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.
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.
Cinnamon and nutmeg, a touch of garlic and onion, tender eggplant, and tomatoes make a rich, delicious moussaka without the heavy bechamel sauce.
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.
Tuna cannellini bean salad is a great meal for those days when you just don’t feel like “cooking.” Maybe you got home late from work, or you’ve been out running errands all day, or it’s just too hot to fuss. This meal requires nothing more complicated than opening a few cans, sprinkling some seasonings, and a little bit of chopping. Easy.
Everything comes straight from your pantry. The beans are canned, the tuna is canned, and the only fresh ingredient you need is some scallions, and maybe the lemon juice. Even that isn’t essential; if you don’t have scallions, use onion instead. If you’re out of fresh lemons, the bottled juice will do just fine.
If you do have the time and energy, this is a bit better with freshly cooked beans. The canned beans tend to be slightly mushy, and sometimes they’re a little salty. If you go the dried bean route, use my quick soak method to speed things up. If not, no harm, no foul.
The recipe is enough for two lunches or one dinner (depending how hungry you are). I usually find that I eat a whole 5 oz. can of tuna for lunch if I just make ordinary tuna salad, but adding the beans stretches it enough for two meals.
I’ve adapted it slightly from one of Pierre Franey’s Sixty Minute Gourmet cookbooks. I reduced the quantity and eliminated the parsley (never had any use for parsley). This is not only better than sixty minutes, it only takes about ten.
Serve with some fresh fruit and you have a fast lunch in under fifteen minutes. Add crusty bread to that and you have dinner.
Shortcut your dinner cooking routine with staples you already have in your pantry. This tomato artichoke pasta sauce recipe (also called Pasta Sauce Raphael) is ready in less than half an hour. The original called for fresh tomatoes and hours of simmering. My version is faster and tastes just as good!
It’s flavored with rich, sweet tomatoes, a bit of earthy oregano and summery basil, plus a gentle kick from red pepper flakes and plenty of black pepper.
The only thing you need to get is the jar of marinated artichoke hearts. You likely already have the rest of the ingredients in your larder (yay!). Since the basil and oregano are dried, you don’t have to go and get fresh herbs.
The best way to approach this is to begin by making the pasta. Set the pasta pot on the stove with water and start to bring it to a boil. While that’s heating up, start working on the sauce.
Save the rest of the artichokes to make the recipe again, or add them to an antipasto platter with salami, fruit, olives, and cheese on a night you don’t feel like cooking.
A wonderful summer pasta that's nearly all pantry staples you already have. The only "special" ingredient is the artichoke hearts. It's full of flavor from garlic, red pepper flakes, oregano, and lots of black pepper. Spicy, but not too spicy.
4 oz. short pasta or tortellini
2 quarts of water
1 1/2 tsp olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
generous pinch red pepper flakes
generous grinding of black pepper
pinch kosher salt
1/2 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1/2 6.5 oz. jar marinated artichoke hearts (with marinade)
4 tsp grated Romano cheese
Measure out the water into a large pot and bring to a boil.
Add the pasta and salt and cook for about 8 minutes, until al dente.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a medium size saucepan.
Add the onion, garlic, dried basil, oregano, and red pepper flakes.
Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes.
Add the grinding of black pepper, the tomatoes, and a pinch of salt.
Simmer for about 8 minutes.
Add the artichokes and marinade and simmer another minute or two.
If the sauce gets too thick, add some of the pasta water. This will also add extra flavor to the sauce.
Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and add it to the sauce.
Add 3 teaspoons of the Romano cheese to the sauce and toss everything together so that the pasta is completely coated with sauce. Taste and correct seasoning (adding more salt and pepper if needed).
Pour the pasta and sauce into a serving bowl and sprinkle with the rest of the cheese.
Tomato Artichoke Pasta Sauce Recipe Substitutions and Variations
Add a spoonful of capers to the sauce
Intensify the tomato flavor with sun-dried tomatoes
Try Manchego or Parmesan cheese instead of Romano
If you don’t have the marinated artichokes, use the canned kind with some olive oil and white wine
If you don’t like artichokes (or have them handy) replace them with mushrooms and a tablespoon of Italian dressing
I’ve been craving chicken shawarma ever since I first saw The Avengers movie (years ago!) Since I’m in NY, and the city wasn’t really broken like in the movie, I even looked up the place where the last scene was filmed (when they were all sitting around eating shawarma). But somehow, I never managed to get there. I was re-watching the movie again recently and had the same craving again. Then I thought, wait, I know how to cook! Why go out and schlep all the way to midtown when I can make homemade chicken shawarma instead?
So, instead of going out, I went to the Internet and found a NY Times recipe. This dish is traditionally made on a spit or a rotisserie, but who has a roasting spit in their home? Not me, and certainly not in my tiny kitchen. The oven works just fine. If you want, you can roast the chicken first, and then fry it in a pan to make it crispier. I prefer my chicken moist and tender, so I skipped that step.
You make this dish in two stages. First marinate the chicken, make the yogurt sauce, and let both sit in the fridge. It’s best if it sits overnight, but allow at least an hour so that the flavors have time to blend together.
I put the chicken and the marinade ingredients in a plastic zip lock bag, shook it all up, and rubbed the sauce into the meat. One less bowl to clean! The yogurt sauce went into a small ramekin.
There are hundreds of different ways to make the sauce: with za’atar or sumac, with dill, mint, basil, mostly mayo, yogurt/mayo, and on and on and on. I’ve listed several different variations, just pick the one that suits your tastes and the ingredients you have on hand.
I could use za’atar and sumac, but I left them out of the instructions since they are a bit exotic in the US and I try to stick to ingredients that are readily accessible. The lemon zest, salt, and pepper that are in the recipe are a decent substitute for the sumac. You can combine thyme, sesame seeds, sumac (or lemon pepper), plus salt and make your own za’atar substitute.
If you like, combine the dry ingredients for the marinade together and keep them in a spice jar. Then, you just have to add fresh lemon juice and you’re ready to cook.
Serve this with a Greek salad, rice, olives, feta, or even (gasp) French fries. Fried or roasted eggplant would be great too.
These little ramekins are super-handy in the kitchen. I use them for dips, sauces, mixing up a quick salad dressing, nuts, slices of lemon to squeeze on fish, and olives. Use one for the olives, and another to hold the pits (works for cherries too). Or, you can even use them for spare change.
If you want try try actual za’atar, make sure to look carefully at the ingredients. Some of them have wheat (?!?) in them, and others are just thyme (which is the English translation). You want a mixture of sesame seeds, thyme, oregano or marjoram, and sumac. This one delivers what it should. Use it for the yogurt sauce, add it to roasted vegetables or fish, or sprinkle it into olive oil and serve with pita bread.
Sumac adds a pop of bright red color, as well as a citrusy, lemon flavor to food. It’s great with hummus, over fish, mixed in salads, or on potatoes. There’s no additives, salt, or other fillers in this jar, just sumac.
The inspiration for this recipe comes from a long-ago birthday dinner at a tiny neighborhood Italian restaurant. The restaurant is now (sadly) closed, but their smoked salmon pasta with tomato cream sauce lives on!
The pasta is bathed in a velvety, slightly pink, tomato sauce with a touch of cream. It’s delicious and elegant too. Make a double batch and serve it for company (they’ll think you’ll worked on it all day).
This only requires a little bit of smoked salmon (about a slice or two), so you won’t bust your budget cooking it. Even better, check to see if your market or deli sells smoked salmon ends. They’re much cheaper, and taste just as good as the fancy slices. Besides, a beautiful slice hardly matters when you are going to cut it up into small pieces!
If you don’t have any smoked salmon handy, you can use leftover cooked salmon instead. Add it right at the end. The idea is just to heat it up. You don’t want to overcook it.
To save some time (and get dinner done faster), put the water for the pasta in the pot first, and start bringing it to a boil. While the water is heating up, chop the onion. Then get the second pan going with the butter and oil. Once the water is boiling, add the pasta to the pot. Finish the sauce in the second pan while the pasta cooks. That way, you have dinner in about 20-25 minutes and nothing sits around getting cold.