'RecipeTin Eats taught me how to cook. Here are the 3 dinner recipes I always go back to.'

Pre-COVID, I was a pretty lousy cook. There was a joke I had with my partner that I could still manage to stuff up eggs.

I also just wasn't remotely interested in doing it - I'd pick eating out or takeaway over a home-cooked meal any day. 

But with both those options becoming less accessible during lockdown, I leaned into cooking, and I completely changed my mind about it. 

I found that if you cook things that are simple to make and you know will taste delicious once they're done, the act of cooking is actually pretty therapeutic.

And there's one place I always go for those types of recipes: food blog RecipeTin Eats.

Created by Sydney-based cook Nagi Maehashi, her hundreds of recipes are easy to follow and packed with flavour, earning her a cult following with other home cooks everywhere. 

I love how Nagi packs them with helpful tips for novice cooks, alongside useful notes on the ingredients and potential substitutes. 

Here are three of her recipes I always go back to. 

1. Slow Cooked Shredded Beef Ragu Pasta.

Nagi's version and mine. Image: RecipeTin Eats/Supplied.


I dream about this pasta often.

While it's made with such a simple combination of ingredients, the flavours pack a punch because of how long it simmers for. 

I recommend making it on a lazy Sunday afternoon - do the prep mid-afternoon, watch a movie while it cooks and enjoy a big bowl come dinnertime.

If there's one recipe I insist you make, it's this.

Prep: 20 minutes.  

Cook: 2 hours 30 minutes.



  • 1.2kg chuck beef or other slow cooking beef cut, cut into equal 4 pieces (Note 1)
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • Black pepper
  • 3 tbsp olive oil, separated
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 cup carrots, diced (Note 2)
  • 1 cup celery, diced (Note 2)
  • 800g crushed canned tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 beef bouillon cubes, crumbled (Note 3)
  • 1 cup/250ml red wine, full-bodied (like merlot, cabernet sauvignon), or sub with beef broth/stock
  • 1 1/2 cups/375 ml water (Note 3)
  • 3/4 tsp dried thyme or 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 dried bay leaves

To serve (not all sauce is used)

  • 1 lb /500g dried pappardelle, or other pasta of choice (Note 4)
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese or parmigiano reggiano
  • Fresh parsley, finely chopped (optional)


1. Pat beef dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

2. Sear beef: Heat 1 tbsp olive oil over high heat in a heavy based pot. Add beef and sear each piece aggressively on all sides until very browned (3-5 minutes in total), then remove onto a plate.


3. Turn stove down to medium low and add remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil.

4. Soffrito: Add garlic and onion and sauté for 2 minutes. Then add the carrots and celery and sauté slowly for 5 minutes.

5. Add remaining ragu ingredients and return the beef to the pot (including pooled juices). Turn the stove up and bring it to a simmer, then turn it down to low so it's bubbling very very gently. (Note 6).

6. Slow cook: Cover the pot and let it cook for 2 hours or until beef is tender enough to shred. 

7. Shred: Remove beef then coarsely shred with 2 forks. Return beef to the pot. Simmer for 30 minutes until sauce is reduced and thickened - beef will soften slightly more during this step.

8. Final season: Do a taste test and adjust the seasoning to your taste with salt and pepper. ALSO, add 1/2 tsp sugar if sauce is a bit sour for your taste (Note 5). Place the lid on and set aside until ready to serve (it's even better the next day and freezes well for months!).

To serve:

1. Bring a very large pot of water with 1 tbsp of salt to the boil.

2. Add pasta and cook for 1 minute less than the recommended cooking time as per the packet instructions.

3. Meanwhile, place 5 cups of the Ragu in a very large fry pan, dutch oven or use 2 normal size fry pans. Heat over high heat while the pasta is cooking.


4. When the pasta is ready, transfer it directly from the pot into the fry pan using tongs.

5. Add 3/4 cup of pasta water into the fry pan.

6. Gently toss the pasta (I use 2 wooden spoons) for 1 to 2 minutes, until the sauce water evaporates and leaves you with a thick Ragu sauce that coats the pasta.

7. Yell for your family to sit down at the dinner table because you need to serve it immediately!

8. Serve with plenty of freshly grated parmesan, or even better, with parmigiano reggiano.


1. Beef - Cut the beef into 4 pieces that are around the size of a baseball.

2. Celery and carrots sautéed with the onions and garlic is called "soffritto" in Italian cooking. It is a very traditional base for many Italian dishes. Cooking them slowly over low heat releases their flavour and adds an extra dimension to this dish. But it's not a deal killer if you skip these ingredients.

3. Beef stock - You could use liquid beef stock instead of water and stock cubes.

4. Pappardelle pasta is the thick wide pasta and is ideal for this recipe because the shreds of beef cling to the thick pasta strands. If you can't find it, just use the widest pasta you can find e.g. tagliatelle, fettuccine.

5. Sugar - The sweetness of canned tomatoes differs depending on brand (typically more expensive = sweeter). So adjust the sweetness of your sauce to your taste by using sugar - 1/2 tsp at a time.


6. Low and slow - Turn the heat of the stove down to a level where it is bubbling very, very gently - a few bubbles here and there. This is usually low on gas stoves but might be medium-low on electric stoves. If it is too high - i.e. simmering rapidly (lots of bubbles appearing rapidly) - then you run the risk of the bottom burning. If it is too low, it will take longer to cook.

2. Caesar Salad.

No photo of our efforts sadly, we demolish this right after making it. Image: RecipeTin Eats.


Put the store-bought caesar salad dressing down and never reach for it again.

This tops anything you'll buy. 

I'll add eggs and chicken to this to make it a meal, and eat the croutons dipped in dressing while prepping when no one's watching.

Serves: 5 (6 as a side).

Prep: 20 minutes.

Cook: 20 minutes.



  • 1 cup mayonnaise (Hellman's or S&W Whole Egg) (Note 1)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic, finely minced
  • 2 anchovy fillets or 3/4 tsp anchovy paste (Note 2)
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, or 1/3 cup store bought grated parmesan cheese (Note 3)
  • 3-4 tbsp milk (to adjust consistency)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp Black pepper

Garlic croutons

  • 2-3 slices white bread, 1.5cm thick (Note 4)
  • 1 garlic, cut in half
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt


  • 150g streaky bacon, cooked and chopped
  • 10 cups cos/romaine lettuce, chopped, wash and dried (Note 5)
  • Freshly grated parmesan, for garnish

Optional extras

  • 2-4 eggs, cooked to your taste, peeled and halved
  • 500g chicken breast fillets (2 pieces)
  • 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil



1. Whizz all ingredients in food processor until smooth, starting with 3 tbsp milk.

2. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as desired, and use milk to get the dressing to the desired consistency. (Note 6.)

3. Set aside for 20 minutes+ to allow flavours to develop.


1. Place bacon into a cold skillet (no oil), then turn onto medium high. 

2. Cook until golden, turn, cook other side until golden. 

3. Remove onto paper towels, cool, then chop.

Garlic croutons

1. Preheat oven to 180°C.


2. Toast bread in the toaster for 1 minute (or oven for 2 minutes each side) until surface is dried but not browned.

3. Rub both sides of each piece of bread with the cut side of the garlic (Note 7).

4. Remove crust from bread (optional) and cut into cubes - around 1.5 cups. Drizzle with 1-2 tbsp olive oil, sprinkle with salt, then bake until golden, shaking the tray once. Sandwich bread will take around 7 minutes, sourdough and similar breads take 12-15 mins.

Optional extras

Eggs: Place the eggs in a saucepan and cover with water. Place over medium high heat and bring to simmer. Once the water is simmering, turn down to medium (gentle simmer) and cook for 3 mins (for soft centres), 4 mins for firm yolks and 6 mins for hard-boiled. Remove eggs, run under cold water for 15 sec then leave submerged in a bowl of cold tap water for 5 mins. Peel then set aside.

Chicken: Either pound the chicken to about 1.2cm even thickness, or slice each breast in half horizontally. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. Use bacon fat remaining in skillet. Cook first side for 5 mins, turn then cook the other side for 2 mins. Remove, cover loosely with foil and rest for 5 mins. Cut into slices.


1. Place lettuce in bowl with 1/2 the dressing. Toss well, taste, then decide if you want more dressing.

2. Transfer to serving bowl. (Top with chicken and egg if using.) Scatter over with bacon and croutons. Sprinkle with parmesan and serve!



1. Mayonnaise - the better the mayo, the better than dressing. I like Hellman's Real Mayonnaise and S&W Whole Egg Mayonnaise.

2. Anchovy fillets are key to achieve a true restaurant quality flavour. You can't taste it, but it's the seasoning for the sauce. Use the dark brown anchovy fillets in oil that come in a jar. Substitutes: Best - 3/4 tsp anchovy paste. Next best - 1 tsp of fish sauce (yes, really). OK - extra 1/4 cup parmesan plus pinch of salt.

3. Parmesan - store bought pre-grated parmesan is denser than freshly grated which is why you don't need as much. It won't whizz up as smoothly either, but personally it doesn't bother me.

4. Croutons - you want enough bread to make 1.5 cups croutons (on the generous side, but no one wants to run out!). Use plain, normal sandwich bread.

5. Lettuce - iceberg is also great. Make sure you wash lettuce well in advance to let it dry properly. Dressing won't coat wet lettuce so make sure it's dried! I usually chop, wash then dry using a spinner. Chop into whatever size suits you for eating. 

6. Dressing - don't thin the dressing too much, otherwise it won't cling to the lettuce. You can whizz it up in a blender or use a stick blender too!

7. Garlic - the purpose of this step is to add the garlic flavour to the croutons. I prefer not to toss the croutons in minced garlic because the garlic burns before the croutons turn golden.

3. Jambalaya.

Nagi's version and mine. Image: RecipeTin Eats/Supplied.


Jambalaya is one of New Orleans' most iconic dishes. Sort of similar to paella - prawns, sausage and chicken are dotted through Creole-spiced tomato rice and vegetables.

And it's so easy to make - all thrown together in one-pot and perfect for dinner and leftovers the following day. My partner asks for it often.

Serves: 5. 

Prep: 20 minutes.


Cook: 50 minutes.


  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 180g bacon, preferably smoked, chopped
  • 200g andouille or smoked sausage, sliced 0.5cm thick (Note 1)
  • 300g chicken thigh, skinless, boneless, cut into 2.5cm pieces
  • 12 prawns, raw, large, (peeled, with or without tails)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp (15g) butter
  • 1 onion, large, cut into 1.5 cm pieces
  • 2 celery ribs, cut into 1.5 cm pieces
  • 2 green capsicums, medium, cut into 1.5 cm pieces
  • 1.25 cups long grain rice, uncooked (Note 2)
  • 2.5 cups (625ml) low-sodium chicken broth/stock (Note 3)
  • 200g (6.5oz) crushed canned tomato
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 cup green onions, sliced, plus more for serving

Creole seasoning mix: 

  • 2 tsp chopped fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried thyme)
  • 4 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne powder (adjust spice to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt


1. Preheat oven to 180C (all types).

2. Heat oil in a very large skillet or dutch oven over medium high heat.

3. Add bacon, cook for 30 seconds (to start fat melting), then add sausages. Cook until sausages are golden - about 3 minutes - then remove into bowl.

4. Add chicken into the pan and cook until golden (doesn't need to cook inside), then add to bowl with bacon.

5. Sear prawns in the pan for 1.5 minutes on each side, then transfer to a separate bowl (reserve until later).

6. Add butter, then garlic, onion, celery and capsicum. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until slightly softened.

7. Add rice, stir to coat grains in oil.

8. Add chicken broth, tomato paste, canned tomato, thyme and seasoning mix.

9. Stir well, then add chicken, sausages and bacon (including all liquid).

10. When you see bubbles across most of the surface, stir well once more. Ensure all rice is submerged, cover with lid, and transfer to oven. 

11. Bake 20 minutes. Remove lid and check rice by eating a few grains (careful, very hot!) If the rice is just about done, go to next step. If rice grains are still firm in the centre, continue to cook, checking rice every 5 mins - most ovens take about 30 mins total cooking (see Note 4).

12. Add prawns and green onions, QUICKLY (but gently!) stir through, cover with lid, and return to oven for just 3 minutes (just to heat prawns).


13. Remove from oven, stir gently to fluff, then serve, garnished with more green onions if desired.


1. Andouille Sausages - Smokey spicy Louisiana sausages, imparts smokey flavour into dish. Hard to find outside the US - I have not found them anywhere in Sydney, Australia. Best substitute for Andouille: smoked polish sausages from Polish or European delis (ask for the smokiest!), Kransky or even chorizo plus SMOKED bacon (instead of normal) and SMOKED paprika (instead of sweet). 

2. Rice - long grain is best here for the rice texture in the finished dish. 

3. Chicken broth - Low-sodium chicken broth is used here. If using full salt chicken stock, reduce salt in spice mix to 1/4 tsp. You can also use homemade chicken stock!

4. Oven cooking time - The total cooking time can very quite a lot, depending on what sort of pot you use (cast iron vs regular thinner-walled pot) and your oven (fan-forced vs slower, older ovens). Cooking times can be as long as 45 minutes, but in my oven and most others, it's done in 25-30 mins. This is why I recommend you start checking at 20 mins, and then every 5 mins after that.

Charlotte Begg is Mamamia's lifestyle writer. For more recipe, fashion and homewares recommendations, follow her on Instagram here.

Feature image: Supplied.