Baked Spaghetti Is a 9×13 Pan of Comfort

And a six-ingredient, 20-minute, five-star salmon recipe that one reader calls “life-changing.”

By Mia Leimkuhler

Hello! Mia again, here with you for one more Cooking newsletter adventure before Melissa returns on Wednesday.

Today is Labor Day, which makes this week The Week After Labor Day. The kids are back in school, you’re back to work and your calendar has gone from OOO to Oh, no. It’s time for recipes that soothe and comfort, for dinners that don’t require too much effort and provide satisfying leftovers to keep lunches and post-soccer-pickup meals afloat. It’s time for Lidey Heuck’s baked spaghetti (above).

Don’t let the cooking time scare you — most of that hour and a half is spent in the oven. Aside from chopping an onion and however much garlic you like (I’ve always read the garlic amount in recipes as a minimum), the rest of the prep time is spent on easy stirring and mixing. Baked spaghetti bends to you: Swap in the Bolognese you stashed in the freezer for the jarred marinara, use Italian chicken sausage instead of ground beef, tuck in some leftover roasted vegetables. Just don’t skip the ricotta and mozzarella, which turn this baked pasta into an instantly lovable spaghetti-lasagna hybrid.

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Do you hear that gentle clattering sound? That’s the sound of everyone pulling out their sheet pans. The Week After Labor Day is also the unofficial start of Sheet Pan Season, and Yasmin Fahr’s new recipe for sheet-pan chicken with blistered tomatoes is an excellent way to salute the season. Chicken thighs (the best part of the bird) are coated in garlicky, lemony yogurt and roasted alongside those still-sweet summer tomatoes and wedges of red onion for an easy dinner that comes together in just over half an hour. (Have pitas on hand for stuffing and swiping.)

On the topic of comforting recipes, I have a friend who asks her husband to make Eric Kim’s gochugaru salmon with crispy rice every week. She’s clearly not alone in her devotion to this six-ingredient, 20-minute, five-star recipe with over 3,000 reviews. “Trying not to be overly dramatic here,” writes Megan B, a reader, “but this is a pretty life-changing salmon dish. Possibly one of the best NYT recipes I’ve tried. Thank you, Eric Kim!”

For a bit of comfort in the morning — or anytime, you do you — here’s Ali Slagle’s oatmeal recipe, which employs a clever trick from Samantha Seneviratne. You’ll cook your old-fashioned rolled oats in a pan instead of a pot, yielding creamier and quicker oatmeal. Blend any leftover oatmeal in this banana-almond smoothie, in place of the soaked oats, for another simple breakfast solution.

And for soothing, effortless comfort to congratulate yourself on surviving this week — or just making it through Tuesday — there’s blender chocolate mousse, a recipe by Monica Stolbach and Natasha Pickowicz, adapted by Tejal Rao. There’s no fussy separating of the egg whites and yolks here; instead, hot sugar syrup is slowly poured into a running blender full of chocolate and whole eggs, and that mix is in turn folded into whipped cream. As Tejal notes, the resulting mousse is so creamy and rich that it doesn’t need any accompaniment, but I wouldn’t say no to some late-summer berries.

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Thank you so much for reading! I’m on Instagram if you’d like to see more of what I’ve been cooking up lately (though, fair warning: It’s mostly photos of my dog). As September takes off and the year quickly slides into December, I want to also shout out our other New York Times Cooking newsletters that I think you’ll find super useful: The Veggie, where Tanya Sichynsky shares excellent vegetarian recipes and produce ideas, and Five Weeknight Dishes, our weekly selection of quick, go-to dinners curated by our fearless editor in chief, Emily Weinstein. And if cooking is for another night, there’s Where to Eat: New York City, currently helmed by the Times’s restaurant critic, Pete Wells. You’ve been a great audience, good night!

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