What to Cook This Weekend

Cheesy baked pasta? Roasted orange chicken? We have options.

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By Sam Sifton

Good morning. Those of us who cook Thanksgiving, we’re about to go into the chute: a few weeks of menu planning, list making, ingredient purchasing, precooking, par-cooking, freezing, thawing, roasting, mashing. It’s not yet time to scream. But the top of the roller coaster is in view, after a few winding curves ahead.

This weekend, here’s what you ought to do to prepare. Take a few hours on Saturday or Sunday to go through your pantry, whether that’s a closet, room, drawer or cabinet next to the sink. Take everything out, consider it all, and then ruthlessly edit your stores against standards of age, interest and use case.

Then scrub down the shelves and reorganize with the intensity of a Marine. Heading into the Thanksgiving season with neatly arranged cupboards — flours with flours, spices with spices, canned goods with canned goods — is a way of keeping the anxiety of the season at bay. It says to the universe: This is my pantry. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

For dinner, something simple after all that work: A few half boxes of shells and rigatoni combined for this cheesy baked pasta with sausage and ricotta (above), say, with garlic bread on the side and apple compote for dessert. In coming weeks we can perform a similar exercise with the refrigerator and freezer.

What else to cook this weekend? I love this roasted orange chicken that’s a little like Cantonese soy-sauce chicken and a little like American Chinese orange chicken. Make stir-fried brussels sprouts and rice to round everything out, and when you’re finished with dinner go take a look at your pantry again. Doesn’t that look good?

I want a big breakfast, too, and this recipe for pancakes that Daniela Galarza adapted from the delicious one cooked at the Brooklyn restaurant Chez Ma Tante delivers — and how! Oven bacon to go with, from which I might harvest the fat to sauté some apples to serve alongside.

There’ll be time for a decent lunch at some point, too. Sardines on buttered brown bread will appeal to some, mushroom quesadillas to others. Maybe this brothy Thai curry with silken tofu and herbs? Or a luscious egg salad sandwich?

You’ll figure it out. There are thousands more recipes to consider waiting for you on New York Times Cooking, and additional inspiration on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube. You do need a subscription to get the recipes. Subscriptions support our work and allow it to continue. If you haven’t yet done so, would you please consider subscribing today? Thanks.

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Now, it’s nothing to do with the affairs of the kitchen, but I devoured Percival Everett’s darkly satirical novel about American racism, “The Trees”: slapstick horror that leaves a mark.

Having streamed all the Scandinavian police dramas (that I could find), I’ve moved on to Eastern Europe for “The Thaw,” a crime thriller on HBO Max set in the Polish city of Szczecin. Now I’d like to visit.

New fiction from Jonathan Lethem in The New Yorker: “Narrowing Valley.”

Finally, today is the birthday of the painter Francis Bacon, born in 1909. (He died in 1992.) Here’s his “Figure with Meat,” from 1954. Look at that for a while, and then get to work on the pantry. I’ll see you on Sunday.

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