Courtesy of Katie Truman, Happy Money Saver

Simple Weeknight Dinners: The Ultimate Recipe Guide

The best easy meals ever
Courtesy of Katie Truman, Happy Money Saver

Looking for a dinner recipe? How about 50? These delicious meals are homemade food at its finest. From a classic pan of lasagna and spaghetti carbonara to Asian-inspired lettuce wraps and easy enchiladas, we've compiled the ultimate recipe guide for simple weeknight dinners that are perfect to cozy up at home with.

Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce

Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce
instamatics/E+ via Getty Images

Sometimes, the best Italian food is simple Italian food and is there anything more simple than spaghetti tossed in tomato sauce? And when you take the time to make your own homemade marinara, it’s a different experience altogether. The key is using ripe tomatoes, high-quality extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil leaves and fresh cloves of garlic. It’s a solid weeknight meal you'll want to make over and over again.

For the Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce recipe, click here.

Taco Casserole

Taco Casserole
Photo courtesy of McCormick

Tacos are delightful in their original format, but it’s easy to mix it up for a family. This Mexican dinner recipe takes less than 20 minutes to prepare and has all the taco flavors in a casserole. Top with whatever you like, but definitely don’t skip the crunchy tortillas.

For the Taco Casserole recipe, click here.

Instant Pot Vegetarian Chili

Instant Pot Vegetarian Chili
Photo courtesy of McCormick

An Instant Pot is great for making comforting meals when you’re short on time. This vegetarian chili has sweet potatoes, which typically take much longer to cook but are fork tender in less than 10 minutes when cooked on high pressure.

For the Instant Pot Vegetarian Chili recipe, click here.

Mac and Cheese

Mac and Cheese
Photo courtesy of Karrie Truman, Happy Money Saver

This tried-and-true recipe for the “creamiest, cheesiest” mac and cheese will not dry out as you’re getting ready to eat. The trick is a combination of sharp cheddar and colby jack, a generous pour of heavy cream and chicken broth in the sauce. You can also add some of these unexpected ingredients that go great with mac and cheese to take it to the next level.

For the Mac and Cheese recipe, click here.

Classic Grilled Cheese

Classic Grilled Cheese
photominer/Shutterstock

A classic grilled cheese sandwich is one of the easiest things to make, and it’s delicious no matter what meal you make it for. With thick white bread, American cheese and a combination of butter and mayo for the ultimate golden crunchy exterior, you’ve got everything you need for a divine sandwich or two (or three). And the best part? You can make 20 different versions with these mouthwatering spins.

For the Classic Grilled Cheese recipe, click here.

Tomato Basil Soup

Tomato Basil Soup
Photo courtesy of Karrie Truman, Happy Money Saver

Pair this silky tomato basil soup with a grilled cheese sandwich for a comforting weeknight or even weekend dinner. The savory flavors of roasted garlic and fresh basil and a sprinkle of salty Parmesan cheese make this made-from-scratch soup rich and deeply satisfying. To make this recipe vegan-friendly, simply substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth, and when it’s time to add the cream, either omit it completely or add a splash of coconut milk.

For the Tomato Basil Soup recipe, click here.

Baked Cauliflower Gnocchi

Baked Cauliflower Gnocchi
Photo courtesy of Katie Kelly, Bits and Bites

Cauliflower gnocchi is one of the Trader Joe’s products that customers love the most. Super simple to make, just saute them from frozen with a generous drizzle of olive oil and pair with your favorite marinara sauce. But in this baked version, you roast the frozen gnocchi before layering the sauce and cheese and baking it all again until it’s bubbly and delicious.

For the Trader Joe’s Cauliflower Gnocchi Bake recipe, click here.

Sesame Peanut Noodle Bowl

Sesame Peanut Noodle Bowl
Photo courtesy of McCormick

This noodle bowl can be made in just 20 minutes, which is way quicker than waiting for your Thai takeout order to arrive at your door. The peanut sauce relies on soy sauce, rice vinegar and sesame oil for those unbeatable Asian flavors.

For the Sesame Peanut Noodle Bowl recipe, click here.

 

Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken Pot Pie
Photo courtesy of Karrie Truman, Happy Money Saver

You might think chicken pot pie is complicated to make at home, but even if you don’t have a store-bought crust or puff pastry on hand, it’s surprisingly easy. This hearty classic is bursting with chicken, potatoes, peas, carrots and onions tossed in a creamy filling. You can also save some time during prep by using rotisserie chicken and mixing the shredded pieces right into the gravy.

For the Chicken Pot Pie recipe, click here.

Smothered Pork Chops

Smothered Pork Chops
Photo courtesy of Sabrina Snyder, Dinner Then Dessert

These smothered pork chops are fall-off-the-bone tender, braised and served alongside a flavor-packed caramelized onion gravy with garlic and thyme. This recipe recommends using bone-in pork chops, which will be moist and juicy, as opposed to cutlets, which tend to dry out.

For the Smothered Pork Chops recipe, click here.

Air-Fryer Chicken Wings

 Air-Fryer Chicken Wings
LauriPatterson/E+ via Getty Images

Even without sports, you can still make these game day staples at home. A trendy air fryer makes chicken wings that are crispy and tender without all that frying grease. This recipe requires only a few basic ingredients: chicken wings, salt and pepper, garlic powder, olive oil and your favorite wing sauce.

For the Air-Fryer Chicken Wings recipe, click here.

Chicken Parmesan

Chicken Parmesan
Photo courtesy of Emily Paster, West of the Loop

Chicken Parmesan, or chicken Parmigiana, is a quintessential Italian dish. This slightly lighter take on the classic is made with a chunky, homemade marinara sauce, pan-fried breaded chicken cutlets and thick slices of mozzarella cheese. The ingredients are layered and baked until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

For the Chicken Parmesan recipe, click here.

Mushroom Brie Grilled Cheese

Mushroom Brie Grilled Cheese
Photo courtesy of Katie, Bits and Bites

This grilled cheese sandwich with balsamic vinegar, mushrooms, caramelized onions and brie puts an elegant spin on the regular for a sophisticated and easy dinner. It’s slightly tart from the balsamic vinegar, a little sweet from the caramelized onions, and creamy from the oozing brie cheese. Pair it with soup or salad for a complete meal.

For the Balsamic, Mushroom and Onion Grilled Brie Cheese Sandwich recipe, click here.

BBQ Chicken Flatbread

BBQ Chicken Flatbread
Photo courtesy of Emily Paster, West of the Loop

Homemade pizza dough can be time-consuming for a weekday dinner, but you can prepare the dough during the day if you’re home and it’ll be ready to top and bake in the evening. For this flavor-packed BBQ chicken flatbread recipe, toss cooked and shredded chicken in your favorite barbecue sauce, saute some onions and peppers, spread the sauce on a rectangular rolled-out dough and start topping.

For the BBQ Chicken Flatbread recipe, click here.

Mini Naan Pizzas

Mini Naan Pizzas
Photo courtesy of Karrie Truman, Happy Money Saver

You can find good-quality fresh or frozen naan at most major supermarkets that bake up beautifully as a doughy, crispy pizza crust. And to make it even easier, use any jarred tomato sauce and your favorite toppings. You can try a classic Margherita with tomatoes, mozzarella, basil leaves and a drizzle of olive oil, or a pesto pizza with basil pesto, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. These take no more than 15 minutes to make and the options are endless.

For the Mini Naan Pizzas recipe, click here.

Apple, Fennel and Cheddar Quiche

Apple, Fennel and Cheddar Quiche
Photo courtesy of Emily Paster, West of the Loop

Apple and cheddar are a natural pair, and fennel plays well with both. This particular quiche will remind you of cozy fall flavors and is wonderful for dinner with a side of greens.

For the Apple, Fennel and Cheddar Quiche recipe, click here.

Air-Fryer Chicken Parmesan

Air-Fryer Chicken Parmesan
Photo courtesy of Katie, Bits and Bites

Yes, you can make chicken Parmesan in an air fryer, too. This recipe is a game-changer and makes flawless crispy breaded chicken without all the oil. Set up a breading station, pour your sauce, shred some cheese and have dinner on the table in under 40 minutes.

For the Air-Fryer Chicken Parmesan recipe, click here.

Tuscan Chicken and Vegetables

Tuscan Chicken and Vegetables
Photo courtesy of McCormick

This skillet meal is inspired by the warm and sunny flavors of the Mediterranean. With oregano, sun-dried tomato, lemon and more earthy seasonings, this chicken, cannellini beans, tomatoes and spinach dinner takes less than half an hour to make.

For the Tuscan Chicken and Vegetables recipe, click here.

Buffalo Roasted Cauliflower Bowls

Buffalo Roasted Cauliflower Bowls
Photo courtesy of Katie, Bits and Bites

If you’re trying to eat more plant-based meals, these buffalo roasted cauliflower bowls are a brilliant way to eat vegetables. Take a store-bought buffalo sauce and douse it over cauliflower florets before baking them. While those cook, cut up some vegetables of your choice, mixed greens and any other salad mix-ins to build your fast and fresh bowls.

For the Buffalo Roasted Cauliflower Bowls recipe, click here.

Penne with Black Olives, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Feta and Spinach

Penne with Black Olives, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Feta and Spinach
Photo courtesy of Emily Paster, West of the Loop

This Greek-inspired pasta is a fantastic choice for a summer weeknight. Savory with black olives and sun-dried tomatoes, creamy from the feta cheese and crunchy and green from the spinach, it hits all the right notes. The pasta salad is also a great way to use up pantry staples.

For the Penne with Black Olives, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Feta and Spinach recipe, click here.

Instant Pot Beef Chili

Instant Pot Beef Chili
Joshua Resnick/Shutterstock

A piping-hot pot of chili — no matter what the regional style — is a great remedy for a tiring day. This instant pot beef chili is super simple to make, and you can add or subtract any ingredients to your liking, including increasing or lowering the spice level. It makes a large serving size, so you can enjoy leftovers.

For the Instant Pot Beef Chili recipe, click here.

Easy Chicken Enchiladas

Easy Chicken Enchiladas
Photo courtesy of Katie, Bits and Bites

Enchiladas are a Tex-Mex classic and aren’t too much of a fuss to make at home. With a few grocery store shortcuts like enchilada sauce, you can have a weeknight dinner on the table in a little over 30 minutes. This recipe can also be made vegetarian using sweet potatoes and black beans instead of chicken.

For the Easy Chicken Enchiladas recipe, click here.

 

Easy Pesto

Easy Pesto
Photo courtesy of Emily Paster, West of the Loop

All you need to make a jar of pesto is good-quality ingredients and a food processor or blender. This green garlic and basil pesto has toasted pine nuts and uses green garlic, which is similar to green onions. Once made, pesto can be stored in the freezer for later, used in pastas, as a sandwich spread, in soups and even on pizzas.

For the Homemade Basil Pesto recipe, click here.

Easy Chickpea and Potato Curry

Easy Chickpea and Potato Curry
© Bartosz Luczak | Dreamstime.com

This Indian-inspired chickpea curry, which is known as “chole,” is a spicy, flavorful and filling meal all by itself, but with fluffy rice, it’s even better. The traditional flavors of garam masala, cumin and curry powder are a welcome twist to the weeknight dinner rotation.

For the Easy Chickpea and Potato Curry recipe, click here.

Simple Spaghetti Carbonara

Simple Spaghetti Carbonara
Jacqui Wedewer/The Daily Meal

The best part about this Italian dish is that you probably already have everything on hand. It requires only six ingredients, including eggs and Parmesan cheese, which coat the spaghetti in a luxurious and simple sauce.

For the Simple Spaghetti Carbonara recipe, click here.

 

Pulled Pork Sliders

Pulled Pork Sliders
Photo courtesy of Karrie Truman, Happy Money Saver

This recipe calls for an unusual ingredient — a can of Dr. Pepper soda — one of many unusual meat marinades. You could also use root beer, and both work extremely well to make the pork juicy and flavorful. The end result is pork covered in BBQ sauce and served on a slider bun.

For the Pulled Pork Sliders recipe, click here.

 

Creamy Potato Gratin

Creamy Potato Gratin
Photo courtesy of McCormick

Potato gratin is no longer just a Thanksgiving side dish — it’s worthy of being the main course with this recipe. Rich layers of well-seasoned potatoes, cream cheese, thyme and garlic are doused with heavy cream and topped with crunchy Parmesan bread crumbs.

For the Creamy Potato Gratin recipe, click here.

Cacio e Pepe

Cacio e Pepe
Jacqui Wedewer/The Daily Meal

“Cacio e pepe” means "cheese and pepper" in Italian, and as the name suggests, this pasta dish is pretty simple. With black pepper, grated Pecorino Romano cheese (or Parmesan), butter and spaghetti, this one is all about showcasing good-quality ingredients. And the one restaurant trick you need to know to make this perfectly each time involves the reserved pasta water, so make sure not to drain the spaghetti once it's cooked.

For the Cacio e Pepe recipe, click here.

Easy Lasagna

Easy Lasagna
Photo courtesy of Karrie Truman, Happy Money Saver

A toasty pan of lasagna fresh from the oven is bound to cure any weekday slump, and it’s arguably the best comfort food there is. After you cook the ground beef, all that’s left is layering the al-dente lasagna sheets, pasta sauce, meat and cheeses and baking it until it's bubbly all over.

For the Easy Lasagna recipe, click here.

 

Spinach and Sausage Lasagna

Spinach and Sausage Lasagna
Jacqui Wedewer/The Daily Meal

If you want a little more meat and veggie action in your lasagna, try this version with spinach and sausage. It’s the ultimate Sunday night dinner dish and it’s healthy-ish, too.

For the Spinach and Sausage Lasagna recipe, click here.

Kid-Friendly Sloppy Joes

Kid-Friendly Sloppy Joes
Photo courtesy of Karrie Truman, Happy Money Saver

This is a quick, thrifty and kid-friendly meal and will likely take you back to your own childhood. A rich meat sauce and buttery hamburger buns are the only components of sloppy Joes, and the meat sauce itself comes together in no time using both pantry ingredients and fresh bell peppers.

For the Kid-Friendly Sloppy Joes recipe, click here.

 

Mediterranean Stuffed Tomatoes

Mediterranean Stuffed Tomatoes
Jacqui Wedewer/The Daily Meal

This vegetarian stuffed tomatoes recipe is a pretty fool-proof homemade dish and can be filled with just about any combination of ingredients — rice, beans, meat or even couscous.

For the Mediterranean Stuffed Tomatoes recipe, click here.

Asian Steak Lettuce Wraps

Asian Steak Lettuce Wraps
Photo Courtesy of Emily Paster, West of the Loop

For a refreshing bite that brings textures and flavors, try these Asian steak wraps with crunchy lettuce wrapped around tender steak and silky rice noodles. The quick-cooking skirt steak makes this a fabulous choice for weeknight dinners.

For the Asian Steak Lettuce Wraps recipe, click here.

Oven-Baked Homemade French Fries

Oven-Baked Homemade French Fries
Photo courtesy of Karrie Truman, Happy Money Saver

There may be plenty of things you didn't know about french fries, but how to make them doesn't need to be one. Fancy and homemade oven-baked french fries are a perfect side dish for anything, but you can totally eat a plate of these and call it dinner. After seasoning the potato strips with salt, pepper, garlic powder and basil, drizzle with olive oil and scatter small pieces of butter all over the pan. Once they’re baked, top them with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

For the Oven-Baked Homemade French Fries recipe, click here.

 

Noodles & Company's Zoodles and Asparagus with Lemon Cream Sauce

Noodles & Company's Zoodles and Asparagus with Lemon Cream Sauce
Jacqui Wedewer/The Daily Meal

If you have some spare lemons, use them in this vegetarian recipe from Noodles & Company that is loaded with fresh veggies and topped with a silky lemon cream sauce. You can use pre-made zoodles (which are zucchini noodles) or make your own for a creative plate of plant-based goodness.

For the Noodles & Company's Zoodles and Asparagus with Lemon Cream Sauce recipe, click here.

Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Pork Tacos

Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Pork Tacos
Photo courtesy of Katie, Bits and Bites

Pulled pork tacos are one of the best recipes you can make in an Instant Pot or a slow cooker. They're great for a weekday meal and the cooked meat makes for excellent leftovers.

For the Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Pork Tacos recipe, click here.

Baked Chicken with Spinach Stuffing

Baked Chicken with Spinach Stuffing
Photo Courtesy of Pillsbury

This recipe won the grand prize at the 2006 Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest, and the old-fashioned chicken dish is still a winner for dinner. There are a few unconventional ingredients that take this homemade meal over the top: a combination of maple-flavored syrup, peach preserves and Worcestershire sauce. And the spinach stuffing reminiscent of Thanksgiving flavors is a fitting side dish.

For the Baked Chicken and Spinach Stuffing recipe, click here.

 

Grilled Caprese Sandwich

Grilled Caprese Sandwich
© Bhofack2 | Dreamstime.com

Caprese is a popular Italian salad made simply with fresh sliced tomato, creamy mozzarella, basil and extra-virgin olive oil. Put those ingredients between two slices of white bread and cook in a pan for a caprese grilled cheese, fantastic for super speedy dinners.

For the Caprese Grilled Cheese recipe, click here.

Easy Pasta Skillet

Easy Pasta Skillet
Photo courtesy of McCormick

Boxes of pasta are definitely the MVPs when it comes to cooking at home. And even more so when you realize how easily you can prepare a hearty, homemade pasta dish right in your own kitchen using the simplest of ingredients. This one-skillet meal helps cut down on dishes because it eliminates the need for draining the pasta water as both the sauce and dried pasta are cooked in the same pot.

For the Easy Pasta Skillet recipe, click here.

 

Broccoli casserole

Broccoli casserole
© Chernetskaya/Dreamstime.com

On days when you want a home-cooked meal but really don’t want to stand over the stove stirring, casseroles are the way to go. This baked broccoli casserole requires a can of mushroom soup, cooked rice (which is hands-off anyway), broccoli and lots of cheddar cheese.

For the Broccoli casserole recipe, click here.

Turnip Greens and Potato Frittata

Turnip Greens and Potato Frittata
Photo Courtesy of Emily Paster, West of the Loop

Frittatas are an ideal dish to make when you have to multitask and can be a tasty dinner using everyday eggs. Though this recipe uses turnip greens and potatoes, you can use any vegetables you like. Simply whip up the perfect scrambled eggs, saute your add-ins and bake your frittata while you make an optional side salad, finish up work or relax.

For the Turnip Greens and Potato Frittata recipe, click here.

Sweet and Spicy Salmon

Sweet and Spicy Salmon
Zareen Syed/Daily Meal

Salmon is a terrific source of healthy omega-3 fats, which are especially important for pregnant women. And even if you’re not expecting, the fatty fish is light, flaky and holds up nicely to strong flavors. This sweet and spicy salmon is covered in a brown sugar, chili powder and ground cumin spice rub and then pan-seared until the fish is perfectly charred. It is delicious on a bed of brown or white rice or with a side of greens.

For the Sweet and Spicy Salmon recipe, click here.

 

Spring Green Salad with Asparagus

Spring Green Salad with Asparagus
Photo courtesy of Seasonal Cravings

This bright salad with delicate greens, blanched asparagus, green peas, radishes, avocado and cubes of creamy feta is springtime in a bowl. The dressing is a simple vinaigrette made with fresh lemon juice, avocado oil, dill, dijon mustard and red wine vinegar.

For the Spring Green Salad with Asparagus recipe, click here.

Lazy Sweet Potato Hash

Lazy Sweet Potato Hash
© Teri Virbickis/Dreamstime.com

A healthy and yummy choice for an effortless lunch, easy brunch or even dinner, this hash is made of bright sweet potatoes, hearty Italian sausage, crispy Brussels sprouts and fried eggs. The pinch of paprika adds just the right punch.

For the Lazy Sweet Potato Hash recipe, click here.

Shrimp Po'boy

Shrimp Po'boy
Photo Courtesy of Claw Daddy's

This traditional Louisiana sandwich could be made using any fried seafood, such as shrimp, crawfish or catfish — so use whatever you have or can find at the grocery store. But you’ll definitely need some French bread and hot sauce.

For the Shrimp Po'boy recipe, click here.

Quinoa salad

Quinoa salad
© Anujavijay/Dreamstime.com

This nutrient-dense quinoa salad is just as good a side dish for the spring as it is a low-calorie, healthy dinner. It is best served chilled, and you can top it off with grilled salmon or lean chicken for extra protein.

For the Quinoa Salad recipe, click here.

Instant Pot Cajun Chicken Sausage and Rice

Instant Pot Cajun Chicken Sausage and Rice
Photo courtesy of Karrie Truman, Happy Money Saver

This recipe is similar to a classic Louisiana jambalaya with Cajun flavors and spicy chicken sausage. A great southern recipe, if you have an Instant Pot or any kind of pressure cooker, you can make Cajun chicken sausage with fluffy jasmine rice in 30 minutes.

For the Instant Pot Cajun Chicken Sausage and Rice recipe, click here.

 

Easy Turkey Meatballs

Easy Turkey Meatballs
© Inga Nielsen | Dreamstime.com

Make an extra batch of these easy turkey meatballs and freeze some for later — they come together so quickly you won’t mind the extra work. You can pair this with spaghetti, eat them on top of soup or just as is with a dipping sauce.

For the Easy Turkey Meatballs recipe, click here.

 

Quinoa Burrito Bowls

Quinoa Burrito Bowls
Photo courtesy of Karrie Truman, Happy Money Saver

These quinoa burrito bowls are filled with heart-healthy quinoa, chicken sausage and taco add-ins, making them a wholesome yet light dinner. It’s a delicious time-saver for when you’re craving tacos but don’t have the bandwidth to top, layer and fold each individual tortilla or shell. And considering this recipe takes only 15 minutes to put together, you’ll want to make it a regular.

For the 15-Minute Quinoa Burrito Bowls recipe, click here.

 

Chicken Noodle Soup

Chicken Noodle Soup
Photo courtesy of Karrie Truman, Happy Money Saver

Tender chicken, fresh vegetables and wholesome noodles make chicken noodle soup an ideal home-cooked meal for any day of the week. The trick is making your own chicken broth and adding fresh thyme and parsley for an earthy flavor, and you should aim to make extra to use in other meals throughout the week. This soup also makes an excellent meal that you can make ahead and freeze for a weeknight.

For the Chicken Noodle Soup recipe, click here.

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