The 5 Most Popular Recipes of January 2023

Simple pasta Carbonara

With crispy bits of pork, a peppery bite, and a velvety cheese sauce enriched with eggs, carbonara is just as easy to make for dinner as it is at 2 a.m. after a long night out. It’s one of Rome’s signature dishes, and just like cacio e pepe and other pasta recipes in that class, its simplicity demands proper technique and quality ingredients. Cured meat adds a salty depth to the dish, and while guanciale is the most traditional choice, diced pancetta or bacon also work well. Egg yolks give the carbonara sauce its luscious texture and golden hue, so pick up farm-fresh eggs if you can. And when it comes to the cheese and pasta, this is the time to spend a little extra: Buy a wedge of Romano cheese or real Parmigiano Reggiano and a nice box of spaghetti, bucatini, or rigatoni.

A word on technique: To achieve the creamy sauce’s signature sheen, adding the ingredients at just the right time and temperature is key for any carbonara recipe. Whisking a quarter cup of hot pasta water into the raw egg mixture and turning off the heat before adding it to the pasta helps bring everything together into a glossy, emulsified sauce without overcooking the yolks. From there, toss everything together quickly and add more pasta cooking water to thin the sauce as needed. 

At dinner this pasta dish is nice served alongside a plate of greens, but when you’re in the throes of an after-hours hang, just grab a fork.

Creamy Mushroom Pasta

This mushroom pasta recipe is all about the creamy sauce and just letting the ’shrooms do their big savory umami thing. For the most robust flavor, use a variety of mushrooms like feathery maitakes, meaty oyster mushrooms, and woodsy shiitakes. Crimini mushrooms (a.k.a. baby bellas) or even larger portobello mushrooms can stand in too, though they can be a bit one-note. Their less-mature siblings, white button mushrooms, simply won’t deliver the intensity of flavor you’re looking for here.

Searing the mushrooms over medium-high heat intensifies their flavor, so don’t rush this step. Make sure the pieces have space to breathe in the pan, allowing the steam to cook off and those crispy brown bits to develop; waiting to salt them until you remove them from the pan also helps.

Be sure to pull the pasta from the (very well-salted) boiling water when it’s still slightly undercooked—it’ll finish cooking in the creamy mushroom sauce. And remember to set aside some of the pasta cooking water, which is the key to bringing that sauce together.

Garnish the dish with red pepper flakes and extra Parmesan cheese if you like, and serve with a big salad.

Chicken Piccata

Skinless, boneless chicken breasts: You either love ’em or you hate ’em. For those in the latter camp, this chicken piccata recipe is here to convert you. With just a few simple steps, it’s easy to make for a weeknight dinner, but you’ll just as easily impress guests if you choose to serve it at a dinner party.

If you don’t have a meat mallet, you can use a small frying pan or rolling pin to gently flatten the butterflied pieces of chicken. The real key to the best chicken piccata, though, is nailing the buttery, lemony caper sauce. Use a dry Italian white wine, such as Pinot Grigio or Vermentino, and have it ready to pour into the pan the minute the garlic turns golden so that nothing burns. Scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan, then swirl in the capers and a few tablespoons of butter to create an emulsion, i.e., turn it into a rich, glossy sauce that’s as good spooned over a pile of mashed potatoes as it is soaked into the crusty chicken cutlets. Garnish with fresh parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Serve alongside a classic Caesar salad with big shavings of Parmesan cheese and Garlic Confit Toast to sop up any extra chicken piccata sauce.

Vanilla Birthday Cake

The blonde counterpoint to our Easiest Chocolate Birthday Cake, this homemade vanilla cake recipe is great for first-time bakers or seasoned pros looking to save time without sacrificing quality. Created with the promise of ease—no stand mixer needed—the single-layer round cake is the perfect centerpiece for birthdays, dinner parties, or any occasion worth celebrating.

Calling for sour cream (instead of whole milk or buttermilk) gives the white cake an ultra-plush crumb, while lemon juice balances the sweetness of both cake and frosting. A few drops of almond extract (a common addition in wedding cakes) strengthens the vanilla flavor. Mixing the cake batter by hand doesn’t just leave you with fewer dishes, it’s a smart way to prevent overmixing, which can happen easily when you let your mixer’s paddle attachment run wild. Fold the flour mixture into the wet ingredients gently until just incorporated. Once baked, budget for plenty of time on the cooling rack; if you frost the cake too soon, the silky, buttery icing (a hybrid of vanilla buttercream and cream cheese frosting) will melt right off. We recommend splurging on vanilla bean paste for those mesmerizing specks, but if all you’ve got is vanilla extract, that’s fine. To decorate, stick with the recipe’s low-maintenance spirit and swirl the frosting in dramatic swoops on top of the cake. Sprinkles are welcome, and so is edible glitter, candied citrus peels, or any other adornment you like.

Prefer vanilla cupcakes or yellow cake? We have recipes for those too. As well as a just-as-easy chocolate cake with brown butter frosting or a double-decker vanilla layer cake for folks who want more. Happy birthday to you.

Sheet-Pan Tofu and Broccoli

Instead of battering and frying tiny pieces of chicken, this vegetarian riff on orange chicken puts tofu in the starring role of a weeknight-friendly sheet-pan dinner. To fully deliver on the recipe’s name, there’s both fresh orange juice and orange zest in the sauce for maximum brightness, but using store-bought juice will work in a pinch. Oh, and don’t toss the broccoli stem; once chopped into small pieces, it roasts into crisp-tender vegetal sweetness alongside the florets.