Most dinner recipes are for two or four. It’s too much food for one person. Making extra is fine at times (especially for soup or chili), but extra servings aren’t always ideal. These dinner recipes for one person make just enough for a single serving.
No leftovers. No fussing. And every recipe has links to similar recipes (so that you have ideas for the rest of the package of chicken, the carton of eggs, or the eggplant you bought. I, for one, hate having food go bad because it didn’t get used.
Purists call this dish white ragu pappardelle pasta; others call it white bolognese (which makes the purists mad). The point isn’t the name (it tastes just as good no matter what you call it). And, much as I love tomato sauces, the white sauce is a tasty change from the usual red one.
It starts with onions and carrots, then adds ground beef and sausage, which is simmered gently with porcini mushrooms, white wine, and a touch of cream. Soooo good.
I first made this right after Pesach, when the urge to eat starch (and lots of it) is strong, so I splurged for fresh pappardelle pasta. Being on an involuntary low-carb diet is no fun! Since I was using fresh pasta, it takes less time to cook than the dried version. If you use dried pasta, allow 10 minutes or so to boil the water and another 8 minutes or so to cook the pasta. Fresh pasta only needs a couple of minutes. If you can’t get pappardelle, rigatoni will work fine. You want a substantial pasta with bite (angel hair won’t do here).
The original recipe calls for dried porcini mushrooms, which I didn’t have. So, I substituted fresh ones. If you use the dried version, add the soaking liquid to the sauce instead of the water. The pasta water at the end thickens the sauce (with the starch from the cooked pasta).
I made a few other changes too. As a commenter rightly pointed out, the onions and carrots take different amounts of time to cook, so they shouldn’t be added all at once. First the onions, then the carrots. Also, I never have beef bouillon cubes (the ingredients make me wince) so I used beef stock instead.
White ragu papardelle is a fun and delicious change from the usual red sauce.
2 T olive oil
2 T onion, diced
1 carrot, peeled and cut into small chunks
2-3 porcini mushrooms, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 mild Italian sausage (you can use pork sausage or chicken sausage), chopped up (take the casing off)
1/4 pound ground beef
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/2 C beef stock
3/4 C water
1 1/4 T heavy cream
1/4 pound pappardelle (plus 2 quarts of water to boil the pasta)
2 T freshly ground Parmigiano cheese
Add the oil to a wide, deep frying pan (the wider the better, so there’s more surface area to reduce the liquids faster) on medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the diced onion. Cook for a minute.
Then add the carrots, and the mushrooms, and sauté about five minutes or so. The veggies should be slightly tender, but not soft. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Then add the cut up sausage and the ground beef (break up the beef into small pieces, so there are no clumps of meat; you want it distributed throughout the pan). Cook that until the meat is all thoroughly browned.
Add the wine and let the liquid cook down until it is nearly dry. Now add the beef stock and lower the heat from medium-high to medium. Let it simmer (just bubbling) until the stock has practically evaporated and then add the 3/4 cup of water. Let the sauce simmer for about 10 minutes.
Taste it and add more salt and pepper if necessary. The sauce should be slightly runny, (think stroganoff, but Italian).
Take the pan off the stove, away from the heat, and add the cream (folding it into the sauce). Cover the pot to keep it warm.
Put two quarts of water in a medium size saucepan and bring it to a boil. Then add the pasta. Cook 2-3 minutes for fresh pasta, 8-10 for dried. When the pasta is nearly cooked, remove a ladleful of the pasta water and set it aside in a bowl.
Drain the pasta, and return it to the pot you used to cook it. Add the ragu sauce and stir it gently. Add the pasta water you set aside in the last step.
Serve with grated cheese.
Note: if you use dried mushrooms, soak them in the 3/4 C water and add them (and the water you soaked them in) after you add the stock.
White Ragu Papardelle Pasta Substitutions and Variations
Substitute bacon or pancetta for the sausage
Swap ground veal and pork for the beef and sausage
If you like venison or boar, those would work too
Add a few cloves of garlic and top with basil when you serve it
Don’t want sausage or beef? Use ground turkey instead (add a bit more fat to the pan)
This easy and delicious fish in peppery tomato sauce is flavored with garlic, coriander, harissa, and piquant capers, bathed in a slightly spicy tomato sauce. It’s another one of those “Jewish” recipes you may not recognize as Jewish. In America we tend to think of “Ashkenazi” food as Jewish, call it a day, and forget about the Sephardim. This is a terrible mistake, since Sephardic food (Spanish, Middle Eastern, Portuguese, and North African) is spicy, flavorful, and has much more variety than its Eastern European cousins. In fact, one day, I want to skip the Eastern European Passover and have a Sephardic one instead! Goals!
I’ve adapted this recipe from The Book of Jewish Food , which says that fish is considered a symbol of abundance, making it a favorite dish for Friday night (Sabbath) meals. Fish was also popular in Morocco and Italy for weddings, as it was thought to symbolize fruitfulness. For Rosh Hashanah, it was served with the head left on, so Jews would be “ ‘ahead with good deeds and serve as a model of goodness. ’ ” I think this dish certainly fits the bill.
The nice thing is that you don’t have to wait for a holiday or a special occasion to make it. It’s ready in about 25 minutes, so it’s perfect for a weeknight dinner.
If you’re not familiar with harissa, it’s a hot chili garlic sauce used for fish, chicken, and lots of other dishes in North Africa. As I am writing this, it occurs to me that it’s a bit like African sriracha sauce.If you have some, or can get some, use it. If not, a mixture of cayenne and paprika will work just fine.
I also saw another, similar recipe (called chraime) that referred to this as Sephardic “gefilte fish.” Never having been a big fan of gefilte fish, I’ll take this recipe in a New York minute!
The dish will work with any firm fish, such as grouper, red snapper, or cod. I used cod from Trader Joe’s (the frozen fish is inexpensive and good quality). Serve it with rice (as I did), or make it with couscous.
1/2 tsp harissa or 1/4 tsp paprika plus a generous pinch of cayenne)
2/3 cup crushed tomatoes
Salt to taste
1/4 tsp sugar (depending on how sweet the tomatoes are, you may not need this)
1 1/2 tsp capers (drained and patted dry)
1-2 fish steaks (about 1/2 lb. total)
1 tsp ground coriander (or a sprig of fresh if you have it)
Heat the oil in the frying pan on medium heat. Add the onions and gently cook for a few minutes until they soften and start to turn color (don’t let them burn!). Add the crushed garlic and cook for a minute (until it too starts to change color). Add the harissa (or cayenne/paprika) and stir.
Pour the tomatoes into the pan, then add the salt, sugar, and the drained capers.
Now add the fish steaks and spoon the tomato mixture over them in the pan.
Cover the pan and let it all simmer for 10 minutes. Then remove the lid, and flip the fish over on the other side. Spoon more sauce over it and add the coriander. Put the lid back on the pan and cook for another 5 minutes.
You’ll want to use a larger skillet so you have enough room to turn the pieces of fish over without breaking them.
Fish in Peppery Tomato Sauce Substitutions and Variations
Try sriracha or chili garlic sauce instead of the harissa paste (with a bit more coriander added this is similar to a Tunisian version of this dish)
Use cumin, tomato paste, and both sweet and hot peppers in the sauce
Add olive oil, then the fish, then top that with one or two whole garlic cloves, more salt and pepper, and more coriander, and let it cook on a grill for half an hour (if you like fresh cooked tomatoes, put them under and over the fish
When I was little, everyone served ham with pineapple. That’s good, but I think this apple glazed ham steak is better. There’s an enzyme in pineapple that breaks down protein and tends to make it a bit mushy. Plus you have to get a good pineapple, wonder what to do with the rest of it, or settle for canned. Apples on the other hand, add a touch of sweetness, plus a hint of tartness. It’s less overpoweringly sweet and it complements the salty ham better.
The other good thing about this recipe is that it’s fairly quick. Sauté the ham steak, set it aside, make the apple topping, and you have dinner in about 15-20 minutes.
Score! There are more quick dinner recipes at the bottom of the post.
If you can, get the ham steak from a butcher. The pre-packaged kind tends to be bulked up with water and additives. I’m lucky enough to have a butcher nearby that sells them frozen, so I can buy it and use it when I’m ready.
I made this with brandy, but if you don’t have that, apple cider will work too. For a more intense apple flavor, try it with apple brandy, such as Calvados, or a hard apple cider.
The Brusssels sprouts, by the way, are tossed with some olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper and then roasted. My new favorite way to eat them!
1/4 C brandy (or apple cider or apple brandy or a combination)
Put the ham steak in a frying pan large enough to hold it without crowding. Cook the ham until heated through (about five minutes per side). Remove and set aside.
Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the sliced apple and sauté them until slightly tender (about 5 minutes). Add nutmeg, brown sugar, cloves, and brandy (or cider or Calvados) and deglaze the pan (stir the sauce with a wooden spoon, scraping the bottom of the pan to incorporate the brown bits from the ham into the sauce). If this sauce is too thin, add a bit of flour or turn up the heat and cook for a few minutes until it thickens.
Apple Glazed Ham Steak Substitutions and Variations
skip the cloves and add a bit of tangy mustard
try some cinnamon
sauté some sweet onions and include them in the sauce (Vidalia onions would work nicely for this)
mix up the apples; I used Gala but Granny Smith would add a bit of extra tartness to the recipe and make a nice complement to the ham
if you don’t have brandy, use Calvados, or apple cider
Sure it’s the holiday season, and there are a lot of parties and fancy meals everywhere. But sometimes (holiday or no) you just want to treat yourself even without a party. Cooking for one doesn’t have to mean dull and boring. Pan-fried steak with mushroom brandy cream sauce is rich, creamy, and just slightly indulgent. The cream is velvety, and the mushrooms add an earthy flavor, while the scallions and garlic bring just a hint of sweetness to the sauce. A funny thing happens to onions and garlic once you sauté them; they transform from spicy to sweet.
All that and it’s still really easy to prepare. You can have a delicious, festive dinner in about twenty minutes. A big payoff without a lot of work!
I’ve made the sauce with pan-fried steak, but it works just as well with a pork chop or a piece of chicken. If you make it with a bone-in chicken thigh, start that about 20 minutes before you begin cooking the sauce, as it takes longer to cook than a steak or a pork chop.
If you’re going with the steak, start that at the same time as the sauce. Then take it off the heat and let it rest while you finish preparing the sauce.
A rich, easy and festive dinner with earthy mushrooms, silky smooth cream, and a splash of brandy.
1 boneless steak, about 4-6 oz.
1 clove garlic, minced
1 scallion, chopped
3-4 mushrooms, sliced
salt and pepper to taste (for both steak and sauce)
1 tsp brandy
1/4 C heavy cream
Season the steak with salt and pepper and start cooking it in a skillet over high heat. Sear on each side, then turn the heat down to medium and cook for 5-7 minutes, depending on thickness and your preferred doneness. If you have grass-fed beef, add some butter or olive oil to the pan, since it's less fatty than standard beef. Remove the steak from the pan to a plate once it's done and let it rest.
Melt the butter in a second skillet on medium heat.
Add the garlic and cook for a few seconds. Then add the scallions and cook another minute or two. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the mushrooms and let them sit, undisturbed, in the pan for 2-3 minutes. When they have developed a nice deep brown color, flip them over and cook another minute or two.
Add the brandy and the cream to the pan and bring the sauce to a boil. Once it's boiling, turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for five minutes.
Pour the sauce over the steak.
I made this with brown jasmine rice and some string beans, but it would work well with potatoes too, or even just some crusty bread to sop up every last bit of the sauce.
Pan-fried Steak with Mushroom Brandy Cream Sauce Substitutions and Variations
Use shallots or chopped onions instead of the scallions (I grabbed scallions because I have a pot of them growing in my windowsill)
Exchange the brandy for white wine and toss the same sauce with pasta
Nothing quite says fall like butternut squash. This butternut squash cream sauce recipe is great over pasta and makes a delicious change from the usual heavy cream or tomato sauces. It’s got sweet butternut squash, savory/sweet roasted garlic, and creamy parmesan added just at the end.
First, roast the squash, and the garlic, then pop it in a saucepan with chopped onions and puree the whole thing. A bit of cream and parmesan gives it a creamy, rich flavor.
I sometimes like to add a bit of bacon or pancetta crumbled on top for an extra bit of salty/savory deliciousness (and besides, bacon!).
I did try to make this as cleanup friendly as possible, but it’s a bit hopeless. There are a lot of pans involved! Luckily, since we’re only making enough for one person, they’re fairly small pans.
There are several pieces of kitchen equipment that are essential for this recipe. The first is good sharp sturdy knife. It’s got to cut through that peel. Next is a good peeler. Butternut squash can be hard to peel without one (although you can cheat if you want and get the pre-peeled, cut up cubes in a bag). And, finally a stick blender (or a regular one, but the stick is easier) to puree the sauce.
I tend to cut off a chunk, peel it, and then cut that up into cubes. It’s easier that way.
Now that fall has finally arrived, it’s time to start switching light meals and salads for something more substantial. This cider braised pork chop with sauerkraut is full of classic fall flavors, from rich pork, crisp apples and sweet cider. That sweetness is balanced by savory onions, piquant sauerkraut, and just a touch of brown sugar.
It’s great simple comfort food. This is a good dish for a weeknight dinner or even for company. You only need to use one pan, so there’s not a lot of clean up involved. And, after a bit of chopping and slicing it’s ready in about half an hour. Just be careful not to overcook the pork. Put everything together, deglaze the pan, and then cook it gently for 15 or 20 minutes.
There are lots of variations on this idea. Some add bacon. Others roast the pork. I added carrots, but you can also skip the carrots in the main dish and make my honey mustard glazed carrots as a side dish. The sweet honey and the savory mustard complement the pork nicely.
Fall has finally shown up (at least briefly), so it’s time for hearty comfort food. This Polish sausage and cabbage with potatoes recipe is both easy to make and filling. It’s a great meal for a chilly autumn day. There are only a few basic, everyday ingredients, but it still manages to be packed with flavor from rich sausage, braised cabbage, buttery Yukon Gold potato, and sweet carrot.
And, as a bonus, you get your entire dinner cooked while only using a single pot. As far as I’m concerned, less cleaning and washing up is always a good thing.
The technique is really simple, and there’s not a lot of fiddling. Basically, all you have to do to get a delicious dinner is to slice up and brown the sausage, add the veggies and broth, and then let the whole thing simmer slowly in the pot.
It takes less than an hour to make and you don’t have to stand over a hot stove while your dinner cooks. You can go do something else instead. For instance, you can pour yourself a glass of red wine and unwind from a long day or make a mug of hot, spiced apple cider.
It’s not fancy, or fussy, just good plain hearty food.
I used a Yukon gold potato, because they have a richer, more buttery flavor. However, an Eastern potato (or white potato) will work too. Avoid Russet (Idaho) potatoes, as they are best for baking (OK, I avoid them anyway because I don’t like them; they’re too floury).
Hot. Cold. Then hot again. Anyone else getting whiplash from this weather? The calendar says fall, but the thermometer reads summer. To beat the heat, try a leftover roast lamb eggplant spinach salad. You can use leftover lamb from my Greek lamb breast recipe, or just broil a lamb chop.
This salad is a festival of tastes, textures, and colors. You get luscious lamb topped with tender golden-brown eggplant over earthy spinach, refreshing crisp cucumbers, and sweet tomatoes. Then the whole thing is finished with a rich garlicky lemon mayonnaise.
I’ve sauteed the eggplant in a skillet (because I didn’t want to heat up the oven), but you can grill it if you prefer, or bake it in the oven (400 degrees for about 20 minutes). Then just add spinach and your favorite salad ingredients.
I have adapted this from a Silver Palate cookbook recipe which called for pignoli nuts and olives. I had neither, so I filled in with cucumber and tomato. You could also put in mushrooms, sprouts, experiment with different kinds of olives, or top it with toasted nuts. See the “substitutions” section below for more ideas.
You can either make the mayonnaise from scratch (homemade mayonnaise is divine, just remember to use it up quickly), or just dress up some store-bought mayonnaise with a bit of garlic and lemon juice. I like to “freshen” up commercially made mayo with lemon and olive oil whenever I use it. It tastes more like homemade that way.
Have this for a quick dinner, or make it for lunch. I think of it as an entree salad; it works for any time you want something filling without a lot of fussing (or waiting).
A great way to use up leftover lamb or get a hearty meal without a lot of cooking. This works for dinner or for lunch.
1/4 lb. or so leftover roast lamb (or one lamb chop, broiled), cut into cubes
5-6 slices eggplant, cut into 1/4 inch strips
1T olive oil
1 1/2 to 2 cups spinach, washed
1/2 beefsteak tomato, cut in wedges (or 4-6 cherry tomatoes)
sliced cucumber (about 1/4 cup)
Lemon Garlic Mayonnaise Dressing
1 small clove garlic, mashed
pinch kosher salt
2 T mayonnaise
1 1/2 tsp olive oil
3/4 tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
If using pre-cooked lamb, take it out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature. If you are cooking a lamb chop, broil it for 7-8 minutes (turning once) and let cool while you prepare the eggplant.
Spread the eggplant out on a colander or a cutting board and sprinkle with salt. Let stand for 15 minutes and then rinse.
Dry off the eggplant with a paper towel.
Heat the oil in a small skillet and add the eggplant slices. Saute until the eggplant turns golden brown.
Add the spinach, eggplant, and lamb to a medium-size bowl.
Add the cucumber and tomatoes.
Combine the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and mix to combine. Taste and correct seasoning and/or add more lemon juice if necessary.
Pour dressing over the salad.
Leftover Roast Lamb Eggplant Spinach Salad Substitutions and Variations
Top with pignoli nuts, chopped almonds, or chopped walnuts
Add 1/4 C feta cheese and some mint
Add some sliced apples
Make some orzo and add that to the salad
Try different veggies like zucchini, bell pepper or squash
Coq au vin (or rooster in wine) is a classic French dish. It’s flavorful, it’s rich, and it takes a lot of time and effort to prepare. First, you season the chicken, let it sit overnight, then brown it, add vegetables, and braise it slowly. Authentic coq au vin also requires lots of pots, lardons, which are thick matchstick strips of bacon, glazed pearl onions, croutons, and finally toast points! It takes hours to prepare it properly. It’s wonderful, but it’s also a major undertaking, and highly impractical for a weekday dinner. In contrast, this stovetop coq au vin takes about half an hour to make. Much better!
I have adapted this recipe from Pierre Franey’s 60 Minute Gourmet Cookbook. Being French he called it “Poulet Sauté au Brouilly” (or chicken sautéed in Brouilly wine). I say stovetop coq au vin or chicken with red wine sauce and mushrooms works just fine.
And, once you finish a bit of chopping and browning, stovetop coq au vin mostly cooks itself. You don’t have to fuss with it, you don’t need to use half the pots in your kitchen, and you don’t have to clean them up either. This version only requires a single skillet.
When choosing the red wine, look for one that’s fruity and flavorful, but not too tannic. Wines such as Zinfandel, Brouilly, Beaujolais, or Merlot are fine (I used Merlot). On the other hand, a Cabernet Sauvignon would be overpowering.
I just love moussaka, but the traditional version is just too much work for one serving. I had a recipe for a Jewish Eygptian version of moussaka without bechamel,(or messa’aa) but the first try needed more tweaking. Back to the drawing board! This version uses more spices, has better flavor, and is much easier to put together.
There’s Middle Eastern flavor from spicy/warm cinnamon and nutmeg, the bite of garlic and onion, tender eggplant, and tomatoes. You can make this either with ground lamb or ground beef (whichever you prefer).
Many of the recipes I saw required first making a tomato sauce, then a meat mixture, then the eggplant, and finally assembling the entire thing together. Too much work and too many pots and pans to clean up.
My way is easier. First salt and fry the eggplant (or broil if you’d prefer), then cook the onion and garlic, add the meat, tomatoes, and seasoning, layer it all together and bake it. Instead of spending hours in the kitchen, you can have dinner ready in about an hour.
Or, make it all ahead of time, up to the point of putting it in the oven. Then, put the baking dish in the fridge, and cook it when you’re ready. Just take the dish out about fifteen or twenty minutes in advance so that it isn’t ice cold when you put it in the oven. Make a quick salad or some rice and you have dinner.
This recipe is also a product of a bit of advance planning. The trouble with cooking for one sometimes is that even if you make one serving you still have more ingredients left. However, a little menu planning can go a long way toward fixing that problem. You end up with several delicious meals, a lot less waste, and it’s far more budget friendly too.
12 thin slices eggplant (about half a small eggplant)
2 T plus 1 T olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 small clove garlic, smashed and minced
1/4 lb. ground beef or lamb
4 T crushed tomatoes
generous grinding of pepper and salt to taste
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cumin
Preheat the toaster oven to 350 degrees.
Spread the sliced eggplant on a cutting board and sprinkle it with kosher salt. Let sit for fifteen or twenty minutes. Then rinse the salt off and pat dry.
Heat 2T of the olive oil in a frying pan large enough to hold the eggplant in one layer.
Add the eggplant slices to the hot oil and cook for a minute on each side (it should be lightly colored, but not brown).
Remove the eggplant, place on paper towels, and pat dry.
Add the onion to the pan, and add the additional 1T of oil. Let the onion cook for five minutes on medium-low heat, until it softens and the fragrance starts to waft through your kitchen. Add the garlic and cook another minute.
Now add the ground beef or lamb, the tomatoes, and the spices.
Cook for 10 minutes until the meat is browned.
Layer the bottom of a small (6 inches or so) baking dish with half the eggplant. Add the cooked meat mixture on top. Then arrange the remaining eggplant on top.
Put the dish in the toaster oven and bake for 15-20 minutes.
Moussaka Without Bechamel Sauce Substitutions and Variations
Pan fry some almonds in olive oil and add that to the meat mixture in the pan
Toss in some raisins
Top the moussaka with a mixture of yogurt, garlic cloves, olive oil, salt, and chopped cucumbers (sort of a tzatziki without the dill)
I use this dish all the time. It’s great for mini-moussaka (like this recipe), mac and cheese, peach crumble, triple chocolate cake, brownies, or ginger pear bread. You could even make quiche or a mini-meatloaf in it. The dish goes in the oven, the microwave, or the broiler and it’s dishwasher safe too. And since it’s pretty, you don’t need an extra serving dish (one less thing to wash).
Despite the name, this isn’t a spice mixture; it’s from a berry. Allspice is great for moussaka, and indispensable for meatballs, pies (pumpkin season is coming!), and chicken. Like nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves it’s one of those warm/spicy ingredients that can add a little kick or a savory flavor depending on how you use it. It’s sort of a cinnamony, clove, nutmeg taste.
More Beef Recipes
Use up the rest of the package of beef with these recipes.