25 Fuss-Free Dinner Ideas For Busy School Nights

Busy school night dinners are often relegated to frozen foods and the occasional stop at your favorite fast-food joint. But it doesn't have to be that way. There are plenty of easy, kid-friendly dinners that will satisfy your little ones without being a time-suck. These 25 recipes will get dinner on the table fast and might even give you leftovers for lunch the next day.

Creamy Pesto Pasta

Knowing how to make a good alfredo sauce from scratch is a skill every home cook should keep in their back pocket. This pesto-infused version of the cheesy sauce comes together in 30 minutes. Toss in your favorite cooked pasta; this recipe suggests linguine.

For the Creamy Pesto Pasta recipe, click here.

Simple Spaghetti Carbonara

A traditional Roman pasta dish, spaghetti carbonara uses just six pantry staples: pasta, Parmesan cheese, bacon, olive oil, pepper and eggs. The result is a gut-filling and soul-satisfying plate of food. You can call it bacon and egg spaghetti to give it a more kid-friendly sound.

For the Simple Spaghetti Carbonara recipe, click here.

Classic Beef Stroganoff

A childhood dinner that will fill you with nostalgia, beef stroganoff is a decades-old dish especially popular in the '50s. Egg noodles are piled high with beef and a creamy mushroom sauce. Top it off with a healthy dollop of sour cream and chives. 

For the Classic Beef Stroganoff recipe, click here.

Gooey, Creamy Mac and Cheese

What kid doesn't like mac and cheese? It's essentially noodles loaded with layers of melted cheese. Take it one step further by adding steamed milk to a roux, then sprinkle in cheddar, fontina and gouda cheese. If this particular recipe isn't tickling your fancy, don't be afraid to try these twists on mac and cheese.

For the Gooey, Creamy Mac and Cheese recipe, click here.

Sheet Pan Chicken Paprikash

This Hungarian-style sheet pan dinner doesn't sacrifice flavor for convenience. The chicken and potatoes are sprinkled with salt, oregano, garlic powder and plenty of hot paprika and roasted for 20 minutes. Use the browned bits that form while baking to make a creamy sauce right on the baking sheet, meaning there's minimal cleanup. 

For the Sheet Pan Chicken Paprikash recipe, click here.

Grandma’s Sloppy Joes

Sloppy Joes are one of those sandwich recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation. Although it's a simple concept — ground beef mixed with tomato paste, ketchup and mustard and served on a bun — it's comfort food your kids will love. 

For the Grandma's Sloppy Joes recipe, click here.

Mini Naan Pizzas

Personal pizzas are a great way to make dinner fun for the entire family. Use store-bought naan in place of dough to save time. Spread the naan with pizza sauce, then let your kids help out by having them top their pizza with their chosen ingredients, like cheese, pepperoni, veggies or anything else they'd like. It's time to get creative!

For the Mini Naan Pizzas recipe, click here.

Easy Homemade Lasagna

Bring the comfort of grandma's cooking to your weeknight dinners with this lasagna recipe. Keep it traditional or add in other ingredients like Italian sausage or spinach. And if you find yourself pressed for time on weekdays, you can prep this lasagna on Sundays, freeze it and heat it up whenever you need it.

For the Easy Homemade Lasagna recipe, click here.

Easy Chicken Enchiladas

This Tex-Mex style dish is one everyone should keep in their Rolodex. This recipe fills the enchiladas with chicken, but feel free to use shredded beef or slow-cooked pork shoulder

For the Easy Chicken Enchiladas recipes, click here.

Weeknight Pasta Bolognese

This recipe combines the flavors of traditional bolognese but without hours of slow simmering. If you cook a big batch of the sauce and plan to freeze some, leave the cream out. When you reheat the sauce, mix in the cream before serving.

For the Weeknight Pasta Bolognese recipe, click here.

Classic Beef Meatloaf

Meatloaf can be hit or miss with kids, but the dish is a crowd favorite when it's done correctly. This recipe doesn't have any bells and whistles but there's a reason the classics are classics — they're great as is. If you do want to get creative, check out more of our best meatloaf recipes

For the Classic Beef Meatloaf recipe, click here.

Black Bean Quinoa Veggie Burger

Black beans are key to a heart-healthy diet. Mash the legume, mix it with quinoa, onion, bell pepper and garlic, and shape the mixture into patties. Cook them in a skillet and top with kicked-up mayo, onion, tomato and lettuce.

For the Black Bean Quinoa Veggie Burger recipe, click here.

Sheet Pan Fish and Chips

Bring your favorite seafood shack to you by making fish and chips for dinner. Skip the laborious process of frying the cod and bake the fish and potatoes together to make it a sheet pan meal.

For the Sheet Pan Fish and Chips recipe, click here.

Rice Vermicelli With Vegetables

Rice vermicelli, or rice noodles, are thin noodles made from rice flour and water. In this recipe, rice vermicelli is cooked in a wok with a blend of veggies, soy sauce, hoisin sauce and sesame oil. Add a boost of protein and keep the dish plant-based by adding tofu or tempeh.

For the Rice Vermicelli With Vegetables recipe, click here.

Lemon Turkey Cutlets

Lemon zest is the perfect way to brighten up these breaded turkey cutlets. Serve the crispy protein with a no-cook side to keep the time-to-table low. 

For the Lemon Turkey Cutlets recipe, click here.

Citrus Teriyaki Salmon

Salmon is perfect for busy school nights because it doesn't take long to cook. Here, it's marinated in a glaze made with soy sauce, orange juice, rice vinegar, honey, ginger and garlic. It's a fish recipe that will satisfy pescatarians and meat lovers alike

For the Citrus Teriyaki Salmon recipe, click here.

Pizza Grilled Cheese

Parents often try to get creative for dinner without sacrificing convenience, and this recipe does just that. Take your grilled cheese to the next level by piling pepperoni, cheese and pizza sauce between two slices of bread and cooking the sandwich on a skillet until the cheese melts. 

For the Pizza Grilled Cheese recipe, click here.

Chicken Fingers

If your kids have been begging you for McDonald's, give them something even better. These homemade chicken fingers put the frozen stuff to shame, and they're still super easy to make. Serve them with a side of french fries

For the Chicken Fingers recipe, click here.

Sourdough Whole Wheat Pancakes

Having breakfast for dinner was always a treat while growing up. Give your kids the gift of "brinner" by making these pancakes as a weeknight meal. Turn it into a buffet-style event by whipping up some scrambled eggs and bacon

For the Sourdough Whole Wheat Pancakes recipe, click here.

Chicken Pot Pie

Sometimes, after a rough day at school, all your kids need is some comfort food. Loaded with the flavors of traditional Irish cooking, this chicken pot pie will do the trick. This pot pie is a culmination of peas, carrots, moist chicken breast and gravy, all baked into a golden puff pastry. 

For the Chicken Pot Pie recipe, click here.

Slow Cooker Chili

The easiest dinner you can make is one you start before you leave the house for the day. Oh yeah, we're talking about one of the all-time best slow cooker meals: chili. By the time your kids get home from school and scouts, they'll have a hearty bowl of chili waiting for them.

For the Slow Cooker Chili recipe, click here.

Spaghetti Casserole

This budget-friendly spaghetti casserole is easy to pull together, thanks to canned cream of mushroom soup and canned tomato soup. The ingredients give the dish a rich texture that's complemented by pasta and fresh vegetables. 

For the Spaghetti Casserole recipe, click here.

Spanish Chicken and Rice Casserole

This Spanish-inspired take on chicken and rice is one of our favorite casserole recipes and comes together in less than an hour. The dish serves six people so you're almost guaranteed to have leftovers to have for lunch the following day. 

For the Spanish Chicken and Rice Casserole recipe, click here.

Weeknight Loaded Potato Soup

Few foods are as comforting as loaded baked potatoes. Here, the timeless side dish is turned into an entree. Potatoes, cream and milk are added to a pot with seasonings, cream and vegetables. Once the mixture is done slow simmering, turn it into a soup with an immersion blender. Serve with bacon bits, scallions and shredded cheese. 

For the Weeknight Loaded Potato Soup recipe, click here.

Sheet Pan Tuna Melt

If you're in a pinch, tuna is there to get you out of it. The canned fish is great on sandwiches, melts, salads and more. Here, it's topped with cheese, spread over a tomato and added to an English muffin before being broiled for a few minutes. Serve the open-faced sandwich with some chips as an easy dinner for busy weeknights.

For the Sheet Pan Tuna Melt recipe, click here.

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