Easy Dinner Recipes That Feed The Whole Family

You may be busy, but your family still expects dinner on the table every night. Is it possible to satisfy a crowd of hungry diners without resorting to convenience foods or takeout? Absolutely. These seven easy dinner recipes are wholesome, homemade, and will each serve at least six people. From simple crockpot dinners to kid-friendly favorites, you’ll be able to feed your entire family and still have time for the rest of your life.

1. Shepherd’s Pie

shepherd's pie

Shepherd’s pie | iStock.com

Meat, potatoes, and veggies, all in one dish — that’s part of the appeal of shepherd’s pie, a classic English comfort food. It’s the perfect meal for cool nights, and it doesn’t have to take a long time to prepare. This easy version from Kraft is ready in about 40 minutes and serves 6. To save time, use leftover mashed potatoes for the topping or opt for instant or heat-and-serve mashed spuds.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 2 cups hot mashed potatoes
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, cubed
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 4 cups of frozen mixed vegetables, such as peas, carrots, corn, and green beans
  • 1 cup beef gravy

Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Brown the meat in a skillet over medium-high heat. Drain the fat.

Mix the mashed potatoes, cream cheese, ½ cup of the cheddar cheese, and the garlic in a large bowl. Set aside.

Add the vegetables and the gravy to the skillet. Spray a 9-inch-square baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Pour in the meat and vegetable mixture. Cover with the potatoes.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until heated through.

2. Tex-Mex Lasagna

tex-mex lasagna

Tex-mex lasagna | iStock.com

Lasagna’s the perfect meal to feed a crowd. If you’re feeling tired of the classic Italian combo of tomato sauce and gooey mozzarella cheese, why not try this Tex-Mex-influenced version instead? You’ll find corn, zucchini, and refried beans in this vegetarian main dish, which serves 6. Recipe from Good Housekeeping.

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 1 jar salsa
  • 1 cup corn
  • 1 tablespoon no-salt-added chili powder
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • 6 oven-ready (no-boil) lasagna noodles
  • 1 (16-ounce) can fat-free refried beans
  • 8 ounces shredded Monterey jack or cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro leaves

Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray shallow 2-quart baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

In 12-inch skillet, heat oil on medium. Add onion. Cook 2 minutes or until beginning to soften, stirring occasionally. Stir in zucchini, salsa, corn, and chili powder. Cook 2 to 3 minutes or until zucchini is crisp-tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.

On bottom of prepared dish, spread half of tomato sauce. Arrange 2 lasagna noodles in single layer. Top with half of beans and half of vegetables. Arrange 2 more lasagna noodles in single layer. Top with half of cheese. Repeat with remaining sauce, noodles, beans, and vegetables. Top with remaining cheese.

Cover tightly with foil and bake 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 15 to 20 minutes or until bubbly and noodles are tender. Remove from oven; let stand 5 minutes. Top with cilantro.

3. Slow Cooker Bolognese

pasta with bolognese sauce

Pasta with bolognese sauce | iStock.com

A meaty Bolognese is sure to please even the pickiest of eaters, and it’s easy to cook in large quantities. This slow cooker version from Real Simple produces a generous 3 quarts of sauce — enough for 12 servings. Serve it over pasta and with a salad of mixed greens when you’re hosting the entire extended family for dinner, or freeze half so you have a no-fuss weeknight meal ready next time you’re too busy to cook.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • ½ pound ground pork
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 6 (14-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
  • 4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Long pasta (such as pappardelle), for serving

Directions: In a large skillet, combine the onion, celery, carrot, and olive oil and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until tender, about 10 minutes.

Add the meat and cook, stirring frequently, until it loses its pink color. Add the milk. Increase heat to high and cook until the milk has evaporated. Transfer the mixture to a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker.

Return the skillet to the heat and add the tomato paste; cook over low heat to reduce its bitterness, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste to the cooker, along with the tomatoes, salt, and nutmeg.

Cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours. Serve warm over pappardelle or your favorite type of pasta.

4. Slow Cooker Black Bean Enchiladas

enchilada on plate

Enchilada | iStock.com

These slow cooker black bean enchiladas may not be the prettiest dish to look at, but they get the job done, which is sometimes the most important thing when you’re charged with making the entire family happy at dinnertime. Plus, this vegetarian meal from The Kitchn is perfect for meatless Mondays and is easy to make with ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen, including canned black beans and frozen corn. It’s also a good way to use leftover roasted vegetables or chicken (if you prefer a non-vegetarian dish) and can also be easily doubled if you have a large slow cooker. Serves 6 to 8.

Ingredients:

  • 1 small yellow onion (or ½ large onion), diced small
  • 1 sweet bell pepper, diced small
  • 1 (16-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1½ cups Monterey jack, colby, or other melting cheese, shredded and divided
  • 2 (16-ounce) jars salsa, any kind
  • 12 to 15 medium flour tortillas (about 6 inches in diameter)

Optional ingredients

  • 1 cup leftover baked tofu, roasted vegetables, chicken, pork, hamburger, or beef

Directions: Mix the onion, bell pepper, black beans, corn, spices, meat (if using), and ½ cup of cheese in a medium bowl. Pour about 1 cup of salsa into the bottom of a 6-quart slow cooker.

Spoon about ⅓ cup of the bean and vegetable mixture into the tortillas, rolling each as tightly as possible. Place in the slow cooker, seam side down. Repeat until you have a complete layer of enchiladas.

Pour 1 cup of salsa over the enchiladas. Sprinkle with ½ cup of cheese. Fill the remaining tortillas with filling and place in a single layer in the slow cooker. Pour 1 cup of salsa over, then cover and cook on high for 2 to 4 hours.

About 15 minutes before the enchiladas are done, sprinkle the remaining ½ cup of cheese on the enchiladas. Re-cover and continue cooking. Serve with any remaining salsa.

5. Ham and Sausage Jambalaya

Pan of jambalaya

Pan of jambalaya | iStock.com

One-pot dinners don’t have to be boring, as this ham, sausage, and shrimp jambalaya recipe from Bon Appétit proves. For best results and an authentic New Orleans flavor, use spicy andouille sausage in this dish. (You can substitute kielbasa or another dry-cured pork sausage in a pinch.) Serves 6 to 8.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound andouille or other smoked sausage
  • 1 pound smoked ham, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 white onion, finely chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, cored, finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 plum tomatoes, seeded, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped thyme
  • 4½ cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • 3 cups long-grain rice, rinsed
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 10 dashes hot sauce
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled, deveined
  • ¼ cup chopped scallions
  • ½ cup chopped parsley leaves with tender stems, divided
  • Lemon wedges, for serving

Directions: Cook sausage and ham in a large pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 12 minutes; transfer to a plate. Wipe out pot.

Melt butter in same pot over medium-high heat. Cook onion, celery, green pepper, red pepper, and 1 teaspoon salt, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, garlic, jalapeño, tomato paste, and thyme; cook until heated through, about 1 minute. Season with salt.

Add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Stir in rice, bay leaves, and hot sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Return to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, 15 minutes. Uncover and stir in reserved sausage and ham. Cook until heated through, about 5 more minutes.

Add shrimp, scallions, and ¼ cup parsley. Stir a few times to allow shrimp to begin cooking, then cover pot, turn off heat, and let jambalaya sit until shrimp are cooked through, 15 to 18 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl, then top with remaining ¼ cup parsley. Serve with lemon wedges alongside.

6. Turkey Sloppy Joes

sloppy joes

Sloppy joes | iStock.com

Kid-friendly sloppy joes get a healthy upgrade in this recipe from Alaska from Scratch. Ground beef is swapped out for lower-fat ground turkey, and the sauce is homemade rather than from a can. This recipe makes 6 to 8 sandwiches and can easily be doubled if you’re feeding more people. Leftover meat and sauce can also be frozen and defrosted to eat later.

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons oil for the pan
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 (15-ounce) can plain tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • Hot sauce, optional

For serving

  • 6 to 8 small hamburger buns, lightly buttered and toasted
  • Grated cheddar cheese, optional
  • Sliced green onions, optional

Directions: Add the oil to a large skillet and heat over medium. Once the oil is hot, add the ground turkey and cook until no longer pink. Add the chopped onions and cook for 2 minutes, until the onions start to turn translucent.

Stir in the garlic powder, tomato sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and black pepper. Reduce heat and let simmer for 10 minutes, uncovered, until the sauce thickens. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and hot sauce.

Serve sloppy Joes on buttered and toasted buns. Top with cheddar cheese and green onions, if desired.

7. Chicken Fried Rice

fried rice

Fried rice | iStock.com

This quick-and-easy chicken fried rice recipe from the Recipe Critic, which is ready in just 20 minutes, is the perfect weeknight meal. Day-old cooked rice works best in this dish, so you’ll want to make a batch ahead of time. Using leftover cooked and shredded chicken also saves time (you can cook the meat in this teriyaki sauce for extra flavor), or pick up a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. Serves 8.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound chicken, about 2 to 3 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
  • 3 cups cooked rice
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 small white onion, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen peas and carrots, thawed
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onions

Directions: Heat a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Add the sesame oil to the pan. Add the onion, peas, and carrots and stir fry until tender.

Use a spatula to push the vegetables to one side. Pour the beaten eggs into the pan. Cook until set, then mix the eggs in with the vegetables.

Add the rice to the pan, along with the cooked chicken. Stir to combine with the veggies. Pour the soy sauce over and stir to combine. Let cook until heated through. Serve with chopped green onions on top, if desired.

Follow Megan on Twitter @MeganE_CS

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