Win the Dinner Dash: Quick and Easy Meals for Your Busy Family
Cooking to beat the clock? Grab your favorite jar of red sauce and one of these recipes, and prepare your plate for mealtime victory. Sponsored by Prego®.
Sponsored by Prego®.
Getting dinner on the table every night can feel like its own Olympic sport, especially when it has to happen fast and please grumbling stomachs and picky palates. But how do you do it? You don't want to make a huge mess in the kitchen, and you do want to create a meal that your family loves.
There's a solution to this dinner dilemma, and it’s probably on your pantry shelf already: Your favorite jar of pasta sauce, which is already perfectly seasoned and full of flavor. Now pick one of the carefully curated meals below; they’re quick, simple, and no-muss no-fuss so there’s no disaster zone left behind in your kitchen. Each recipe is easy to prepare, doesn’t require fancy equipment, and takes advantage of streamlined ingredients already packed with flavor. A few make enough for delicious leftovers, but most importantly, all of them should get you cheers from even the pickiest eater. Check out these eight appealing recipes and finally win the dinner dash.
This comforting take on classic macaroni and cheese is destined to become an instant family favorite: It’s creamy and cheesy, with a bit of zing from the tomato sauce. But the real gift of this recipe is how simple it is for the cook! There is no flour to be measured, no roux to be stirred, no careful whisking to avoid clumps — simply mix cheddar cheese soup with a little milk, then stir in traditional marinara sauce and mix with cooked pasta to create nearly instant mac and cheese. A sprinkle of Parmesan on top and a cozy dinner is on the table in under a half hour.
Everybody loves meatballs. But if you’ve made them, you know they are a labor of love. On a busy night they’re not a viable option — or they weren’t, until now. This recipe is a revelation: streamlined so the only chopping involves a couple cloves of garlic, then it’s simply mix, roll, and bake! Then stir them into your favorite jar of sauce and serve. No greasy stovetop to scrub, and dinner is on the table in under an hour. Here’s the bonus: This recipe makes a big batch of these cozy and comforting meatballs, so it’s easy to use half (or even two-thirds) of the recipe for other meals.
This fun take on traditional pizza is a satisfying meatless main with a polenta (basically cheesy cornbread) pizza crust. Homemade pizza crust takes hours to rise and a bit of rolling (or flinging in the air, if you’re truly a Super Mario), which generally disqualifies it as a meal for a busy night. But if you can make pancake batter, then you can whip up this from-scratch crust in under 10 minutes. It bakes in a cast-iron skillet for a crispy crust, though any 8- or 10-inch oven-safe skillet will get the job done. It’s easy to make this a gluten-free meal if necessary, and the toppings are easily customized. And after dinner? Only one pan to clean.
This hungry crowd-pleaser has a secret: While it’s technically baked spaghetti, it’s got all the flavors of lasagna, but with none of the hassle for the cook! There is nothing to chop, and assembly is easy — no fussy noodle placement required. Boil spaghetti until al dente and stir it into the pasta sauce, then mix the ricotta, Parmesan, and seasoning together, and layer everything into a baking dish. It’s an easy meatless meal that only takes about 15 minutes to prep; plus, it’s a fun one for little hands to help assemble.
This nostalgic dinner gets a modern Italian update with a jar of your favorite red sauce and final topping of mozzarella, but the comfort and happiness it delivers hasn’t changed a bit. There are only seven ingredients and no chopping needed for this one-pot meal, which lands on the table in a flash with next to no cleanup. Worcestershire sauce gives the beef a meaty depth, while the marinara provides perfect spicing and a bright acid pop. And at only 20 minutes from cooking start to digging in, you’ll be happy to get repeat requests for this meal.
This one-dish dinner is a snap to put together, and is designed to help you get a bit of everything in each delicious bite: sausage and tortellini, your favorite marinara sauce, and melted cheese, all baked together in a skillet — now that’s going to get cheers from the table. And with only eight ingredients, this recipe still manages to squeeze in a quick veggie saute to ensure it tastes bright and fresh. At only 25 minutes from start to table, get ready for an easy, cheesy favorite.
Sheet pan dinners are all the rage, and with good reason: Prep doesn’t take long, there is minimal cleanup required, and serving is simple. This hearty Italian dish is easy to assemble with onion, bell pepper, mushrooms, and chicken thighs tossed in a marinara sauce and a little wine before baking. While the oven works its magic, feel free to boil some pasta, or grab a crusty loaf of bread to serve alongside. Or simply sip some wine, if you please. You earned it.
This saucy little number is a brilliant combination of everything your family will love: Meatballs, marinara, mozzarella, and pizza dough. That’s right: four ingredients and about a half hour until you’re the hero of the dinner table. Use some of the meatballs you already made from the recipe above, or grab any cooked meatball you like (use plant-based balls for a meatless main). Toss a simple salad while they bake, and in short order everyone’s new favorite dinner is served.