Our Best Dinner Recipes for Laid-Back Weekends
Sometimes, the best weekends are the ones that aren’t packed to the gills with plans and activities. And there’s no better way to spend one of those relaxed weekends than taking your dinner-in up a notch. Use your extra downtime to try tackling that one dish you’ve aways wanted to make for yourself. Need some inspiration? These dinner recipes (okay, and a few desserts, too) are perfect for a weekend project and will elevate what you bring to the table. In fact, you may just find yourself inspired to clear your agenda for this weekend once you start scrolling through.
Marinated London Broil with Potatoes, Broccoli, and Roasted Garlic Aioli
This sheet pan dinner couldn’t be easier (or more delicious), and utilizing inexpensive London broil, it’s one you’ll come back to again and again. Serving this budget-friendly dinner with a shortcut aioli takes the entire meal up a notch with minimal effort. In testing, we even found that using jarred roasted garlic, rather than preparing your own, absolutely delivers on flavor. London broil will be labeled as such in many supermarkets, but you can also substitute flank steak or top round.
Adult Alphabet Soup
This sophisticated take on a childhood favorite is the ultimate steamy bowl of comfort—as perfect for when you’re sick as it is for when you want to charm dinner guests. Although it looks like the canned classic, Spanish flair delivered in the chorizo and paprika give this soup a satisfying smokiness and rich depth of flavor. We specifically developed this soup to make a large batch so that there’s plenty to share with friends, or stash in the freezer for the next time you’re feeling a bit under the weather or simply need a warming, fuss-free meal. Serve your alphabet soup with a great grilled cheese sandwich for a nostalgically tasty cool weather dinner.
Whole Roasted Chicken with Sweet Potatoes, Fennel, and Apple
For an easy, autumnal dinner, this whole roasted chicken is the way to go. Perched on a bed of root veggies, fennel, apples, and mushrooms, this chicken becomes irresistibly crispy on the outside and succulent on the inside. Apples and mushrooms absorb the savory chicken fat and slowly break down throughout the slow-roasting process, making them almost melt-in-your-mouth delicious. The sheet pan will be crowded upon assembly, but don't fret, roasting will shrink the veggie and apple mixture's size.
Slow Cooker Rosemary Beef Chuck Roast
Set your slow cooker on low and go on about your day knowing that dinner is gonna be delicious. In this simple set-it-and-forget-it dish, beef chuck roast cooks in a flavor-packed rosemary marinade, full of fresh rosemary leaves and onions for a succulent, highly comforting entree. The habanero pepper delivers a detectable heat, but the spice factor is not overwhelming. However, if you’re sensitive to heat, use a quarter of the pepper instead of half (or omit it altogether). The remaining liquid in the slow cooker can be cooked down on the stovetop into a rich, flavorful gravy to top the beef, along with your favorite starchy side—rice, mashed potatoes, or roasted sweet potatoes would all make great options.
Zucchini and Goat Cheese Quiche (Quiche de Courgettes au Chèvre)
This dish is a bit of a project, but once you have the pastry rolled and pressed into the tart pan, most of the work is done, and you can do that well in advance. Keep the dough in the freezer, ready to bake when you need it. (The crust is a lightened adaptation of Tanis' original crust. We reduced the amount of butter by 5 tablespoons and the cream cheese by 2 ounces, and doubled the amount of yogurt.)
Sweet Potato Pie with Marshmallow Meringue
North African Marinated Lamb
This vibrant lamb dish features an incredibly vibrant North African-inspired marinade, also known as chermoula. Though simple to whip up, the combination of fresh herbs and bold spices in the marinade help to bring out the richness of the lamb and really make this grilled dish (which became a fast staff favorite in the test kitchen) shine. When purchasing the lamb leg, ask your butcher to go ahead and cut it into your desired portions. And If you have trouble finding lamb, feel free to swap it for beef or pork in this recipe—you’re still going to have a delicious dinner, no doubt. Serve this meaty entree with roasted potatoes and/or grilled veggies.
Slow-Cooker Parmesan-Herb Pork Loin with Chunky Tomato Sauce
Prep the night before, start cooking in the morning, and it will be ready when you get off work. Or prep it and cook on high for a hearty weekend lunch or dinner in 3 to 4 hours.
French Onion Soup
Once you try this French Onion Soup recipe, you'll never try another. Caramelized, melt-in-your-mouth onions, crusty bread, and melted cheese make for a hearty and rich soup that’s worth the wait. You’ll want to let it simmer the full two hours for the ultimate blending of flavors. Perfect for a cold day, this classic soup is comfort food at its best. If you don’t have a Dutch oven, this also works as a crock pot soup recipe! This recipe is perfect for lunch or dinner.
Cheesy Rye Pizza
This white pie is a mouthwatering celebration of how great rye and cheese taste together. Be sure to allow the pizza dough to rise slowly so that it does not become too bready.
Sheet Pan Oatmeal Toffee-Orange Cream Bars
These toasty-sweet, sheet pan sandwich cookies are fantastic for potlucks or tailgates—heck, whip a batch up on the weekend and enjoy for after-school snacks or dessert throughout the week. Toffee bits and cinnamon kick up the flavor of a traditional oatmeal cookie, while adding fresh orange zest to the filling adds a special touch or bright flavor to these tasty bars. Be sure the cookie is completely cool (out of the pan) before cutting it, or it will crumble. And to ensure a smooth cut, you’ll want to chill the filled cookie really well before slicing into bars.
Irish Beef Stew
Slow simmered with Guinness and finished with a bit of Dijon mustard for depth, this rich and hearty beef stew is comfort food at its finest. Although we’re all for breaking out the Dutch oven for a Sunday supper, if you’re looking to whip this recipe up in a hurry, we’ve included instructions for achieving the same intensely savory Irish beef stew in the Instant Pot. Either way, you’re guaranteed tender beef and the perfect reason to pick up a loaf of fresh, crusty bread.
Braised Octopus in Tomato Sauce with Roasted Fingerling Potatoes
While octopus may not be your typical weeknight the warm and nuanced flavors in this rustic dish absolutely say comfort food, which makes this a perfect gateway recipe for anyone cooking octopus at home for the first time. Plus, braising is an excellent cooking method for octopus, as this allows you to bypass having to pre-cook the octopus by boiling or slow roasting in the oven. The initial sear seals moisture into the meat and then the octopus tenderizes and soaks up flavor as it simmers in the aromatic tomato sauce—the longer you allow it to cook, the better this dish gets. Octopus can be found at specialty grocery stores (such as Whole Foods), fish markets, and Asian or international markets. Just be sure to ask the fishmonger to clean your octopuses and remove the beaks before wrapping ‘em up. Served with simple, crisped fingerling potatoes, this dish is guaranteed to impress.
Braised Pork with Potatoes and Shallots
Use preground fennel and coriander seeds if you’re short on time; you’ll lose the texture the crushed seeds provide, but you’ll get the same great flavor. Substitute 2 teaspoons each of the ground seeds for 1 tablespoon whole seeds.
No-Knead Lightly Rye Bread
Ready to try your hand at bread baking? This simple, no-knead bread is the perfect recipe to start with. The easy-to-follow recipe yields a delightfully chewy, crisp-crusted, bakery-style boule and is an excellent yeasted bread for a novice bread maker to build confidence (and impress guests) with. Small additions of whole-wheat and rye flours give the loaf a great depth of flavor and chew without affecting the bread’s ability to rise. Beyond being simple to make, this no-knead loaf is ready to enjoy in a fraction of the time required to make many traditional yeasted breads. A touch of molasses not only adds a little flavor, but it speeds up the yeast growth, as does using warm water in the dough. Allowing a 4-hour proof time gives the yeast enough opportunity to grow and time to develop flavor. This bread is fantastic warm from the oven, would be marvelous served alongside soup, and absolutely sings when lightly toasted and served at breakfast. We love it with a simple smear of butter, as well as with slightly more dynamic spreads like this savory Pear, Olive, and Walnut Chutney.
Slow-cooked Barbecued Chicken
Jumbo stuffed shells are your weeknight answer to homemade lasagna: Instead of endless layers, spoon a single vegetable mixture into each shell, and bake 12 minutes or until the cheese melts.
Slow-Cooker Jambalaya Soup
Nicole’s Best Lasagna
Slow Cooker Shrimp Boil
For a classic summery meal without a fuss, look no further than this slow cooker shrimp boil. With a simple ingredient list and a largely hands-off cooking method, this easy seafood boil is a perfect recipe to plan on for casual warm weather entertaining or even as a low-effort meal to make at the rental house during a beach vacation. We opted to pull the corn out after 30 minutes of cooking as we preferred it on the crisp side, but as long as your slow cooker is large enough, feel free to leave it in the pot as the shrimp and sausage cook.
Ham, Kale, and White Bean Soup
The water used to cook a pot of beans is really liquid gold, infused with aromatics and thickened with starch from the beans. It makes perfect sense to give the cooking liquid a second life as the broth for the soup (and save the trouble of rinsing and draining). The ham hock will season the broth and the beans as they cook; you won’t need additional salt once they are done. Instead of cooking the kale and carrots in the soup, give them a quick sauté and stir them in at the end so they retain their vibrancy.
Ultimate Coconut Cake
"Ultimate" is no exaggeration here—this cake features coconut flour, coconut oil, coconut milk, coconut cream, coconut sugar, coconut extract, and (of course) flaked coconut. Given this cake's incredibly moist layers, intense coconut flavor, and lighter-than-air filling, our test kitchen chefs fought over the leftovers.
Slow Cooker Thai Beef Curry
It’s true that the long, slow cooking period mellows flavors. But bold spices, in bold amounts, will hold their own over time. Here, we start with big flavor from a good amount of curry paste and fish sauce, and we finish with fresh touches of cilantro and lime juice that amplify the taste of everything. Serve over a bed of brown rice or brown rice noodles to catch all the sauce.
Barberry Rice with Saffron Chicken (Zereshk Polo)
Los Angeles actor Naz Deravian, creator of the food blog Bottom of the Pot, serves this rice at her annual Yalda celebration, which celebrates the winter solstice. Barberries, the tiny, tart, Vitamin-C-rich fruit of a thorny shrub, are dried for use in any number of Persian dishes besides rice, including stews and jam. When warmed, the berries turn a jewel-like red. Don't let the many steps here dissuade you; they fit together for maximum efficiency.
Slow-Cooker Four-Cheese Spaghetti with Italian Sausage
Switch up your go-to slow-cooker meals and go for a cheesy pasta dish that's loaded with hearty sausage. It's a great option for the entire family, and you can take the leftovers for lunch the next day.
Oven Baby Back Ribs
These baby back ribs offer classic BBQ flavor, but are made simple in the oven. Rich and perfectly tangy-sweet, the homemade barbecue sauce used for this recipe is nothing short of divine, but feel free to use your favorite bottle in a pinch. Wrapping the ribs in foil helps to keep them moist throughout the low and slow cook time, while broiling at the end gives them a deliciously crispy crust. To reheat a slab of these oven-baked ribs, re-wrap in foil and return to the oven heated to 300°F for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Here, a crunchy cookie shell with a chewy interior sandwiches delicate, creamy, floral frosting. If it will help, you can print out a piping template online and place it under the parchment paper to pipe consistent size circles. You can, if you like, garnish the tops of the macaroons with fresh elderflowers, which are available from marxfoods.com. The macarons will keep, in an airtight container, for up to a few days.
Chicken Enchilada Stack
Think outside the "dish." You can enjoy the flavor and texture of enchiladas in a slow cooker; just stack the tortillas instead of rolling them. We suggest lining your slow cooker with a slow-cooker bag so you can easily remove the stack from the cooker.
Smoky Eggplant with Scallion Oil
Choose eggplants that feel heavy for their size. If you prefer not to grill or char on the burner of your stovetop, you can halve the eggplant lengthwise; place, skin side up, on a foil-lined baking sheet; and bake at 450°F for 30 to 45 minutes or until very tender. You'll lose some of the char, but the dish will still be delicious.
Mediterranean Chicken and Farro
Chicken thighs hold up nicely in the slow cooker, surrendering rich juices that make this fiber-packed farro extra-satisfying. Castelvetrano olives are bright green and buttery; look for them at your grocery’s olive bar. Having trouble finding pearled farro? Pick some up here.
Slow-Cooker Ginger, Sweet Tea, and Whiskey Short Ribs
Short ribs are often considered a cold weather dish, but we gave them a makeover for summer with a bright, tangy sauce (inspired by spiked sweet tea) and a fresh, herbal topping of parsley, scallions, and lemon zest. Serve these easy-to-prepare slow cooker ribs atop grits, mashed potatoes, or egg noodles or alongside potato salad with a tangy, vinegar-based (not mayonnaise-based) dressing.
Uncle Jack's Mac-and-Cheese
Classic cafeteria-style goodness, this recipe yields enough to serve as a side for a crowd, or it could be dinner for a family of four. Recipe by Pam Rawlinson, North Augusta, South Carolina.
Cola-Marinated Hanger Steak
Hanger steak, for reasons beyond most chefs and meat enthusiasts’ comprehension, is not a hugely popular cut. However, for a steak that promises massive flavor for a not-massive price tag, hanger is where it’s at. It’s something like cross between ribeye and tenderloin in terms of flavor and texture, and a brief marinating session in an intense marinade further enhances these attributes.