast, we add grated carrot and slices of cucumber and red onion. In the dressing, we use two types of vinegar: Red wine provides assertive acidity while balsamic vinegar brings sweet, caramel-like notes.

Printable Shopping ListsSpaghetti Carbonara and Insalata Mista

Dinner 2: Quick Chicken Fricassee with Boiled Potatoes

Chicken FricasseeBoiled Potatoes

Game Plan: Start by browning the chicken. Meanwhile, boil the potatoes. If your potatoes are small, they may be tender before the chicken is done. In that case, return them to the Dutch oven and cover them to keep warm while the chicken finishes.

To make our Chicken Fricassee weeknight friendly, we use quick-cooking boneless, skinless chicken parts. We brown the chicken, then set it aside while we make a rich sauce by cooking onions and glutamate-rich mushrooms until they develop a savory fond, then pouring in chicken broth and white wine. A final addition of sour cream mixed with egg yolk thickens the sauce and makes it incredibly silky. We pair the chicken with a simple dish of Boiled Potatoes with Butter and Chives . We like to cook whole potatoes that are less than 2½ inches in diameter since larger spuds tend to get mushy right under the skin by the time the center is cooked. We boil the potatoes skin-on in well-salted water to highlight their earthy taste.

Printable Shopping ListsQuick Chicken Fricassee and Boiled Potatoes with Butter and Chives

Dinner 3: Easy Salmon Cakes and Sautéed Peas with Fennel

Salmon cakes in skilletSauteed peas

Game Plan: Both recipes call for a 12-inch skillet. If you only have one traditional skillet, a nonstick or cast-iron skillet can be used to cook the salmon cakes. First, mix and shape the cakes. Next, start the pea recipe. Once the fennel is softened (step 1), fry the salmon cakes. While the cakes brown, finish the peas.

For our Easy Salmon Cakes with Smoked Salmon, Capers, and Dill, we turn to the food processor. Pulsing small pieces of salmon allows for more even chopping and results in small, discrete pieces of fish. We also ditch the somewhat messy egg and flour steps of the breading process. Instead, we simply coat the cakes with panko bread crumbs, which we also use to bind the fish mixture. Frozen peas have already been blanched, so the key to good Sautéed Peas with Fennel is to avoid overcooking. Just five minutes of simmering is all that is needed to produce bright, tender green peas. Switching from a saucepan to a skillet allows the peas to heat more quickly and evenly over the larger surface, further reducing the cooking time.

Printable Shopping ListsEasy Salmon Cakes and Sautéed Peas with Fennel

To view more quick weeknight dinner ideas, check out the rest of the Dinner This Week series.


Sign up for the Cook's Insider newsletter

The latest recipes, tips, and tricks, plus behind-the-scenes stories from the Cook's Illustrated team.

0 Comments

Try All-Access Membership to Unlock the Comments
Don't miss the conversation. Our test cooks and editors jump in to answer your questions, and our members are curious, opinionated, and respectful.
Membership includes instant access to everything on our sites:
  • 10,000+ foolproof recipes and why they work
  • Taste Tests of supermarket ingredients
  • Equipment Reviews save you money and time
  • Videos including full episodes and clips
  • Live Q&A with Test Kitchen experts
Start Free Trial
JC
JOHN C.
16 days

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.

MD
MILES D.
JOHN C.
9 days

Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!

CM
CHARLES M.
11 days

John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.