For a quick weeknight dinner, few meals are more efficient or economical than pasta with tomato sauce. But regardless of whether you commit to making your own sauce from scratch or you rely on store-bought jars when in a pinch, everyday marinara can get tired quickly. This week, instead of calling the dish complete with just noodles and tomatoes, dress up the sauce with vegetables, olives, fresh herbs or cheeses — any or all that you happen to have on hand — to turn an ordinary meal into something special. Even if you’re pressed for time, know that it doesn’t take long to simmer the sauce with a few additional ingredients, as, in fact, most mixtures come together in the time it takes to boil and cook the pasta.
Food Network Magazine‘s can-do Bucatini With Olive-Caper Sauce (pictured above) is the ultimate in easy-yet-elegant pasta in that it boasts a bold, flavorful no-cook sauce. After making a salty paste of smashed garlic, capers and red pepper flakes, add Mediterranean ingredients like kalamata olives, fresh tomatoes, creamy mozzarella cheese and fragrant basil, then let the heat of just-cooked pasta gently warm the mixture and soften the tomatoes slightly. Ready to eat in only 25 minutes, this go-to supper elevates the mainstays of marinara — tomatoes and garlic — into a wholly new dish, one that’s simple enough for weeknight cooking but interesting enough to offer guests. When making no-cook pasta, it’s best to reserve a few cups of cooking water before draining the noodles, just in case you need to loosen the sauce with liquid.
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If you’ve ever been to New York City, then you know there is no shortage of delis and markets in the city, at least some version of them studding seemingly every street corner in Manhattan. Along with ready-to-go products like bags of chips, boxes of cereal and bottles of soda, a now-signature sight at many of these stores is a bountiful salad bar, one that’s a far cry from the spreads of tepid romaine and vegetables from the past.
While visiting New York, the Pioneer Woman and her daughter grabbed lunch from one of these salad bars, known for a wide array of crisp greens, fresh produce, quality cheeses, nuts and dressings. After picking out their favorite mix-ins, they watched as the ingredients were quickly tossed, then hand-chopped into a wholesome meal. Ree’s daughter Alex was so inspired by the salad she ordered there that when Ree returned to their Oklahoma ranch, she re-created the experience for her daughter at home.
Video: Watch Ree make the salad
Not merely a starchy side dish playing second string to the meaty entree, the everyday baked potato can be the star of your dinner simply by topping it with a few hearty ingredients. When it comes to stuffing baked potatoes, think of the spuds as blank canvases through which you can showcase your favorite flavors, textures and ingredient combinations inspired by some tried-and-true dishes. They’re plenty filling on their own, but when finished with fresh or roasted vegetables, creamy cheeses, eggs and more, baked potatoes are transformed into all-in-one suppers that are budget-friendly and quick to prepare.
When cooking for your family, particularly if you’re trying to cater to little ones’ picky palates while feeding your own adventurous appetite, it’s best to bake the potatoes first, then let everyone add their preferred toppings. Set up a baked potato bar complete with salsa, sour cream, roasted peppers, herbs, sauces and just about anything else you can imagine, so each person can assemble his or her own meal and get exactly what they like.
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Whether you pack your lunch every day of the week or are looking to form the habit in an effort to salvage your paycheck, it’s best to have on hand a selection of lunch recipes that aren’t just crave-worthy but also filling and easy to pack, to avoid getting stuck in a PB&J rut. So often the star of the brown-bag lunch is a sandwich built with salt-laden deli meats and cheeses on slices of soggy bread, but with these highest-rated recipes for dressed-up sandwiches and salads from some of your favorite Food Network chefs, you can pack a midday meal that’s anything but ordinary. Check out recipes from Ellie, the Sandwich King and the Neelys below, then tell FN Dish in the comments: What’s your favorite dish to pack for lunch?
A five-star recipe that can be made in minutes, Ellie’s Hummus and Grilled Vegetable Wrap (pictured above) combines good-for-you ingredients in an easy-to-eat sandwich that’s light but satisfying. The key to executing this dish quickly is having all of the ingredients ready and simply waiting for assembly. After quickly cooking the zucchini and slicing bell peppers and red onions, start building the wraps by spreading the bread with store-bought hummus and layering the vegetables inside. Add a sprinkle of toasted pine nuts to guarantee a welcome crunchy texture in each wholesome bite.
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While most tacos boast heft and flavor from a filling of ground or grilled meat, it’s indeed possible to stick to an all-vegetable stuffing that offers the same level of sustenance. When eliminating meat from tacos — or any dish at all — it’s important to replace it with similar ingredients that are every bit as hearty and full-flavored so that at the end of the meal, you feel satisfied and content, not craving something else.
In its easy, big-batch recipe for Poblano, Mushroom and Potato Tacos (pictured above), Food Network Magazine cooks up two of the beefiest vegetables available — mushrooms and potatoes — to add to their corn tortilla shells. After sauteing tender Yukon golds until deliciously crispy and golden brown, cook up a cremini mushroom mixture featuring buttery onions and a duo of fresh herbs and garlic. Mild roasted poblano peppers and a splash of Mexican crema add contrasting smoky-cool flavors to the mushroom filling, which is married with zesty lime juice before being served. After stuffing the shells with the potato and mushroom-pepper combination, let your family help themselves to a spread of traditional toppings including cheeses, salsa, guacamole and lettuce so that everyone can finish their tacos with their favorite add-ons.
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In Italian, primavera means spring, and this classic warm-weather dish is surely a favorite this time of year on account of its celebration of all things light and fresh. It takes little more than vibrant seasonal vegetables to make a meal primavera style, but most traditional interpretations pair it with pasta. Check out a few of Food Network’s favorite twists on this simple supper with recipes from Food Network Magazine and the Pioneer Woman below, then tell FN Dish in the comments, what’s your favorite spring dish?
Food Network Magazine showcases a weeknight-friendly take on this must-try pick of Pasta Primavera (pictured above). Putting spring’s bounty of produce to work, this can-do dinner combines bell peppers, carrots and broccoli with tricolor fusilli noodles to create a bright plate ready to enjoy in only 25 quick minutes. The beauty of this recipe is that the vegetables can be cooked in the same boiling water as the noodles. Just add them during the final few minutes of cooking to avoid using an extra pan and ensure an easy cleanup. A buttery sauce of garlic and vegetable broth rounds out this family-friendly supper, best finished with a shower of parmesan cheese and fresh lemon juice.
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Endlessly versatile and suitable to kids’ and grownups’ tastes alike, pizzas are ideal meals for vegetarian eaters, as they can be made the same way with or without meat, and a lack of protein won’t sacrifice flavor or substance. If your weeknight routine has you ordering delivery pies on account of their ease and timesaving beauty, try embracing a fresher alternative that’s every bit as simple and quick to prepare: homemade pizza.
The secret to effortlessly making pizza at home is relying on prepared dough. Although you can make from scratch and then freeze Food Network Magazine‘s Basic Pizza Dough if you have the time, picking up already made dough from the supermarket or local delivery spot is just fine, especially if you crave the signature crust from your neighborhood pizzeria. Keeping ready-to-go dough in the freezer for fuss-free meals will save valuable time in the kitchen on hectic nights.
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Although many shy away from tofu on account of its potentially bland taste and at once soft but firm texture, this soybean-based product is a staple in vegetarian cooking and offers meaty substance in ways that vegetables cannot. It indeed has a somewhat plain flavor on its own, but since it’s rarely eaten like that — without having been transformed by sauces or spices — it deserves a chance to shine in meals for non-meat-eaters and carnivores alike. Just like the everyday chicken breast, tofu too is a blank culinary canvas that can easily adopt the bold, full flavors that come from marinating, grilling and sauteing with any number of your favorite ingredients, including barbecue and soy sauces, garlic and curry. By cooking tofu with tastes you already know and enjoy, you can be sure that you’ll appreciate its taste and place in the dish as well.
In its top-rated recipe for Tofu Parmesan Subs (pictured above), Food Network Magazine swapped in slices of tofu for traditional eggplant or chicken, coating each piece in a cheesy breadcrumb crust and sauteing it until deliciously crispy and golden brown. Layer the tofu between a garlic-tomato sauce and creamy mozzarella cheese on Italian bread and finish each sandwich with baby spinach for a satisfying meal that’s ready to eat in only 35 minutes.
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You may be familiar with frittatas as a weekend brunch pick, but have you ever considered introducing them to your weeknight dinner repertoire? Every bit as hearty and satisfying as a main-dish pasta, salad or soup, frittatas are similar to omelets in that they’re egg-based, but while omelets are almost always made on the stovetop alone, frittatas are sauteed, then transferred to the oven to bake, which is why it’s especially important that you start the cooking process in an oven-proof skillet. Think of frittatas as you would most egg dishes: a blank canvas through which you can showcase any number of flavors or put to work leftover ingredients you happen to have on hand. Check out two of Food Network’s favorite frittata recipes below — one creative with bold Mexican-inspired flavors and the other a traditional Italian standby — both ready to enjoy in less than 30 minutes.
A top-rated recipe made with just a handful of flavors, Marcela’s Mexican Frittata (pictured above) is a 25-minute timesaver that features bright cilantro, fresh scallions and, for added indulgence, a topping of Mexican crema — a smooth dairy similar to sour cream — and Oaxaca cheese. After cooking the beaten eggs on the stove for a few minutes, she transfers the pan to the oven, where the eggs will bake, puff up slightly and become deliciously golden brown. Marcela notes that it’s fine to serve this recipe at room temperature, so no need to worry if you can’t sit down to dinner as soon as the frittata is baked.
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The secret to stress-free weeknight cooking is having a well-stocked refrigerator and pantry that you can rely on to help piece together quick dishes on nights when you hardly have time to meal plan. When you make it to the grocery store on weekends or low-key evenings, fill up on staples you know your family uses frequently, plus a few good-to-have freezer ingredients that will ensure your dinners aren’t just simple to make but also deliciously interesting for the whole family.
Food Network Magazine puts store-bought ravioli and frozen peas to work in its recipe for Ravioli Alfredo With Peas (pictured above), a 20-minute timesaver that’s easy enough to make on a busy Monday night but impressive enough to serve to company as well. After making a richly indulgent sauce of cream and butter, add vibrant peas for a pop of color and then mushroom-filled ravioli — a next-level twist on the everyday ricotta variety — so they pick up the comforting flavors of the Alfredo. A final mix-in of nutty Parmesan cheese will thicken the sauce, while a shower of parsley adds freshness.
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