Sunday Dinner Ideas: 5 Easy Recipes for Family Meals

For busy families, Sunday evening may be one of the few nights of the week when everybody has time to sit down for a shared meal. You can lure everyone to the dinner table with classic recipes and creative spins on traditional dishes like roast chicken and pot roast. None of these recipes is terribly complicated, but most do take a couple of hours or more of total cooking time, making them perfect for lazy Sunday afternoons. If you’re wondering what to serve for family meals, here are five Sunday dinner ideas to get you started.

1. Milk-Braised Pork Chops with Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

pork chop with mashed potatoes

Pork chop with mashed potatoes | iStock.com/valeniker

Slow-cooking boneless pork chops in milk yields tender meat and flavorful drippings that make a perfect gravy. Pair the meat with homemade mashed potatoes for a satisfying and comforting Sunday dinner. Recipe from Food & Wine. Serves 6.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 (8-ounce) well-marbled boneless pork loin chops
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
  • 5 thyme sprigs
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 2½ cups whole milk
  • 3 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Directions: In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Season the pork chops with salt and pepper and add them to the casserole. Cook over moderately high heat, turning once, until golden, about 7 minutes total. Transfer the chops to a plate.

Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, and a generous pinch each of salt and pepper to the casserole and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until the vegetables just start to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the stock, thyme, bay leaves and 2 cups of the milk and bring to a simmer. Return the pork chops to the casserole, cover and braise over very low heat until tender, about 2 hours.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, cover the potatoes with water and bring to a boil. Add a generous pinch of salt and simmer over moderate heat until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Drain. Add the cream and 4 tablespoons of the butter to the saucepan and warm over low heat until the butter is melted. Pass the potatoes through a ricer into a bowl, then stir in the warm cream-butter sauce. Season the mashed potatoes with salt and pepper; keep warm.

Transfer the pork chops to a platter and cover with foil. Spoon 4 cups of the braising liquid and vegetables into a blender, discarding the bay leaves, thyme sprigs and remaining vegetables and liquid. Puree the vegetable sauce until smooth.

In a medium saucepan, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter over moderately high heat. Whisk in the flour and cook until bubbling. Whisk in the vegetable sauce and the remaining ½ cup of milk; cook over moderate heat, whisking, until the gravy is thickened and no floury taste remains, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve the chops with the mashed potatoes and gravy.

2. Garlic Roasted Chicken with Root Vegetables

roast chicken and vegetables

Roast chicken with vegetables | iStock.com

When it comes to Sunday dinner, you can’t go wrong with simple, classic dishes, like this garlic-roasted chicken with root vegetables from the Food Network’s Giada De Laurentiis. Plus, the leftover meat can be used for quick weeknight dinners, like chicken enchiladas or soup, while the carcass can be transformed into homemade stock.

Ingredients:

For the butter

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • ½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced

For the chicken

  • 1 (6¼-pound) chicken, rinsed and patted dry
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 lemon, quartered

For the vegetables

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
  • 6 baby red potatoes, halved
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and halved lengthwise
  • 2 large parsnips, peeled and quartered lengthwise
  • 2 large shallots, peeled and halved
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • ½ cup low-salt chicken broth

Directions: Position an oven rack just below the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

To make the garlic butter, combine the butter, rosemary, thyme, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and garlic in a small bowl and mix until smooth.

Tuck the wings under the chicken. Sprinkle the cavity of the chicken with salt and pepper. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the butter mixture into the cavity. Place the rosemary, thyme, and lemon quarters in the cavity. Tie the legs together loosely with kitchen string. Place the chicken in a large roasting pan.

Starting at the neck end of the chicken, loosen the skin over the entire chicken breast. Smear the remaining butter mixture over the outside and under the skin of the chicken, being careful not to tear the skin.

For the vegetables: In a large bowl, toss together the oil, rosemary, thyme, salt, pepper, potatoes, carrots, parsnips, shallots, and garlic.

Arrange the vegetables around the chicken in a single layer. Add the broth and roast until the vegetables are tender and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken thigh registers 160 to 165 degrees Fahrenheit, about 1½ hours. Let the chicken rest for 20 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a platter. Arrange the vegetables around the chicken. Scrape the contents of the roaster into a 4-cup measuring cup. Spoon off the layer of fat that rises to the top. Season the pan juices with salt and pepper, if needed. Serve the chicken with the pan juices.

3. Lamb Tagine with Chickpeas and Apricots

Moroccan Lamb Tagine in white bowl

Lamb tagine | iStock.com

Typically, a dish like this slow-cooked lamb with chickpeas would be prepared in a tagine, a traditional earthenware Moroccan cooking vessel, but this recipe from Epicurious can be made in any heavy-bottomed pot. Ras-el-hanout is a North African spice blend that gives this hearty meal its unique flavor. You can make your own or look for it in specialty food stores. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup dried chickpeas
  • 5 garlic cloves, 2 whole, 3 chopped
  • 1 large cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 pounds lamb shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 5 teaspoons ras-el-hanout spice blend
  • 1 tablespoon chopped peeled ginger
  • 1 cup canned diced tomatoes with juices
  • 2½ cups (or more) low-salt chicken stock
  • ½ cup halved dried apricots
  • Steamed couscous
  • Chopped fresh cilantro

Directions: Place chickpeas in a medium saucepan. Add water to cover by 2 inches. Let soak overnight.

Drain chickpeas; return to same saucepan. Add 2 whole garlic cloves and cinnamon stick. Add water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer until chickpeas are tender, about 45 minutes. Drain; set aside.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Season lamb with salt and pepper. Working in batches, brown lamb on all sides, about 4 minutes per batch. Transfer lamb to a medium bowl. Add onion to pot; reduce heat to medium, season with salt and pepper, and sauté until soft and beginning to turn golden, about 5 minutes. Add chopped garlic, ras-el-hanout , and ginger. Stir for 1 minute. Add tomatoes and lamb with any accumulated juices. Bring to a boil. Add 2½ cups stock.

Return to a boil, reduce heat to low, partially cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until lamb is tender, about 1 hour 30 minutes.

Stir in chickpeas; simmer until heated through, about 10 minutes. Stir in apricots; simmer until heated through, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon couscous onto a large, shallow platter, forming a large well in center. Spoon tagine into center. Sprinkle cilantro over.

4. Spinach, Pesto, and Fontina Lasagna

spinach lasagna

Spinach lasagna | iStock.com/-lvinst-

If you’re searching for a filling vegetarian main dish for Sunday dinner, look no further than this recipe for spinach, pesto, and fontina lasagna from Bon Appétit. The white sauce can be made a day ahead of time, simplifying prep the day of. Makes 8 servings.

Ingredients:

For the sauce

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup all purpose flour
  • 2½ cups reduced-fat milk
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ teaspoon salt

For the spinach

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup finely chopped shallots
  • 4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 (6-ounce) packages baby spinach

For the lasagna

  • 15 (7-by-3½-inch) no-boil lasagna noodles
  • 3½ cups fresh ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cups coarsely grated Italian Fontina cheese, divided
  • Herb pesto

Directions: Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and whisk 1 minute, being careful not to brown. Add milk and wine and whisk until smooth. Cook until sauce thickens and comes to boil, whisking constantly, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in Parmesan cheese and salt. Season sauce to taste with pepper.

Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add shallots and garlic. Sauté until shallots soften, about 2 minutes. Add all spinach (pot will be full). Cook spinach until wilted but still bright green, tossing often, about 3 minutes. Using tongs, transfer spinach to large sieve set over bowl; reserve pot. Press out excess liquid from spinach. Drain 10 to 15 minutes longer.

Return drained liquid from spinach to reserved pot. Boil until liquid is reduced to glaze. Return spinach to pot and toss 1 minute. Remove spinach from heat. Mix in 1½ cups sauce. Season spinach to taste with pepper.

Place noodles in large bowl. Fill bowl with hot tap water. Soak noodles until pliable, stirring occasionally to separate, about 15 minutes. Place large sheet of parchment paper on work surface. Transfer noodles to parchment in single layer, shaking off excess water.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter 13-by-9-by-2-inch glass baking dish. Mix ricotta, Parmesan, and lemon peel in medium bowl. Season to taste with salt. Mix in egg.

Spread ½ cup sauce thinly over bottom of prepared dish. Top with three noodles, arranged side by side and covering most of the bottom of the dish. Spread half of spinach mixture over. Sprinkle with ⅓ cup Fontina. Top with three noodles and half of ricotta mixture. Drop half of pesto over by teaspoonfuls, spacing drops evenly apart. Continue layering with three noodles, remaining spinach mixture, ⅓ cup Fontina, three more noodles, remaining ricotta mixture, then remaining pesto. Top with last three noodles. Spread remaining sauce over; sprinkle with remaining Fontina. Cover dish with buttered foil.

Bake lasagna until heated through and bubbling at edges, 50 to 55 minutes. Remove from oven. Remove foil from dish. Preheat broiler. Broil lasagna until top is browned in spots, turning dish occasionally for even browning, about 4 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes, then serve.

5. Perfect Crockpot Roast

pot roast

Pot roast | iStock.com

For many families, it wouldn’t be Sunday dinner without a pot roast. This slow cooker recipe from Recipes That Crock has just six ingredients and only takes a few minutes to prepare in the morning. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 1 (2- to 3-pound) beef roast
  • 5 to 6 potatoes, peeled and sliced into wedges
  • 1 bag of baby carrots
  • 2 medium onions, sliced in half
  • 2 packages brown gravy mix
  • 2 cups water

Directions: Spray a 5- to 6-quart crock pot with cooking spray or line with a slow cooker liner.

Place the roast in the crock pot. Nestle the sliced potatoes, onion, and carrots around the meat. Mix one of the packages of gravy mix with 1 cup of cold water, then pour over the meat. Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours.

About 1 hour before you’re ready to serve dinner, mix the remaining 1 packet of gravy mix with 1 cup of cold water. Pour over meat and vegetables, cover, and cook for 1 hour more. Serve.