As a line cook, I spent most of my time making dinner for other people, some time thinking about cooking for myself, and no time ever actually preparing dinner at home. When I stopped cooking in restaurants, this equation changed, slightly. While I now give myself time to make dinner at home, most nights I'm not that interested in spending more than thirty minutes in my kitchen. (I guess Rachael Ray had it right all along.)
For me, weeknight dinners should be enjoyable to eat, but always easy to make. Though the possibility of the occasional weeknight kitchen catastrophe will never quite disappear, I can confidently report that the 11 recipes below will make easy, delicious meals after even the worst of weekdays.
Our favorite easy weeknight meals
1. Pesto Risotto for One with Shrimp
This risotto requires you to stand and stir for 18 minutes, and — according to the recipe developer — that pretty much counts as meditation. If mindfulness always produced a pesto and shrimp risotto, I'd practice it a lot more.
"A roast chicken! In 30 minutes!" This sounds like a scam, but it doesn't taste or smell like one. A roast chicken is my perfect weeknight meal: It's my immediate dinner, tomorrow's lunch, and likely tomorrow's dinner as well. Roasting a chicken is meal prepping, the relaxed way.
3. Overstuffed Chicken and Broccoli Quesadillas
Re: roast chicken being the gift that keeps on giving. This is the perfect recipe to turn your leftovers into something equally delicious, but completely different. If you don't have roast chicken in your fridge, I implore you to try one of my signature moves: Pick up a rotisserie bird from the grocery store and claim to have made it from scratch.
4. Chickpea, Spinach, and Chorizo Frittata
Go ahead, call the meal police — I am having breakfast for dinner forever. This will remain especially true if "breakfast" is a frittata where chorizo, chickpeas, and spinach get to mingle.
5. Spicy Garlic Noodles with Crumbled Tofu and Cucumber Salad
I like this recipe because noodles are comfy, easy, and likely already in your pantry. Also, the contrast between the warm, garlic-heavy noodles and cold, bright cucumber salad makes each bite balanced and exciting. We like that.
6. Noodles with Tuna and Peas ("Tuna Pea Wiggle")
According to the recipe developer, this dish was originally designed to be made with minimal equipment on a sailboat in the middle of the ocean. After a few grueling weekdays, my kitchen often shares similar utility. Make this dish when you think all is lost.
7. Weeknight Salmon with Baby New Potatoes and Fresh Dill by Joanna Gaines
Using just one sheet pan, make yourself perfectly tender potatoes and salmon. Top with dill and lemon for acid and freshness.
8. Chickpea Vegetable Bowl with Peanut Dressing
This bright, crunchy chickpea veggie bowl serves four and costs between $7 and $10 to make. It's perfect on its own or as a base for fish, chicken, or tofu.
Like a hug from a loved one, no one outgrows the comfort of chicken parm. This particular recipe comes together quickly (just 25 minutes), but doesn't sacrifice any of the flavor you'd expect from homemade chicken parm.
10. One-Pot Kale and Quinoa Pilaf
I love this one-pot, veggie-forward pilaf because I can easily make a ton of it and then eat it for days on end without ever getting bored.
11. Chopped Kitchen Sink Salad with Yogurt Dressing and Bottarga
This recipe works as a template to transform any vegetables you have in your refrigerator into a bright and crisp salad. Top with bottarga — or even parmesan — to add a bit of umami.