Easy Comfort Food Dinners to Put the Wow in Weeknights
Did someone say ravioli lasagna? Smart short-cut ingredients and recipes solve the dinnertime dilemma.
Easy Ravioli Lasagna. Article, recipes, and photographs by Ashley Strickland Freeman
Not enough time to fix dinner? Had a tough day at work? Someone in your family under the weather? A bowl or plate full of comfort food is just what’s in order — but there’s no need to spend hours in the kitchen.
Just last month I broke my collarbone and had to have surgery. Recovery was rough — all I wanted to do was sit on the sofa and eat warm and cozy meals. Thankfully my family members were able to take over cooking duties when I couldn’t be in the kitchen, but I know that not everyone is an experienced cook.
While I hung out on the couch, I got re-inspired to flex my “mom hacks” — short-cuts to reduce the time it takes to create yummy meals, no matter a person’s cooking skill level.
What’s my secret for how to make easy comfort food? A few key products from the grocery store. Rotisserie chicken, prepared mashed potatoes, canned goods, and a trip down the frozen foods aisle are key in cutting down prep and cook time.
My accident inspired four easy comfort food recipes to satisfy your craving no matter what your dinnertime dilemma may be.
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Frozen ravioli to the rescue
First up is my ooey-gooey, cheesy layered Italian pasta dish that uses frozen ravioli to cut down on prep time. Because our family is trying to eat less meat, my recipe is vegetarian, adding thawed frozen spinach mixed in with the ricotta and Parmesan filling for additional color and nutrients.
Pasta recipes are always a huge hit at our house, and adding in spinach is a good way for my son to get more “green stuff” and to broaden his horizons. If your kiddo is still wary of veggies, though, feel free to take out the spinach. You can also stir in browned sausage or ground beef to the marinara sauce to make your version meaty.
I’ve found that my son loves helping in the kitchen and is more likely to eat what he’s helped make. This is a great recipe for that!
What I also love about this dish is the freezer-to-casserole method. While I’m a big fan of traditional lasagna, so many times when I cook lasagna noodles before layering them they either stick together or break apart. With this recipe there’s no precooking required for the frozen ravioli. Just gather your ingredients and start assembling.
Rotisserie chicken for the win
On hectic nights, rotisserie chicken is a real time-saver. Sure, I can swing by the grocery store on the way home and grab a hot roasted chicken, slice it up, and serve it with a salad and some rice. While I’ve certainly done that more times than I can count, I like to change things up every now and again to create a dinner that’s more exciting.
Enter my white bean chicken chili, an easy one-pot meal that everyone can customize with loads of toppings. In addition to the rotisserie chicken, I add canned beans and jarred salsa verde. I drain the beans but don’t rinse them, and I also use a potato masher to smash the beans slightly — both thicken the soup a smidge.
Because I am using packaged convenience items, I like to add some fresh cilantro, avocado, and sliced jalapeño to the mix for freshness, color, and a hint of spice.
The best news is this easy recipe comes together in less than 30 minutes — a true winner-winner chicken dinner in my book!
Frozen biscuits: the ultimate comfort carb
Some may say that potatoes or pasta are their go-to comfort foods. My favorite is a fluffy, flaky biscuit. Maybe it’s the Southern girl in me, but give me a piece of bread — especially a biscuit — and I’m happy as a clam. My creamy chicken and biscuits recipe uses several convenience items: frozen biscuits, rotisserie chicken (or leftover cooked chicken if you have it), and frozen mixed vegetables.
If you’re a fan of chicken pot pie, then this is the dinner for you. Even better, it’s made in one skillet so there’s minimal cleanup.
First you make the creamy chicken and vegetable filling on the stovetop and top it with biscuits straight from the freezer. Pop that baby in the oven, and after 25 minutes or so, dinner is ready.
I use my trusty cast-iron skillet for this recipe — and I make sure it’s the 12-inch one so no filling bubbles over during baking. If you don’t have a cast-iron skillet, any large ovenproof skillet will do.
Prepared mashed potatoes make dinner a snap
Finally, if you usually bypass the deli and dairy aisle of the grocery store, it’s time for a visit. This is where prepared side dishes like mashed potatoes and mac ‘n’ cheese live. For a quick start, my shepherd’s pie makes good use of those mashed potatoes — a side dish that can normally take a while to make — in addition to ground meat and frozen peas and carrots.
When choosing a container of mashed spuds, be sure to grab one without “creamy” in the name. I’ve found that some brands add a ton of milk or cream. While yummy, this kind of mashed potato would make the top of the shepherd’s pie super soupy. You’re after a thick and fluffy layer of potatoes to sit atop the ground meat mixture and seal in the gravy.
Another trick I like to share is to make swirls with a spoon, or hash marks with a fork on the top of the potatoes. Once broiled, these peaks get extra crispy and browned. They’re not only pretty, but they also add amazing texture and flavor.
More weeknight dinner ideas
Looking for additional dinner recipes to make weeknights less stressful? We’ve got lots more helpings on Yummly of easy, classic comfort food, from casserole recipes to Crock Pot meals. Head to the search bar on any page and type in what you’re craving. May we recommend big-batch grilled cheese, meatloaf, vegan enchiladas, baked macaroni and cheese, or quick chicken noodle soup? The best comfort food recipes are the ones you’re craving, so maybe you’d prefer oven-baked bbq chicken, smothered pork chops, ziti in Alfredo sauce, fast meatballs, casserole-style beef stroganoff, or speedy tacos with crispy tortillas. On the side, how about oven-baked french fries or sweet potato fries, tender dumplings, or a slab of cornbread? You’ll find even more ideas in the articles that follow.