12 Recipes to Know By Heart

updated Jun 5, 2019
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We are talking about kitchen essentials this month at The Kitchn, and when I think of “essentials,” I think first of my weeknight meals, the ones I can whip up without reference to a cookbook or a website. We asked our readers what these recipes were for them — what sorts of recipes did they have memorized and know by heart? Here are some of the most frequent answers, along with our own versions so that you too can learn these by heart.

From hearty chili to homemade salad dressing and hot yeast bread, each of these recipes can help you put a meal on the table quickly and efficiently, with the pleasure of knowing you whipped it up like a pro. These are recipes to give you wings in the kitchen, building up your store of confidence and practical knowledge.

Here’s our list of dishes that many of our readers said they know by heart, along with a sample recipe. We don’t claim these recipes to be the ultimate version of each of these dishes, but if you’re looking to add them to your no-recipe repertoire, they are a good place to start!

12 Recipes to Know By Heart
  1. Tomato Sauce – Tomato sauce is such a great recipe to have in your head. Reader Margi83301 says she makes hers at least once a week. Quick, easy tomato sauce will let you get a saucy pasta dish on the table fast (and leave you leftovers too). Here are a couple recipes to check out: • Marcella Hazan’s Amazing 4-Ingredient Tomato SauceQuick Tomato Sauce with Pasta
  2. Chili – So many of our readers mentioned chili as the recipe they could knock off without a second thought! A big bowl of hearty chili is a classic winter weeknight meal, and leftovers will carry you through a week of lunches. Here are a couple of our favorite guides to making chili. • How To Make ChiliChili with Pasta & Wisconsin Cheddar
  3. Chicken Soup – For sheer nourishment, chicken soup wins out for best recipe to have memorized. Here’s a basic recipe that does a very good job at showing you how to adapt for your own tastes or schedule. • All Afternoon or Less Than an Hour: Chicken Soup with Herb Dumplings
  4. Roast Chicken – Whether you’re just cooking for yourself, or having a mini dinner party, roast chicken is a fabulous thing to know by heart. It’s delicious, impressive, and comforting — quite a trio. Here are instructions for roasting a chicken: • How To Roast a Chicken
  5. Frittata – Frittata is not only a good recipe to know by heart, it’s also a good way to use up scraps of leftover vegetables, cured meats, and cheeses. Here’s a basic recipe for a frittata — but it’s easily adaptable: • Potato, Red Pepper, and Feta Frittata
  6. Risotto – Risotto sounds fancy, but like a frittata, it’s an easy weeknight meal that also gives you the opportunity to use up leftover vegetables and cheese. Here are a couple resources for making a good risotto: • How to Make a Good RisottoRed Pepper, Sausage, and Chard Risotto
  7. Biscuits – Quick, hot biscuits from the oven were mentioned by quite a few readers, including leapkate, who said, “Biscuits for sure!” Here are two recipes; the first is ultra simple: • How To Make Cream Biscuits In Less Than 15 MinutesHow To Make Buttermilk Biscuits From Scratch
  8. Pancakes – Reader Cindy44 says that she has made pancakes so frequently that she could recite the recipe! Pancakes are a great thing to know by heart, especially when you’re trying to impress someone with a delicious Saturday morning breakfast. Here’s the best pancake recipe we know (they’re especially great topped with cranberry or fruit sauce: • The BEST Pancakes Ever!
  9. No-Knead Bread – This easy bread became a phenomenon when it was first published, as cooks realized how easy and hands-off it could be to make artisan-quality bread at home. Once you’re made it a couple times you’ll have it memorized too. • How To Make No-Knead Bread
  10. Pesto – I was surprised at how many readers mentioned pesto, but I shouldn’t have been. Pesto is a wildly flavorful, simple sauce that can really perk up simple dishes like pasta or a frittata. Here are basic instructions for making pesto out of basil or any spicy greens. • Last Chance Basil PestoSpring Greens Pesto
  11. Salad Dressing – Everyone should be able to whip up a salad dressing from scratch. A homemade dressing, calibrated to your tastes, turns a plain salad into something really wonderful. Here are a couple sets of instructions on making a good balsamic vinaigrette. • How To Make a Basic Balsamic VinaigretteMy Favorite Balsamic Vinaigrette
  12. Fruit Crisp or Crumble – So, when talking dessert, lots and lots of readers said that they know chocolate chip cookies by heart. (Yum!) But we decided to also spotlight fruit crisp or crumble, with the argument that fruit crisp is a super way to enjoy seasonal fruit; it’s a more flexible dessert, overall. • How To Make Streusel or Crumble Topping for Baked Fruit

Of course, the recipes we (and our readers) know by heart are not necessarily the ones that you would use on a regular basis. These are quite Western in focus, and we are definitely not claiming that this list is comprehensive! Perhaps these aren’t the things you would necessarily cook daily — if so, contribute in our comments and tell us what recipes you know by heart. We’d love to hear from you!

Related: Which Recipes Do You Know By Heart?

(Images: See linked recipes for full image credits)