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Chicken and pasta — dinner’s powerhouse duo

Overhead photo of chicken and veggies on a plate
Chicken thighs, along with dried pasta, make for the quickest, easiest dinners with barely any planning.
(Silvia Razgova / For The Times)
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When the end of the week arrives and I desperately want to order takeout (but I know I should just eat at home), I’m always thankful that I have chicken and pasta in my kitchen. Whether it’s a couple of thighs left over from the grocery pack or some already-cooked chicken from a couple nights ago, I know I’m set. And I don’t even need to talk about the virtues of having a box of dried pasta in the pantry when you want the easiest dinner on Earth.

It’s these kitchen staples that recipe developer and L.A. native Ali Slagle can transform so well into wonderful dishes that look like you actually planned them instead of relying on what you have in your pantry. That’s because she takes those pantry helpers and shows you how to make them better than you’d ever think. I wrote about her new book, “I Dream of Dinner (So You Don’t Have To),” and two fantastic recipes — Skillet Chicken Thighs With Peas & Pickled Chiles and Tahini-Herb Pasta Salad — that are prime examples of this way of cooking.

Once you make her recipes and get a feel for how they operate, take a stab at these other chicken- or pasta-based easy dishes from our archives that hit on those same themes.

Take the rest of those chicken thighs from the pack and make my Sticky Orange Chicken Thighs With Chile-Cucumber Salad. The thighs are coated in a vinegar, soy and honey dressing that coats them beautifully, while cucumbers and citrus make for a bright, crunchy side to balance the intensely umami chicken.

And for some more pasta recipes that stand up to repeated days of eating (and can be served cold, if necessary), try Genevieve Ko’s One-Pan Pasta With Tomato Sauce, which cooks lightly toasted pasta in a thinned tomato sauce until the pasta is al dente at the same time the sauce is thickened beautifully.

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And in my Kale Pasta Salad With Parm and Smoked Almonds, cooked orzo is dressed in a tangy lemon dressing that just seeps deeper and deeper into the pasta, without making it go soggy, as it sits in the fridge. It’s the type of easy meal that, once made, keeps rewarding you with more and more delicious ways to stretch it out for days afterward.

Skillet Chicken Thighs With Peas & Pickled Chiles

Rendering chicken skin offers both crisp chicken and fat for sautéing peas in a chile-spiked dressing. Herbs bolster the freshness of the peas, while crumbly cheese adds heft to this light springtime chicken dish.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 40 minutes.

A cast-iron skillet with three chicken thighs over a bed of peas
(Mark Weinberg)

Tahini-Herb Pasta Salad

Tahini does what dairy can’t, like sit out in the sunshine. It creates a creamy base for a sauce to coat pasta, herbs and chickpeas in a hearty vegan dish. Fresh herbs brighten the dish; you can use any combination of your favorite soft herbs, such as parsley, dill or mint.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 30 minutes.

Overhead shot of four bowls of pasta
(Mark Weinberg)

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Sticky Orange Chicken Thighs With Chile-Cucumber Salad

This easy method of simmering browned chicken thighs in a soy-and-honey sauce makes them taste like they’ve been marinating all day. You can use boneless skinless chicken breasts instead, if you like, but you will need to cut them into 1-inch-thick slices and cook them less.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 30 minutes.

Overhead shot of a plate with chicken and slices of cucumber and orange.
(Silvia Razgova / For The Times)

Kale Pasta Salad With Parm And Smoked Almonds

Measure out your dressing ingredients and chop your vegetables while you’re waiting for the water to boil so you can make this salad super quick. It’s a great repository for any other leftover meat or vegetables you have chilling in the fridge.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 20 minutes.

Closeup of a bowl with mixed kale, zucchini, small tomatoes and other ingredients in a dressing.
(Ben Mims / Los Angeles Times)

One-Pan Pasta With Tomato Sauce

When angel hair cooks in tomato sauce, it soaks up the sauce’s tangy taste — and cuts down on dishwashing. The broken noodles are first toasted in oil to give them a deep richness and to keep them from sticking together or becoming mushy.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 30 minutes.

Overhead shot of a skillet filled with pasta in a red sauce.
(Genevieve Ko/Los Angeles Times)
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