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.
Dinner 1: Creamy Baked Four-Cheese Pasta with Arugula Salad
Game Plan: For the best flavor, search out an Italian Fontina. Dutch or Swedish Fontinas may melt nicely, but their flavor is bland. For this pairing, start by browning the prosciutto and making the dressing for the salad. Once those are done, proceed with making the pasta. Right before the pasta comes out of the oven, you can toss the salad.
Our Creamy Baked Four-Cheese Pasta is the ultimate adult version of mac and cheese. It starts with a flavorful blend of four Italian cheeses: fontina, Gorgonzola, Pecorino Romano, and Parmesan. Combining the hot bechamel sauce and pasta with the cheese—and not cooking the cheese in the sauce—preserves the fresh flavor of the the different cheeses. A crisp topping of bread crumbs and more Parmesan is the perfect finishing touch. To balance the rich pasta, we recommend an Arugula Salad with Figs, Prosciutto, Walnuts, and Parmesan. For this salad, we found that a vinaigrette made with mustard was too spicy to pair with the arugula; our surprise solution was to add a spoonful of jam, which added fruity sweetness, pulling the flavors right in line.
13 by 9-inch Broiler-Safe Baking DishesWe love our winning rectangular glass and metal baking dishes, but they’re not broiler-safe. We set out to find a table-worthy baking dish that could handle the broiler’s heat and was easy to use.
Dinner 2: Steak Tips with Gravy and Mashed Potatoes with Scallions
Game Plan: Prep and marinate the steak tips and soak the dried porcini mushrooms (steps 1 and 2). While the steak sits, prep all of the remaining ingredients. Next, start simmering the potatoes and cook the steak tips through step 4. Finish the steak tips (step 5) once the potatoes are mashed.
Our one-pan Steak Tips with Mushroom-Onion Gravy calls for relatively inexpensive sirloin tips, which have lots of marbling for flavor and tenderness. We combine dried porcini mushrooms with deeply browned onions and white mushrooms for a rich sauce that we finish with sprinkles of minced garlic and woodsy thyme. Mashed Potatoes with Scallions start with rich, satisfying mashed potatoes made with just the right amounts of butter and half-and-half. We then jazz things up by adding two types of horseradish (fresh and prepared), along with fresh-tasting scallion greens.
The Best Paring KnivesFor precision cuts, call on the (cheap) little guy.
Dinner 3: Lamb Pita Sandwiches with Chopped Carrot Salad
Game Plan: Start by draining the yogurt and salting the cucumber for the tzatziki sauce. Meanwhile, prep the lamb patties and make the carrot salad. Once the tzatziki has been mixed, finish preparing the sandwiches (steps 5 and 6).
For Greek-Style Lamb Pita Sandwiches with the same flavors and textures as restaurant gyros, we pan-fry ground lamb patties seasoned with oregano, onion, and minced garlic. To ensure that the patties are juicy, we add a panade (a paste of fresh bread crumbs and milk), substituting pita crumbs for the traditional bread crumbs. Chopped Carrot Salad with Mint, Pistachios, and Pomegranate Seeds starts by finely chopping carrots in the food processor instead of grating them by hand. This procduces a delicately crunchy, light-textured base in just seconds. We save even more time by not peeling the carrots; scrubbing them is sufficient, and the skins contribute a subtle but pleasant bitterness. Plenty of fresh mint, pomegranate seeds, and toasted pistachios brighten things up and a lively dressing brings the salad together.