Try these simple ideas for quick, fuss-free dinners. With these easy tricks, you can create satisfying weeknight meals in a flash often using ingredients you have on hand.
1. Pasta Pronto
Pasta is about as close as you can get to "instant dinner." But instead of just adding a jar of sauce to the pasta, add in extras from the pantry and freezer for a quick, delicious dinner:
- Use tomato sauce, cream, and stock as a base for pasta with frozen vegetables and leftover chicken.
- Use a can of tuna, chicken stock, and cannellini beans for Pasta e Fagioli, or make a Southwest-style pasta with black beans, chiles, and diced tomatoes.
- Sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, and any fresh or frozen vegetables can be sauteed together and tossed with pasta.
Quick-and-Easy Pasta Recipes:
- Pasta Fazool (Pasta e Fagioli)
- Creamy Tomato Tuna Penne Pasta
- Quick and Easy Chicken and Tomato Pasta
- Tasty Tuna Pasta
- More Quick Pasta Dishes
2. Stir-Fry on the Fly
Thinly sliced meat, some fresh vegetables, ginger, garlic, and rice are all you need to get a great stir fry for dinner. In the time it takes to cook the rice, everything else can be prepared and ready to go.
- Slice and chop the vegetables and any meat.
- Mince or grate garlic, ginger, and scallions together, then add to the stir fry just before it is done.
- Scrambled eggs, peanuts, or cashews can also vary the texture and flavor if added.
- Keep soy sauce and sesame oil in the pantry for great stir fry flavor.
Quick-and-Easy Stir-Fry Recipes:
- Szechwan Shrimp
- Stir Fried Sesame Vegetables with Rice
- Stir-Fried Shrimp with Snow Peas and Ginger
- Stir-Fry Pork with Ginger
- More Stir-Fry Recipes
3. Soup's Up
You don't need to resort to canned soups for a quick meal. Homemade soup is the original one-pot dinner. Make them as thick or thin as you like, with almost any ingredients.
- Saute the aromatics (onions, carrots, celery, leeks, bell peppers, etc) in oil or butter.
- Add any meats or longer-cooking ingredients and saute.
- Use stock, milk, cream, or any liquid you choose to turn the soup into a meal.
- Adjust seasonings to taste and serve.
Simple Souped-Up Recipes:
- Quick and Easy Black Bean Soup
- Tortilla Soup I
- Aaahh! Potato Soup
- Quick and Easy Chicken Noodle Soup
To go along with soup, what could be better than a sandwich? Change up those regular cold cuts by grilling the sandwich. If you have a panini press, by all means use that, otherwise, use a pan on the stovetop.
- Select meats, cheeses, bread, and vegetables for the sandwich.
- Butter the outside faces of the bread, or spray with oil.
- Heat a skillet on medium-low heat. A cast-iron pan is perfect for this, as it retains heat well and can toast the bread perfectly.
- Cook on the first side for five minutes, or until the cheese starts to melt. Make sure the burner is low enough the bread doesn't burn.
- Flip, and grill for three to four minutes more.
Quick-and-Easy Sandwich Recipes:
- Bacon Jack Chicken Sandwich
- Grilled Cheese and Veggie Sandwich
- Chicken Pesto Paninis
- Grilled Roasted Red Pepper and Ham Sandwich
- More Sandwich Recipes
5. Pesto Presto
Store-bought or homemade, pesto makes weeknight dinners a breeze. Add basil, sun-dried tomatoes, or olive pesto to pasta, fish, chicken, or pizza dough for an easy meal.
- Heat up the pesto, mix with cream, and toss with your favorite pasta and a small amount of the pasta water (1/4 cup or less is fine).
- Broil lightly marinated chicken breasts or fish, then coat with pesto just before they are finished.
- Make your own pizza dough, or use a pre-made pizza crust, and use pesto instead of regular pizza sauce. Chicken, cooked shrimp, goat cheese, or vegetables all make great toppings.
Quick-and-Easy Pesto Recipes:
- VIDEO: Pesto Chicken Florentine
- Simple Pesto Pasta
- Easy Fusili with Tomato Pesto Sauce
- Chicken Pesto Pizza
- More Quick and Easy recipes
- 9 Make-Ahead Pesto Dinners Ready in 30 Minutes or Less
- The 10 Easiest One-Pot Pasta Dinners You’ll Ever Make
- 10 Quick Dinners That Use Ingredients You Probably Have on Hand
- 12 Easy 5-Ingredient Recipes for Quick Summer Dinners
- Bagged Broccoli Slaw Makes Quick Dinners Instantly Healthy