Table for One

The 30-Minute Dish I Cook for Myself & for Myself Alone

A case for cooking for one.

September 14, 2018
Photo by Rocky Luten

Table for One is a column by Senior Editor Eric Kim, who loves cooking for himself—and only himself—and seeks to celebrate the beauty of solitude in its many forms.

"Risotto is the kind of food you make for people you love." My ex said that to me once, referring to how long it takes to stir it, how no one would ever set aside all that time just for themselves and a plate of risotto.

I disagreed.

Maybe it's because I'm an egoist and love myself. But I make risotto for one all the time. Sometimes I even plate it and eat it with a fork instead of in bed (just kidding, I always eat it in bed, straight out of the pan with the wooden spoon I was cooking with). As the great Nigella Lawson once said, "the act of cooking for yourself is in itself a supremely positive act, an act of kindness."

Furthermore, I'm convinced quantity lends itself to quality: Food just happens to taste better when you cook it small-scale.

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Top Comment:
“I cook in the kitchen and the dogs watch me the whole time. They start to salivate with the smells. When I am plating they are already into the bedroom as they know the will get their individual little portions separate from mine. I lounge in my bed eating relaxed and slowly. It just doesn’t get any better. So glad to hear there are others out there doing the same. It is just heavenly.”
— EagleWatch

How is it, for instance, that the same recipe you’ve been making for yourself over and over, when suddenly doubled for guests, doesn’t quite come out the same? In my experience, a risotto for ten is much more likely to downward-spiral into a bland, soggy porridge than is one for four, or even one for one. It seems that when cooking comes out of necessity (with quantity in mind over quality), it’s the food that inevitably suffers.

There's a great distinction that needs to be made between things that take time and things that take effort. Risotto takes time, sure—albeit not much, just 18 minutes for the Arborio rice to absorb all the broth. But the one thing it does not take is effort.

I love what Lawson has to say about Zen and the art of risotto-stirring in Nigella Kitchen:

I find any simple form of cooking calming in itself, but risotto-making (like baking) relies on the ritual of unchallenging but repeated actions. Unlike baking, the rewards are all but instant. Twenty minutes after you've tipped the rice into your saucepan, you've decompressed and dinner's on the table. But the principle of mindless repetitive activity holds; more, it's intensified. When you cook risotto, it's not just that you are required to stir, but that you are required to do nothing but stir.

When I'm feeling most stressed about life's pressures (work, love life, whether or not I'll die alone), I appreciate the calmness of having to stand there by the stove, watching the shallot and butter–slicked rice soak up ladleful by ladleful of Better Than Bouillon stock. Then the way the pesto simultaneously dyes it a glorious green and loosens it all'onda (meaning it ripples like a wave). Stirring my soon-to-be dinner for 18 minutes straight is my own way of practicing mindfulness, how I like to be, as they say, with myself.

Some find this state in running, others in yoga. I hate exercise personally, so for me, risotto-stirring it is.

Do you ever cook yourself something special and take it with you to bed? Let us know in the comments below.

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Eric Kim was the Table for One columnist at Food52. He is currently working on his first cookbook, KOREAN AMERICAN, to be published by Clarkson Potter in 2022. His favorite writers are William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, and Ernest Hemingway, but his hero is Nigella Lawson. You can find his bylines at The New York Times, where he works now as a writer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @ericjoonho.


Nancy H. July 23, 2023
I want a single recipe for cooking pasta in very little water and even starting it in cold water. All the recipes you suggest have nothing to do with the answer to this specific question. It popped up once on this site put never again!! Annoyed subscriber.
Lindsey L. December 13, 2018
This is not just a recipe but a story about why cooking for one is so pleasurable and necessary. Thank you for sharing, your words really hit home for me. I'm also excited to try this recipe
Eric K. December 22, 2018
Thanks for reading, Lindsey.
DMStenlake November 8, 2018
Thursday’s are usually boys night out do.... frozen (usually weight watchers, really) Mac n cheese with gruyere added and a whole bunch of broccoli and cauliflower to remove the guilt! Used to be cacio e pepe with an entire can of anchovies but my husband has learned to love this so that’s now made for two.
Eric K. November 20, 2018
Anchovy cacio e pepe is such a great idea.
Sherry October 4, 2018
How about making this for 6? Any changes to the recipe or just multiply?
Eric K. October 4, 2018
Hi Sherry, I think that would work just fine! Add the pesto and sour cream slowly, though, and taste as you go.
Roberto M. October 3, 2018
I've been making risotto for 1 and eating it in the same pot with the same spoon for years now! Although I don't remember eating it in bed that way, there it's usually moved to a plate (I need to have some standards:))
Eric K. December 22, 2018
Plates are very nice.
Lydia M. October 2, 2018
Wish I could make this! please fix the link
Eric K. October 2, 2018
Hi Lydia, sorry about that; it's a bug we're working on. Here's the recipe for now:


Serves 1

1 tablespoon butter
1 shallot, chopped
1/2 cup Arborio rice
1/4 cup white wine or dry vermouth
2 cups chicken, seafood, or vegetable stock (especially Better Than Bouillon), heated
4 gorgeous jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 tablespoons your favorite jarred pesto, or homemade (if you're an overachiever)
1 tablespoon sour cream
1 pinch salt and pepper, to taste

In a medium braiser or any high-sided pan, melt the butter and saute the shallot for a couple minutes, or until translucent. Stir in the rice, coating each grain until oil-slicked. Splash in the wine and reduce, stirring constantly.

Once the alcohol has evaporated, lower the heat and slowly ladle in the hot stock (one or two ladlefuls at a time), stirring until fully absorbed by the rice between each addition. Keep stirring until the rice is perfectly al dente (to the tooth), about 16 to 18 minutes.

When cooked to your liking (I like mine with a slight bite in the middle), stir in the shrimp and cover for 5 minutes so the rice and shrimp can finish cooking together in the residual heat.

After 5 minutes, stir in the pesto and sour cream, which should loosen it up a bit, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Cassandra B. October 2, 2018
The link is still broken...
Eric K. October 2, 2018
Cassandra B. October 3, 2018
Yay! Thank you!
aclezotte October 1, 2018
It looks like the link to the article is broken now.
Eric K. October 2, 2018
Yoon J. October 1, 2018
the link to the recipe is not working!
Eric K. October 2, 2018
Lee September 23, 2018
I do cook risotto just for myself because my husband likes rice one way, and risotto is rice made incorrectly.
Eric K. December 28, 2018
Ha! Love that: "risotto is rice made incorrectly."
Alex September 23, 2018
Made this this weekend. Definitely a keeper!!!

Is there a way I can post a picture?
Eric K. December 28, 2018
So glad to hear, Alex. We don't have a photo upload feature in the comments section, but I'd love to see. Feel free to share on Instagram and tag me? @ericjoonho
Winness September 21, 2018
At last! A recipe without leftovers. I am always scaling down recipes to suit my (and only my) needs but usually end up with leftovers that aren't nearly as good as freshly made. This is a great recipe and I hope you will share more with us.
Eric K. October 2, 2018
Kelly September 21, 2018
I have my lovely meals I make just for me, but when I'm really stressed, nothing beats Kraft (dinner for my CD friends) Mac-n-Cheese with fresh Parm from the pan in bed, in front of the tv, standing at the counter.
Eric K. September 21, 2018
Neat tip; I’ve never thought to put fresh parm in my Easy Mac. But yes, for-one food must always be had in front of the television.
Gina September 21, 2018
Loved reading this!
Eric K. September 21, 2018
Deb S. September 21, 2018
1st step is to switch on the extractor fan to top speed, I manage to slip into the zone when children, pets, neighbours, husband etc are eased out by the "white noise". Don't mind at all cooking for 4 " - in the zone longer!
Eric K. September 21, 2018
The zone is a clean and lovely place.
KD September 16, 2018
I bake cookies just for me. I hate store bought cookies, so when I want them I make them, it’s my calming ritual.
Eric K. September 16, 2018
I love that, KD. Baking relaxes me, too.
EagleWatch September 16, 2018
Eric, personally I don’t feel there is a love greater than the love from our pets (dogs for me). Spell dog backwards..... they are a gift for us.....Then the next best thing is your risotto for one! Just my humble opinion.
Eric K. September 18, 2018
Agreed. Dogs, then risotto.
EagleWatch September 16, 2018
I cook in the kitchen and the dogs watch me the whole time. They start to salivate with the smells. When I am plating they are already into the bedroom as they know the will get their individual little portions separate from mine. I lounge in my bed eating relaxed and slowly. It just doesn’t get any better. So glad to hear there are others out there doing the same. It is just heavenly.
Eric K. September 16, 2018
Aw, I love this story. My pup is with me in the kitchen when I'm cooking, too. But not 'cause she wants the food; she just wants to be with me.
Cathy C. September 15, 2018
My fav meal for one is to sauté chopped mushrooms, in butter and olive oil, add lots of chopped garlic, kale, and halved multi coloured cherry tomatoes. After a few minutes, add dried Chili flakes, leftover cooked bacon or crispy pancetta, s&p. If it’s the weekend, for brunch, add two beaten eggs and a handful of grated cheese. This must always be eaten in bed!
Eric K. September 15, 2018
Love it. Sounds very fall.
EagleWatch September 16, 2018
Cathy thanks for the idea. Will make soon.
AbbeyA September 14, 2018
Well now I know what I'm making for dinner tonight. I thought I was the only one who loved making risotto for myself. It's such a calming way to end the work week.
Eric K. September 15, 2018
You see me.