Deciding what to make for dinner can be a daily struggle, especially when cooking for the whole family and trying to cater to different tastes and appetites. You need to have options that appeal to both kids and adults. The key, however, is to find recipes that are flavorful yet simple, using ingredients most people like.
Comfort foods that evoke nostalgia are always a safe bet. It’s also helpful to have a mix of cuisines so you can have variety at the table. Most importantly, the meal should be easy to make after a long day.
With a well-stocked pantry, these seven reliable recipes can please even the pickiest eaters in your family.
Lasagna is an Italian casserole with layers of noodles, meat sauce, cheese, and vegetables. It makes a hearty, comforting family meal that can feed a crowd.
Start with a basic meat sauce using ground beef or Italian sausage, tomatoes, onion, garlic, and seasonings. Layer the sauce with lasagna noodles, ricotta cheese mixture, mozzarella, Parmesan, and cooked spinach or other veggies. Repeat the layers to create a towering lasagna.
Cover with foil and bake until hot and bubbly. Lasagna is great for making ahead since the flavors improve as it sits. If you are looking for a healthy alternative, you can cook a spinach lasagna by replacing the meat with spinach.
Serve straight from the oven with salad and garlic bread for a satisfying family dinner. The rich layers of pasta, meat, cheese, and veggies come together for a true crowd-pleaser.
Tacos are a fun, interactive dinner the whole family can enjoy together. Set up a taco bar with all the favorite toppings and let everyone build their perfect tacos.
First, cook some lean ground turkey or beef with taco seasoning for a flavorful protein base. Provide both hard and soft taco shells so people can choose their preferred vessel. Then, set out bowls with shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, shredded cheese, salsa, guacamole, sliced olives, and sour cream. You can also include extras like black beans, corn, jalapenos, or cilantro.
With all the fresh, colorful ingredients laid out, everyone can create tacos to suit their own tastes. The great thing about taco night is that it pleases all palates in a fun, social setting.
Homemade pizza night is always a hit with families since it’s interactive and customizable. Making pizza at home is also a fun activity the whole family can do together.
You can either use ready-made dough from the store to save time or make your own dough from scratch for the best flavor. Set up stations with pizza sauce, shredded mozzarella, and any other favorite toppings so each person can create their own perfect pizza. Toppings like pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, peppers, onions, and black olives are classic, but you can get creative and use anything from pineapple to barbecue chicken.
Once the pizzas are assembled, bake them up in the oven until the crust is crispy and the cheese is melted and bubbly. Then slice them up and enjoy fresh, hot, homemade pizzas. Pizza night is always a crowd-pleaser that allows everyone to put their own spin on this family-friendly meal.
Baked Mac and Cheese
Baked macaroni and cheese is a universally loved comfort food for both kids and adults. The creamy, cheesy pasta bakes up with a crispy, golden topping that everyone will devour.
First, boil some macaroni pasta. Make a creamy cheese sauce by melting butter and mixing in flour to make a roux, then add milk and cheeses like cheddar, Parmesan, and/or American. Spice it up with a pinch of cayenne or dry mustard. Toss the cooked pasta with the cheese sauce. Transfer to a baking dish, top with breadcrumbs or crushed crackers, and bake until hot and bubbly.
The blend of gooey, melted cheese with the crunchy, toasted topping makes this baked mac and cheese irresistible. The rich, nostalgic flavors appeal to all ages, making this classic comfort food a favorite family meal. Add a side salad, and you have an easy, crowd-pleasing dinner.
Chicken Pot Pie
Chicken pot pie is the ultimate comfort food that makes an excellent meal to serve the entire family. The aromatic filling of chicken, vegetables, and creamy sauce, topped with a flaky crust, is sure to satisfy all ages.
First, make a hearty chicken filling by cooking diced chicken with onions, carrots, peas, and celery. Make a creamy sauce with butter, flour, chicken broth, and milk. Add the sauce to the filling along with fresh herbs. Pour this aromatic chicken mixture into a pie crust. Top with a second rolled-out crust and crimp the edges to seal. Cut slits in the top for ventilation.
Bake the pot pie until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling. The medley of tender chicken and vegetables in the creamy sauce appeals to both kids and adults. Serve it straight out of the oven with a fresh side salad.
Baked ziti is an Italian comfort food made with ziti pasta, marinara sauce, and lots of ooey-gooey cheese. It’s a hearty, crowd-pleasing dish that’s sure to satisfy even the pickiest eaters.
First, boil the ziti pasta until al dente. Make a simple tomato sauce, or use your favorite jarred marinara. In a baking dish, layer the sauce, pasta, shredded mozzarella, and Parmesan cheese. For a heartier meal, add cooked Italian sausage or ground beef. Top with more cheese and bake until hot and bubbling.
The melted cheese binds the pasta and sauce together into a rich, creamy casserole. Serve it straight from the oven with a fresh salad and buttery garlic bread for a delicious family dinner. You can also assemble it ahead of time and freeze or refrigerate it to bake on busy nights.
Chicken fajitas are a fun, interactive dinner where everyone can customize their meal. Kids love assembling their own fajitas with their favorite ingredients.
Slice up chicken breasts and sauté with sliced bell peppers and onions in Mexican seasoning. Make sure to use extra bell peppers and onions since they add so much flavor. Present warm tortillas, shredded cheese, guacamole, salsa, lettuce, and tomato. Family members can build their fajitas to their liking with their choice of veggies and toppings.
The combination of warm tortillas, seasoned chicken and veggies, melted cheese, and cool toppings like guacamole and salsa is amazing. The lean protein and colorful vegetables make fajitas a healthy dinner option the whole family will enjoy. Just set out all the ingredients and let everyone DIY their perfect fajitas!
Finding recipes the whole family enjoys can seem daunting, but having a roster of crowd-pleasing options makes meal planning easy. These seven recipes cover a variety of cuisines and flavors to please all palates. Best of all, they are simple to prepare using common ingredients. With flavorful, nostalgic dishes like lasagna, baked ziti, tacos, chicken pot pie, and more in your repertoire, you will have go-to meals ready to bring your family together around the dinner table.