We can never have enough simple recipes for dinner!

By Carl Hanson

Try these 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.
Pasta Fazool
Photo by Chef John

Quick-and-Easy Pasta Recipes:

2. Stir-Fry on the Fly

When time is tight, stir-frying is a great way to make simple healthy dinners. 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.
Szechwan Shrimp
Photo by Allrecipes Magazine

Quick-and-Easy 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.
Quick and Easy Black Bean Soup
Photo by William M Garrison

Simple Souped-Up Recipes:

4. Sandwiches

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.
Bacon Jack Chicken Sandwich
Photo by Christina

Quick-and-Easy 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.
Simple Pesto Pasta
Photo by Meredith

Quick-and-Easy Pesto Recipes: