Spring is here, and as ever, we’re coaching you to take! It! Easy! Make- ahead recipes are there to save you stress. So when you can, do less, do it ahead, and forage in the fridge rather than running to the store.
Take a minute to get yourself a snack before you start reading Test Kitchen Director Belle English’s family lasagna recipe, because you are gonna be hungry when you’re done. Two chefs and an Italian grandmother contributed to its glory, which features a Bolognese base and a creamy béchamel sauce. (Like we said, they didn’t mess around.) It’s a somewhat long, meditative process, so make two and give one away, or stash one in the freezer as a gift to your future self.
Ratatouille, at its most glorious, is a kaleidoscopic, multi-ingredient extravaganza of a cooking project that produces a huge batch. You go to the market, gather the most incandescent produce (eggplants! summer squash! eggplant!), bring it home, cook it all down, and freeze some jammy jars for the dead of winter, when supermarket tomatoes are terrible. We love the simplicity of this five-star gratin, for which you can caramelize the onions in advance, and this slow cooker version is excellent, but it’s the Instant Pot version seen here that really knocks folks’ socks off. All that combining of flavors, so fast, and it only improves overnight.
The brilliant soup truth is that most of them get better overnight. The flavors mingle; the base notes deepen; you can always garnish with fresh herbs or acid the day you serve it. And there are few soups quite as good the day after you make them as gazpacho. Yellow gazpacho is glorious in little porcelain cups, big fat bowls, or however you need to enjoy it.
Leftover brisket is just good. Whether you make Chef Solomonov’s version (seen here in a trusty Staub Dutch oven) or you go with our slow cooker rendition, you’re going to pretty darn happy with your leftovers. Crisp, broiled matzoh forms the top layer. We’re not sure you’ll find a better version.
Pretty much any type of chili will improve overnight. There’s just something about mingling beans and meat, chiles and tomatoes, that ends up being delightful the day after you make it. If you’re not the sort of person for whom patience is a strong suit, though, feel free to throw a handful of ingredients into an Instant Pot, enjoy the results the day they’re ready, and then enjoy them again the next day. Because if there’s one thing the IP is good at, it’s instant gratification.
You have time today, but not tomorrow, when you are tasked with bringing a dessert to that thing (PTA meeting; wine night; bridge club; mah jongg). We’ve got you covered; look for cakes that involve an element of soaking or a syrup drizzled over it when warm. Think: tiramisu; tres leches; apricot-ginger cake with a rum glaze; most upside-down cakes. Best in show, though, is this sticky lemon bundt cake which only gets better after the syrup has a few days to soak into the cake. Best of all, perhaps, is saying, “Oh, this? Made it a few days ago; almost forgot I had it!” to your disbelieving friends.