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Your best "no muss, no fuss" recipe

I am going to give my college student brother a collection of easy recipes for Christmas- things he can make to impress his girl and to feed himself and his roommates.

This is the first recipe- and I am looking for more ideas. Keep in mind, I just taught him how to chop an onion over Thanksgiving (which he was pretty terrible at), so everything has to be as simple and easy to understand as possible. Here's my first one:

Burro y Pomodoro sauce

One can of chopped tomatoes
One onion
One stick of butter
A half box of linguine or spaghetti

Peel and cut the onion in half. Take the wrapper off the butter. Put all the ingredients in a sauce pan or a deep skillet. Cover and cook 30-45 minutes on medium low heat. Go watch a 30 minute sitcom. Fill another saucepan 3/4 of the way full with water. Put it on high heat. When it is boiling with large bubbles, put in the pasta. Set a timer for three minutes. Stir the pasta. Set the timer for six more minutes. Fish out a noodle with a fork. Taste it to see if it is done. When it is as soft as you like it, drain the pasta. Remove the onion from the sauce. Pour sauce over a plate of pasta and serve.

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  1. Julie, I have a recipe for 5 Ingredient Chicken but it really should be basted every 10 or 15 minutes...does the basting qualify as too much fuss n' muss?

    2 Replies
    1. re: Val

      Can it be covered in foil instead? Not sure he'll get the concept.

      1. re: julietg

        It really would not be the same....that's okay...I know others will have great suggestions and you may want to search this board for "simple" or "easy" in the search...I know we've had this topic before a few times but there are always new posters who also have ideas to offer.

    2. Get the youngfella a slow cooker, and with it give him this recipe, which I got out of a magazine some years ago. You can't get much more "no muss, no fuss" than a slow cooker.

      Beef Boogie Woogie (so named because the original contributor's child couldn't pronounce "borguignon")

      1 can cream of mushroom soup
      1/2 c. dry red wine
      1 packet (from a 2.0-oz. box of 2) beefy onion soup mix
      1/2 t. dried thyme (less to taste; a little thyme goes a long way)
      2 lb. beef stew meat
      8 oz. (2 c.) baby carrots
      8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
      Chopped fresh parsley for garnish (optional)
      Cooked noodles

      Whisk mushroom soup, wine, soup mix and thyme in a 3-qt. or larger slow cooker until well blended. Add remaining ingredients and stir until coated. Cover and cook on high 4 hours, or on low 8-10 hours, or until meat is very tender.

      Serve over noodles; sprinkle with parsley if desired. Makes 4 servings.

      1 Reply
      1. re: revsharkie

        I hope these aren't too simple, but here's what I ate in college (and we still eat when we're too tired to think of what to make). Some are more ideas than actual recipes.

        Another slow cooker "recipe":
        1 lb. chicken thighs
        1 jar salsa
        Cook on low 6 hours. Roll up in a tortilla and eat.

        I second the quiche, or leftover pie: eggs, cheese, other stuff, bake. That's our go-to "use up the veggies" dinner.

        Meatloaf: one pound ground meat (I use ground turkey, he could use beef or meatloaf mix), one egg, some breadcrumbs, dried parsley, some grated parmesan if he wants. Mix together and shape into a loaf. Glaze with a mixture of ketchup and Worcestershire sauce. Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes.

        Roasted veggies (asparagus, green beans, potato or sweet potato oven fries) -- Wash and trim veggies (snap ends off asparagus, slice ends off green beans, slice potatoes into strips). Toss with some olive oil and salt. Roast at 400 for about 15 minutes.

        Pizza: Buy refrigerated pizza dough. Top with jarred tomato sauce and shredded cheese. Bake. Add toppings if desired, like sliced mushrooms, jarred artichokes, sliced tomato or bell pepper, cooked sausage.

        Chicken parmesan: Slice chicken breasts. Dip pieces in flour, then beaten egg, then breadcrumbs. Fry. Put the fried cutlets into a baking pan, top with sauce and cheese, and bake at 350 until cheese is melted.

        Pan-fried fish fillets: Dip fish in egg (mixed with a little hot sauce if he wants), then breadcrumbs (panko would be even better) mixed with a little salt. Fry in mixture of olive oil and butter.

        Roast chicken: Requires a little more prep than the rest of these. Soak chicken in water with lots of salt the night before. Take out, pat dry with paper towels, rub skin with olive oil, and roast at 400 for about 45 minutes for a 4-lb chicken. Slightly more advanced version: chop potatoes and maybe onions, put them underneath the chicken; stuff lemon and/or fresh rosemary into the cavity.

        Also, gussied-up grilled cheese sandwiches: in the middle, add salsa, cold cuts, leftover meatloaf, sliced tomato, fried peppers, hummus, tomato sauce, or whatever else strikes your fancy from the fridge (Not all at once!)

        And here's my mom's onion dip: plain yogurt + Lipton's onion soup mix. It actually tastes just as good as the full-fat kinds you buy at the store.

      2. julietq
        Isn't one stick of buttter a bit much for 1/2 lb of pasta? And why would you have him discard the onion? Without any garlic or other spices, aside from the tomato it's the only other ingredient. Unless he's the kind of kid that likes Spaghetti with ketchup, I don't think he's going to be satisfied with this much 'simplicity'.You may need to give him a spice rack for Christmas. :-}
        If you want some easy, ingredient friendly recipes, get him the Brand Name cookbook.
        The recipies are really, really easy to follow and the ingredients are familiar using brand name ingredients that most college kids love.

        8 Replies
        1. re: Tay

          Actually, I'm making this sauce right now, and it is delicious. Don't knock it till you've tried it!

          I wanted to give him a homemade gift, really, not buy him a cookbook. Frankly, I think he will be intimidated by a book.

          1. re: julietg

            I'm sure it's very tasty :-} . I still think that's a lotta butter.
            I can understand and appreciate your desire to gather a compilation of recipes and I applaud your efforts. You are a very thoughtful sister.

          2. re: Tay

            This is Marcella Hazan's famous tomato sauce with butter and onion (although she calls for 5 T of butter, not 8). It is stupendous in its simplicity, and one of the most lauded recipes ever to be discussed (and discussed over and over) on Chowhound.

            I would suggest that Julie emend her recipe to include seasoning the sauce (with salt, that is).

            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

              I would also suggest she specify the size of the can of tomatoes. Marcella's recipe, using 5T of butter, calls for 2 cups canned tomatoes (or 2 pounds fresh).

              1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                Intrigued, I just did a search. Here's one of the most recent threads on this sauce:

                http://www.chowhound.com/topics/421367

                I'm at my mom's, and we're all in a comfort-food-mood tonight and it's 27 degrees out, so rather than try to run to the grocery and do something complex, I am thrilled to whip this up. :) I think Essentials of Italian Cooking is going on my Christmas list.

                1. re: foxy fairy

                  This sauce is DELICIOUS! I made it last night and served it with some basil ravioli I found at my mom's. Wow. This is definitely a keeper. Of course, I love noodles with butter, so the butter IN the tomato sauce is perfect for me! I did add a touch of heavy cream and a few hot pepper flakes to part of the batch and it makes a great pink sauce too, so you might add a little Variations** note for him, suggesting the addition of hot pepper flakes (better specify amount, ha ha) or half and half or cream. I know this will go into *my* no fuss-no muss rotation. My other ideas below -- thanks for this one!

                  1. re: foxy fairy

                    I have got to try this again!!! What am I doing wrong? I love the way this sauce sounds. I'll search for the best canned tomatoes and give it another go. Sounds wonderful.

                    1. re: chef chicklet

                      My personal fav is La Vaille - yellow can. After reading that other thread, I am wondering if the bitter taste comes from the seeds?

            2. "....Put all the ingredients in a sauce pan or a deep skillet...."

              No word of a lie...add the instruction "NOT the pasta" ......been there, done that, and wondered why something so simple couldn't be figured out by the highly intelligent, but new cook...

              AnnieG

              9 Replies
              1. re: violabratsche

                You're right. I also forgot to say "turn down the burner when you put in the pasta." I almost wrote, "pour the tomatoes out of the can." Remember Amelia Bedilia?

                Seriously, this is needed. He knows NOTHING.

                1. re: julietg

                  What size can of tomatoes, is diced ok? In its own juice or in puree? Not that many years ago I would have called a friend to ask. Lid on or off is another perpetual question - why don't recipes say?

                  1. re: Sarah

                    Don't think it really matters what the cut is or what they're canned in, does it? Your standard can- 28 oz. That's standard, right? Yes, cover the sauce while cooking.

                    1. re: julietg

                      I put together such a book for my college student son. It was simple, e-z recipes from cookbooks, internet sites, etc. w/my own handwritten notes of explanation. Well, years later, I found out it was too complex, some of it incomprehensible to him! Now I explain every twist and turn (such as I know - not a confident cook here) so that's why I posed my "dumb" questions, Some might think the 15 oz can was standard (eye level on shelf while 28 oz in on bottom)...

                      1. re: Sarah

                        I getcha, and you are on the money. I always thought 28 oz was standard?

                        Did you mean that "cover" did not translate?

                        1. re: julietg

                          Recipes usually specify size of can. No worries, cover is clear (but only if he has one). Ten years later - son is now (self-proclaimed) omelet (only) master!! Still clueless as to all else. Maybe you should run recipes by him!

                          1. re: Sarah

                            AHA! Gotta make sure he has a lid with his Target special.

                            Think he'll know what a saucepan is? Maybe I should do a primer as an intro...

                            1. re: julietg

                              Maybe you could pick up a cookware brochure and paste in the little illustration of the proper pan to use ... or get a screenshot from Revere Ware or someone's website if you're doing this electronically.

                  2. re: julietg

                    If you happen to know the stove he is using, you could get more detailed about the settings. I always turn my burner down to "6" after the pasta goes in :)

                    My grocery store sells pre-chopped onions, btw, and I am their best customer. If they're not on the shelf, I go looking for someone. It's better than crying--I hate chopping onions.

                2. I love your approach. Your brother is a lucky guy.

                  1. "German" dinner: drain half the water from a can of sauerkruat, dump the rest in a pot, toss in sausages or weiners, heat. Serve with boiled potatoes (scrub some small potatoes, boil in water).
                  2. "Mexican" dinner: dump some canned chili or chili beans or both and a can of drained corn in a pot, add some hot sauce, serve in rolled up and heated tortillas
                  3. "Mac and cheese": boil some macaroni, drain, save in ref. When hungry, place mac in bowl, sprinkle on some black pepper and grated cheese, microwave and eat.
                  4. Crock pot: throw in a crock pot cubed stew meat, carrots, onion, cup of wine, salt, pepper, and soup cubes, let slow cook for hours.
                  5. "Japanese" meal: fry up a steak, let cool, slice thinly and drizzle with teriyaki sauce (purchased or recipe upon request); serve with hot rice.
                  6. "Lao" meal: break up some ground beef/pork/combo in boiling water; drain while still pink; add a combo of fish sauce, lime juice, chopped chilis, chopped green onion, chopped cilantro, grated ginger, chopped mint, and ground toasted rice (toast raw white rice in frypan, grind in coffee grinder). Serve with rice and with more sliced chili and torn mint on top.
                  7. "Chinese" plate: soak and then slice some dried mushrooms, toss in hot pan w/ a bit of oil; toss in some washed and cut cross-wise Chinese cabbage/napa, toss in some fermeted black beans.

                  I could go on and on...let me know.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                    These are great. I have little to no Asian cooking experience myself, other than standard Americanized college stir fry, so guess who will be trying number six first?

                    And yes, please, on the teriyaki.

                    1. re: julietg

                      Chop 3 slices of bacon.
                      Chop 2 cloves of garlic.
                      Whisk 1 egg.
                      Boil one pound of spaghetti for 9 minutes.
                      1/2 cup grated parmasean

                      While spaghett is boiling, fry bacon in pan until nearly done. Add chopped garlic to bacon, and cook for 1 minute, shut off and remove pan from burner.
                      Add cooked spaghetti to bacon and garlic. And while still hot add whisked egg and parm. cheese and toss. Serve. It's simply delish.

                    2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                      I make something similar to number 6 almost every week. I cook some ground turkey almost through, then add some fish sauce, and stir fry type veggies you like that cook up fast- sometimes I do bell pepper and throw in cucumber at the end. Tonight I cooked the turkey 'til nearly done, added the fish sauce, threw in asparagus cut up in thirds along w/ some chicken broth and cooked asparagus until crisp tender, then added shredded carrot and diced cuke at the end. Stirred in fresh lime juice and topped w/ chopped green onion before serving over green leaf lettuce. Also great over jasmine rice.