Food

16 Mother’s Day Dinners So Easy a Kid Could Make Them

For years, she subsisted on grilled-cheese crusts, congealed oatmeal and browning apple slices the kids left behind, so it’s time to make mom something special. These simple, impressive recipes are great for all ages and skill levels, but, if you have small humans in the house, most 10- or 11-year-olds with some cooking experience can put them together with a little assistance from a grown-up. Even toddlers can help with stirring, pouring, cutting soft vegetables (with a dull-edged dinner knife or plastic knife) or decorating place cards for the table. Evvel complete, serve it to her, let her eat in peace and please don’t ask her to cut your food.

1. Shrimp Piccata Spaghetti

Credit…Sang An for The New York Times. Food Stylist; Simon Andrews.

Kay Chun’s quick seafood pasta is bright and tangy, thanks to sweet peas and briny capers. Cutting the shrimp into chunks, instead of leaving them whole, ensures that they cook quickly and evenly.

Recipe: Shrimp Piccata Spaghetti

[Find more Mother’s Day recipe inspiration on New York Times Cooking.]

2. Skillet Chicken and Farro With Caramelized Leeks

Credit…Bryan Gardner for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Barrett Washburne.

Rich with sautéed leeks, nutty farro and crisp chicken, this dinner from Melissa Clark is hearty, wholesome and a touch sophisticated. (Just like mom!) Serve it with a crisp green salad.

Recipe: Skillet Chicken and Farro With Caramelized Leeks

3. Crunchy Spring Iceberg Salad

Credit…Dane Tashima for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Barrett Washburne.

Iceberg lettuce stars in this delightfully crisp and creamy salad from Hetty McKinnon. The recipe calls for peas and asparagus, but feel free to substitute snow peas, sugar snap peas or sliced radish. Feta, that briny workhorse, complements the vegetables’ sweetness.

Recipe: Crunchy Spring Iceberg Salad

4. Sheet-Pan Mushroom Parmigiana

Credit…Johnny Miller for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews.

Hetty McKinnon’s vegetarian riff on the Italian American classic uses portobello mushroom caps in lieu of chicken and calls for store-bought marinara sauce to save time. Use whichever sauce mom likes best: vodka, all’arrabbiata or amatriciana.

Recipe: Sheet-Pan Mushroom Parmigiana

5. Broiled Salmon and Asparagus With Herbs

Credit…Dane Tashima for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Barrett Washburne.

Yasmin Fahr puts her oven’s broiler to clever use in this vibrant sheet-pan meal. Salmon fillets and asparagus spears are tossed with a soy-mustard glaze, broiled for eight to 10 minutes until just cooked through, then topped with a soft herb salad.

Recipe: Broiled Salmon and Asparagus With Herbs

6. French Onion Grilled Cheese

Credit…Romulo Yanes for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Vivian Lui

She’s spent hours making you grilled-cheese sandwiches, so surprise her with a next-level twist: Ali Slagle’s French onion version features piles of caramelized onions and Gruyère. Serve it with a tangle of greens glossed with a Dijon vinaigrette.

Recipe: French Onion Grilled Cheese

7. Greek Chicken With Cucumber-Feta Salad

Credit…Bobbi Lin for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Monica Pierini.

A satisfying meal of sizzling, pan-seared chicken alongside a cold cucumber, tomato and feta salad comes together in about half an hour, thanks to Ali Slagle’s smart technique of marinating the chicken in a bit of the garlic-yogurt dressing used on the salad. Ripping the cucumbers into pieces, instead of cutting, exposes more of its flesh, so the dressing can nestle into the nooks and crannies.

Recipe: Greek Chicken With Cucumber-Feta Salad

8. Roasted Tomato Tart With Ricotta and Pesto

Credit…Christopher Testani for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Barrett Washburne.

So pretty it could be a painting, Alexa Weibel’s roasted tomato tart is just the thing to impress someone you love. True, it may not yet be tomato season where you are, but roasting average hothouse tomatoes brings out their natural sweetness and color.

Recipe: Roasted Tomato Tart With Ricotta and Pesto

9. Lemony Shrimp and Bean Stew

Credit…Christopher Testani for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews.

Sue Li’s 30-minute shrimp and bean stew begs to be served with a hunk of craggy bread to soak up the juices, and you should do just that. If shrimp is not your thing, substitute flaky white fish or seared scallops.

Recipe: Lemony Shrimp and Bean Stew

10. Chicken and Herb Salad With Nuoc Cham

Credit…Linda Xiao for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Monica Pierini.

Store-bought rotisserie (or leftover) chicken is put to extraordinarily good use in this festive salad from Yewande Komolafe. Nuoc cham, a spicy Vietnamese sauce, dresses shredded chicken, peppery greens, cucumbers, thinly sliced bell peppers and shaved cabbage.

Recipe: Chicken and Herb Salad With Nuoc Cham

11. White Bean Caprese Salad

Credit…Bryan Gardner for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Barrett Washburne.

Assemble this white bean, mozzarella and tomato salad from Colu Henry (adding strips of prosciutto or roasted red pepper if you’re feeling it), pop it into a resealable container, then take mom to her favorite park for lunch. Pick up a baguette and a bottle of something bubbly — seltzer or Prosecco, depending on how big of a kid you are — along the way.

Recipe: White Bean Caprese Salad

12. Gnocchi With Hot and Sweet Peppers

Credit…Christopher Testani for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Monica Pierini.

Ali Slagle calls for roasting peppers, tomatoes and canned chipotles until soft and sweet, then tossing with gnocchi that were roasted in their own pan nearby. But this multitasking recipe is really just a starting point. Blend the vegetables for a smooth sauce or top with walnuts, hazelnuts and pine nuts, or feta, ricotta and Cheddar.

Recipe: Gnocchi With Hot and Sweet Peppers

13. Tofu and Tomato Egg Drop Soup

Credit…Mark Weinberg for The New York Times. Food Styling by Barrett Washburne.

Hetty McKinnon’s sweet and savory tofu soup was inspired by the popular Chinese dish, stir-fried tomato and egg. Both contain a secret ingredient that everyone has in their fridge: ketchup. Use a liquid measuring cup with a spout, if you have one, to beat the egg in, then pour the egg into the hot liquid to cook.

Recipe: Tofu and Tomato Egg Drop Soup

14. Slow-Cooker Pork Puttanesca Ragù

Credit…Con Poulos for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Rebecca Jurkevich.

If you’re going to be out for the day, Sarah DiGregorio’s pork puttanesca ragù is a perfect almost-hands-off dinner solution. Prep it in the morning, then return 10 hours later to a succulent, flavorful sauce seasoned with tomato, anchovies, capers, olives and red-pepper flakes that’s excellent over noodles or polenta.

Recipe: Slow-Cooker Pork Puttanesca Ragù

15. Fettuccine With Asparagus and Smoked Salmon

Credit…Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

This elegant pasta dish from Florence Fabricant is so very good and so surprisingly easy it almost feels like cheating. (But it’s not! There’s no such thing in cooking.) Make a sauce with shallots, butter and cream, then toss with fettuccine and slivers of smoked salmon. To speed the process up even more, skip steaming the asparagus separately, and toss it in with the pasta in the last couple of minutes of cooking. Use dried fettuccine if you’d like, and adjust the cook time accordingly.

Recipe: Fettuccine With Asparagus and Smoked Salmon

16. The Original Nachos

Credit…Christopher Simpson for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews.

For the mom whose love language is nachos, make Pati Jinich’s classic variation with salted tortilla chips, melted cheese and pickled jalapeños. Serve with bowls of toppings at the table so everyone can doctor their own, or make her real Mother’s Day dreams come true by presenting her with the tray and the remote, and leaving the house.

Recipe: The Original Nachos

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