Many people, especially in turbulent times, find cooking therapeutic and calming. Rolling up your sleeves and staying busy in the kitchen these days just might just be what you need to relax a bit.

So what’s for dinner tonight?

Standing and staring in front of the fridge, wondering what to make with what’s on hand, doesn’t have to be a challenge. It can even be fun — think of the television show “Chopped.” Your pantry items become your “mystery basket.” And kids can have fun with this, too, now that you are all home together as a family.

I spoke with Ashley Moore, an on-screen test cook for Cook’s Country, a food stylist for America’s Test Kitchen and instructor for America’s Test Kitchen Cooking School who has worked at the Food Network with Emeril Lagasse and Bobby Flay. She said to go back to basics and be creative, thinking outside the box when it comes to figuring out what to cook with the ingredients you have on hand.

She agrees, cooking is good therapy. Just use the skills you have, as basic as they may be. There are so many one-pot recipes. Now that we are spending more time at home, try baking that bread recipe you cut out from a magazine or newspaper that you never found the time to bake. You probably have the ingredients in your pantry or, in a pinch, they can be found at a corner convenience store. Check out Moore’s fettuccine recipe below.

Friends who are not professional cooks tell me that they find baking bread relaxing, a process with a unique feel and rhythm, and that requires only a few ingredients. I find baking a cake to be quite calming, and the result is a well-deserved sweet reward — a perfect antidote for dealing with today’s stresses and limited possibilities.

What you have in your pantry can become a culinary masterpiece. You probably have pasta, canned beans and vegetables, broth, canned tuna, bread crumbs, peanut butter, rice, flour, canned tomatoes. Your refrigerator and freezer have a potpourri of ingredients, too.

See a handy baking and cooking ingredient substitution cooking chart at bit.ly/2IZqheV.

On those days when you want to take a break from the kitchen, let’s not forget our favorite restaurants. Remember when they donated a gift certificate or food to your charity and supported the community? Now is the time to help them. Order delivery or take-out food or purchase a gift certificate to use when things return to normal.

Ashley suggests, if you have it on hand, using imported Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese here and not the bland domestic cheese labeled “Parmesan.” For the best results, grate the cheese on a rasp-style grater. Do not adjust the amount of water for cooking the pasta. Stir the pasta frequently as it cooks so that it doesn’t stick together. It’s important to move quickly after draining the pasta, as the residual heat from the reserved cooking water and pasta will help the cheese and butter melt. For the best results, heat oven-safe dinner bowls in a 200-degree oven for 10 minutes prior to serving and serve the pasta hot. If you are using fresh pasta, increase the amount to 11/4 pounds.

Bring 3 quarts water to boil in large Dutch oven. Add pasta and 1 tablespoon salt and cook, stirring frequently, until al dente. Reserve 1 cup cooking water, then drain pasta and return it to pot.

Add Parmigiano-Reggiano, butter, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and reserved cooking water to pot. Set pot over low heat and, using tongs, toss and stir vigorously to thoroughly combine, about 1 minute. Remove pot from heat, cover, and let pasta sit for 1 minute.

Toss pasta vigorously once more so sauce thoroughly coats pasta and any cheese clumps are emulsified into sauce, about 30 seconds. (Mixture may look wet at this point, but pasta will absorb excess moisture as it cools slightly.) Season with salt to taste.

Divide pasta among individual bowls. (Use rubber spatula as needed to remove any clumps of cheese stuck to tongs and bottom of pot.) Serve immediately, passing extra Parmigiano-Reggiano separately. Serves 4 to 6.

My friends at America’s Test Kitchen are being proactive to help in these unprecedented times. They have activities to occupy your kids and support their learning while they are out of school. Each week, look for a new Kitchen Classroom plan. Think of it as a sort of kitchen curriculum, composed of recipes, activities and quizzes, one or two for each day of the work week and a bigger project the whole family can tackle on the weekend. The recipes will be as pantry-friendly as possible, to minimize grocery runs. Find these at bit.ly/2x9ePum.

Check out these recipes using that stand-by, canned tuna, at bit.ly/3ddhofw.

Here are a couple of ATK recipes:

The headnote says, “Shredding the Parmesan adds a nice texture to the bread and helps prevent the cheese from burning. To shred the cheese, use the large holes of a box grater. If possible, do not substitute finely grated or pre-grated Parmesan. We prefer to use an 8-inch cast-iron skillet here because it makes the best crust; an 8-inch oven-safe skillet will also work, but you will need to increase the baking time by 10 to 15 minutes.”

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Whisk flour, basil, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl. Stir in 1/3 cup Parmesan, breaking up any clumps, until cheese is coated with flour. Whisk milk, sour cream, and egg in separate bowl until smooth.

Heat oil in 8-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour all but 2 teaspoons garlic oil into milk mixture and whisk to incorporate. Using rubber spatula, gently fold milk mixture into flour mixture until just combined, then fold in olives. (Batter will be heavy and thick; do not overmix.)

Working quickly, transfer batter to hot skillet, smooth top with rubber spatula, and sprinkle with remaining Parmesan. Bake until loaf is golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 15 to 20 minutes, rotating skillet halfway through baking.

Let bread cool slightly in skillet on wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove bread from skillet and serve warm or at room temperature. Serves 2.

The headnote says, “Why This Recipe Works: Classic breaded chicken cutlets are often plagued by a soggy, greasy, unevenly browned coating. Our first improvement was to ditch the usual homemade bread crumbs in favor of drier, crunchier panko. To streamline the traditional multistep breading process, we ditched the flour and found that we got a more delicate crust. Whisking salt right into the egg meant we could skip seasoning each cutlet separately, and there was no need to pat the chicken dry before starting since there was no flour in the mix. To make sure the frying oil was at just the right temperature, we added a pinch of panko to the skillet with the oil and waited for the crumbs to turn golden brown before adding the cutlets. Letting the cutlets rest on a wire rack lined with paper towels ensured that they were not greasy and retained their crunch.”

Note: Remove any tenderloins from the breasts before halving them. The breasts will be easier to slice into cutlets if you freeze them for 15 minutes. If you’re working with 8-ounce breasts, the skillet initially will be crowded; the cutlets will shrink as they cook. The first batch can be kept warm in a 200-degree oven while you cook the second batch. The cooked cutlets can be sliced into 1/2-inch-wide strips and served over rice. They can also be served spritzed with lemon, in a sandwich, or over a green salad.

Place panko in large zipper-lock bag and lightly crush with rolling pin. Transfer to shallow dish. Whisk eggs and 1 teaspoon salt in second shallow dish until well combined.

Working with 1 cutlet at a time, dredge cutlets in egg mixture, allowing excess to drip off, then coat all sides with panko, pressing gently so crumbs adhere. Transfer cutlets to rimmed baking sheet.

Set wire rack in second rimmed baking sheet and line rack with paper towels. Heat 1/4 cup oil and small pinch panko in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. When panko has turned golden brown, place 4 cutlets in skillet. Cook, without moving cutlets, until bottoms are deep golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Using tongs, carefully flip cutlets and cook on second side until deep golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer cutlets to prepared rack and season with salt to taste. Wipe skillet clean with paper towels. Repeat with remaining 1/4 cup oil and remaining 4 cutlets. Serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6.

Worth Tasting: April 25, 10:30 a.m. Guided 4-hour culinary walking tour of downtown New Haven, reservations required, 203-415-3519, 203-777-8550, $68. Tickets at bit.ly/2FjiwMP. Enjoy tasty samplings from several of New Haven’s favorites. You won’t be hungry after this tour. I will lead this one.

Connecticut Media Group