Easy, Flexible Recipes

As a member of the Walden community and a local CSA, I am regularly trying to plan meals around the amazing fresh ingredients I have on hand. I’m so busy that this “planning” often begins close to dinner time.

For those reasons, I really appreciate having some recipes on hand that are really “flexible”:

  • Easy to swap the proteins and/or veggies to use what I have
  • Adaptable to tinkering with the spices to keep it interesting
  • Simple enough I won’t need the recipe after I make it once or twice
  • Fast enough for a busy weeknight

Here’s one of my favorites:

One Pot Wonder


  • 1 lb ground beef OR Walden beef/pork meatball mix OR any kind of Walden sausage. If you have a grinder, anything works. I’ve only made this with ground meat, but I suspect you could just slice any meat into small cubes and make it work.
  • 1 lb penne pasta OR any other short pasta shape.
  • Mirepoix (diced onion + celery + carrot) OR any flavor base you want. Swap the onion for shallots or even leeks. For an Asian twist, use green onion & ginger instead. Take the flavors south with some red pepper + green pepper + onion).
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic (minced). In a pinch, you can use garlic scapes or green onion, but is there any real substitute for fresh garlic?
  • 2-3 tbs Olive oil
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine OR broth/stock
  • 2 cups marinara sauce OR your favorite red sauce OR a 28oz can of crushed tomatoes. NOTE: I made our last batch with Ken Forkish’ “smooth red” sauce and it was amazing!
  • 1/4 cup of chopped fresh basil OR other fresh herbs you think will complement the flavor profile you build.
  • 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese OR any cheese that will melt well
  • Salt & fresh-ground black pepper
  • Extra seasoning. Here’s where it gets fun! Kick up the heat and/or the umami by seasoning with your favorite spices. Here are some of my favorites to mix/match for extra flavor:
    - 1 tbs Momofuku Chili Crunch OR 1 tsp of red pepper flakes
    - 1-2 tbs soy sauce and/or 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
    - 1-2 minced anchovies
    - 2 tsp Marmite OR other tasty yeast extract
  • 1 tbs sherry vinegar OR any other vinegar (e.g. cider, red wine, white wine, rice) OR fresh squeezed lemon juice.
  • 2 oz heavy cream OR buttermilk OR plain greek yogurt


  • Heat up the olive oil in your dutch oven OR large skillet. Cook the ingredients in your base with some salt on medium heat until all are soft.
  • Add your garlic and meat and cook until the meat is brown (and mostly cooked). I like to break it up by pinching it off one piece at a time as I add it to the pan, but you can also just plop it in there and use your spatula to break it up. If you want to add more flavor/texture, you can turn the heat up high and get the meat really browned.
  • De-glaze with the wine, then add the pasta (uncooked!), marinara sauce, and ~3 cups of water. Stir together well, bring to a boil, then turn down to medium-low and cover.
  • Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring every 3-4 minutes. Depending on the pasta shape and how it’s doing, feel free to add a few ounces of extra water 1-2 times while it cooks.
  • When the pasta is cooked, stir in your heavy cream and fresh herbs.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper, your “extra” seasonings, and your acid of choice. When it’s so delicious you catch yourself eating it straight from the pan, it’s ready!

What’s your favorite flexible recipe? I’d love to add more recipes with this sort of “range” into the mix!


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One of my favorite clean-out-the-fridge meals is fried rice. I usually always have rice, meat, and veggies in my fridge to be mix-and-matched for a quick meal. Sam Sifton’s “Whatever You’ve Got Fried Rice” no-recipe recipe is a great template. I love doing this with leftovers from chicken breast, pork chops, country style ribs - it can be made to work with just about anything! Also great to pull something pre-cooked from the freezer in the morning like pulled beef or ham if I don’t have leftover meat on hand but want a super quick meal that evening.


This is great, thanks for sharing! My go to one-pot meals also featuring ground meat are:

  • Tacos/burrito bowl base: great with ground beef, ground pork, or our chorizo sausage: brown onions, brown the meat, taco seasoning, add some diced tomatoes, frozen corn, and black beans. Our family has this on tortillas at least once a week
  • Sausage kale and lentil stew – this goes with any of our sausages – I’m especially a fan with ginger & garlic
  • Pasta! We make a pretty hefty pasta sauce of browned onions and garlic with sausage (sweet italian, hot italian, rosemary and thyme (that’s a seasonal one!), firecracker, walden’s blend…), peppers, and sometimes broccoli - then just add a jar of pasta sauce and some cooked pasta (or ravioli!) and you’ve got a very hearty one-pot meal
  • Ground Beef Bulgogi - makes an easy meal with rice as a side dish
  • Lastly I’m not super up on this trend, but sheet pan dinners have been making a comeback! NY Times has lots of recipes, but their easiest involves broiling 4 links, sliced peppers, and cherry tomatoes for 10-15 minutes

Larb is one my go-to hangry meals and also good for cleaning out the fridge. Works with pretty much any ground meat:


My favorite “clean out the fridge” meal is a Pasta primavera. Any pasta you like, set a pot of boiling water, then I like to cook the veggies quickly in the water first, then fish them out and use that same water to cook the pasta. That’s the Italian way of doing it. Then, quickly saute the veggies in some olive oil with garlic and onions and toss the pasta into the pan with a bit of the cooking water and stir vigorously until you form a nice, creamy sauce.

If I’m looking to use up some ground meat (beef, turkey, pork, lamb), brown it in a pan, pour off the fat. Add one jar of Thai Red Curry (or Green Curry) paste, 1 can of Coconut milk, and some frozen peas or diced carrot, or potatoes, or zucchini, or red peppers or all of the above. Simmer briefly until the veggies are tender and the sauce thickens, serve with rice.

In Winter, my go to fridge clean is soup. You can use plain water or whatever stock you have. Brown meat of your choice (or not, vegan is fine too), dice veggies, throw in the water or stock, simmer until tender. Add some cooked pasta or a can of beans to it, serve with some of the good Walden bread and that’s a yummy meal.

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