Shit! What’s For Dinner?

Pasta Frittata, Chopped Salad, and Chicken Cutlets for Easy, Satisfying Meals

Unfussy basics for the start of 2021

Photo: Suzy Allman for the New York Times

Happy New Year. We would hope it’s a given that 2021 will be a marked improvement from last year. Now let’s get cooking. We’ll start with a terrific what-to-do-with-pasta-leftovers that’s actually worth planning for — pasta frittata. It’s portable, it’s endlessly versatile, and it’s practically foolproof. Substitute almost any cheese for the parmesan (or leave it out altogether) and toss in any cooked vegetable or meat: Make it your own. As for the chopped salad, this is perfect as a hearty side or a light meal — plus 8 possible additions. And last, a chicken cutlet recipe to go back to again and again.

Pasta Frittata

Makes: 4 to 6 servings
Time: 40 minutes


  • ¼ pound spaghetti, linguine, fettuccine or other long pasta (or about ½ pound cooked pasta)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 tablespoons butter or extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup minced pancetta, bacon, or prosciutto (optional)
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese


  1. If using leftover cooked pasta, chop it up. If using dried pasta, bring a large pot of water to a boil, and salt it. Cook pasta until barely tender, somewhat short of where you would normally cook it. Drain, and immediately toss it in a wide bowl with half the butter or oil. Cool it a bit.
  2. Heat oven to 350°F. Put remaining butter or oil in a large nonstick ovenproof skillet, and turn heat to medium-high. If you are using meat, add it, and cook, stirring occasionally until crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. (If not using meat, proceed.)
  3. In a large bowl, combine pasta with remaining ingredients, along with salt and pepper (less salt if you are using meat). Pour into skillet, and turn heat to medium-low. Use a spoon if necessary to even out top of frittata. Cook undisturbed until mixture firms up on bottom, then transfer to oven.
  4. Bake just until top is set, about 10 minutes. Remove, and serve hot or at room temperature.

Chopped Salad

Makes: 4 to 6 servings
Time: 30 minutes


  • 1 small head romaine
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • 2 small celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon any wine vinegar, or more to taste
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Trim and core the lettuce and tear it into bite-sized pieces. You should have about 4 cups; save any extra for later.
  2. Combine the carrots, celery, onion and cucumber, bell pepper, and lettuce in a large bowl.
  3. Pour the olive oil and vinegar over all and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Toss the ingredients quickly and lightly, then taste and adjust the seasoning; serve right away.

8 add-ins

  1. Oil-packed canned tuna or sardines, drained
  2. Chopped ham, prosciutto, or other cured meat
  3. Crumbled bacon
  4. Grated, crumbled, or cubed cheese, like cheddar, Swiss, blue, or feta
  5. Shredded cooked chicken or turkey
  6. Chopped hard-boiled eggs
  7. Cooked or canned chickpeas or white beans
  8. Cooked shrimp, lump crab, or other cooked fish

Chicken Cutlets With Quick Pan Sauce

Time: 20 to 30 minutes
Makes: 4 servings


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1½ pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thighs, or tenders
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • ½ cup water, chicken stock, or vegetable stock
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley leaves, plus 2 tablespoons for garnish
  • 1 lemon, quartered, for serving


  1. Heat the oven to 200°F. Put the flour on a plate or in a shallow bowl next to the stove. If necessary, put each cutlet between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and pound to uniform thickness; blot the chicken dry with a paper towel and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  2. Put the oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted, turn a piece of the chicken in the flour to coat it on all sides; shake off any excess. Add the floured chicken to the pan, then repeat with the next piece; work in batches if necessary to avoid crowding the pan.
  3. Cook, adjusting the heat as needed so the fat is always bubbling but the chicken doesn’t burn. After 2 minutes, rotate the chicken so the outside edges are moved toward the center and vice versa. Don’t flip them; you want the same side in contact with the fat. When the bottom of each piece is brown, after 3 to 4 minutes, turn them over.
  4. Cook on the second side, adjusting the heat as described in step 3, until the chicken is firm to the touch but still a bit pink inside, another 3 to 4 minutes. To check for doneness, cut into a piece with a thin-bladed knife and take a peek. Transfer the chicken to an ovenproof platter and put it in the oven.
  5. Add the wine to the skillet, keeping the heat at medium-high. Let it bubble away as you stir and scrape the bottom of the pan, until about half the wine has evaporated, a minute or two. Pour in the water and continue to stir until the liquid has thickened slightly and reduced to ¼ cup, another 2 or 3 minutes. Add the remaining tablespoon of butter to the skillet and swirl the pan around until the butter melts; turn off the heat.
  6. Remove the chicken from the oven, and if any juices have accumulated on the platter, add them to the skilled along with ¼ cup parsley. Stir, taste the sauce, and adjust the seasoning. Spoon the sauce over the chicken, garnish with the remaining 2 tablespoons of parsley, and serve with lemon quarters.

Has published 30 books, including How to Cook Everything and VB6: The Case for Part-Time Veganism. Newsletter at

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