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. Once complete, serve it to her, let her eat in peace and please don’t ask her to cut your food.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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