Want to impress your dinner guests without spending hours over a hot stove? We searched online to find 7 surprisingly simple dishes, each bringing its own sophisticated flavors to the table. These meals are sure to leave an impression on friends and family members with every bite.
Use any of these 7 decadent dinner recipes to highlight your cooking skills without spending all day in the kitchen.
1. Slow-Cooked Lamb With Jammy Red Wine and Fruit
Surprise your dinner guests with this wonderfully tender slow-cooked lamb shoulder, prepared with a jammy red wine sauce that can be prepared over the stove in minutes. The term “jammy” refers to red wine made with ripe, intense fruit flavors, notes the eRobertParker wine guide. The incorporation of thyme lends a delightfully subtle finishing touch to the dish, which serves 8. Cape Fear Nutrition recommends serving the Slow-Cooked Lamb With Jammy Red Wine and Fruit with steamed couscous.
- 3- to 3½-pound lamb shoulder roast
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 8 garlic cloves, halved
- 10 thyme sprigs, plus more for garnish
- 1 cup big jammy red wine
- ½ cup dried cherries
- ½ cups dried California apricots, quartered
- 1 cup low-sodium beef broth
Directions: Season lamb with salt, pepper, and coriander. Insert garlic clove halves into roast. Place in the bottom of a 7-quart slow cooker.
In a sauce pan, add red wine, dried cherries, and dried apricots and bring to a boil. Cook over medium heat until the wine is reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the beef broth and bring to a boil.
Pour red wine sauce over the top of lamb. Place lid on the slow-cooker and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours. When the lamb is tender, remove from slow cooker. Allow to cool. Discard garlic. Remove meat from bone and place it into a soup tureen or pretty ceramic dish of your choice. Set aside.
Pour the liquid left in the slow cooker into a saucepan, add fresh thyme, and bring to a simmer. Cook for about 20 minutes to intensify the flavors. Discard thyme. Pour the wine sauce over lamb and garnish with fresh thyme.
2. Ginger, Chili, and Lemon Salmon
The boldly spiced and citrusy flavors of this Ginger, Chili, and Lemon Salmon are sure to amaze your friends and family, without requiring much effort in the kitchen on your part. Allowing the salmon fillets marinate for 30 minutes ahead of cooking is a key step in the process, as it will result in an incredibly moist, flavorful dinner dish. The Iron You’s recipe yields 4 impressive and hearty servings.
- 1½ pounds (or 4 6-ounce pieces) salmon fillets, skin on or off
- Juice of 2 lemons
- 1 (2-inch) piece ginger, peeled and grated
- 2 to 3 chili peppers (or jalapeños), seeded and chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
Directions: In a bowl, combine olive oil, lemon juice, ginger, chili peppers, garlic, and salt.
Place salmon fillets (skin side up) in a shallow dish and pour marinade over it. Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and place a rack in the middle. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and lightly grease it with olive oil. Alternately, you may use a cast-iron skillet.
Place salmon fillets onto the prepared baking sheet, skin side down, and drizzle some of the marinade over them. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 15 minutes. Turn on the broiler, remove foil, and broil for further 3 minutes or until the top is golden-brown. Transfer to a serving platter and serve.
3. Swiss Chard and Lemon Ricotta Pasta
Tender swiss chard combines with the light flavors of lemon and ricotta — plus a dash of crispy, savory bacon — for this spectacular pasta dish that comes together in minutes. This Swiss Chard and Lemon Ricotta Pasta from Food52 also incorporates bacon fat for added depth of flavor. Because chard diminishes in size as it cooks, you may prefer to use 4½ cups of greens rather than the 3 cups called for in the recipe, depending on your preference. You can substitute kale, spinach, or arugula if you don’t happen to have any chard at home. The recipe yields 4 servings.
- 3 cups raw Swiss chard, sliced (including the stems)
- 2 handfuls dried spaghetti noodles
- 2 strips bacon, cut into ¼-inch slices or lardons
- ½ large shallot, minced
- Olive oil, as needed
- ⅓ cup ricotta cheese
- 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
- Zest from ½ lemon
- ¼ teaspoon salt, to taste
- Pinch dried red pepper flakes
Directions: Bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Blanch the Swiss chard for 5 minutes. Scoop out the chard and drain well, squeezing out as much of the water as possible. Chop again and set aside.
Keep the pot of water boiling, and add the spaghetti noodles. Follow the directions on the packet for making the spaghetti. Drain and set aside, retaining about 1 cup of liquid from cooking the noodles. Fry bacon until just crispy.
Add the shallot and sauté until soft, adding olive oil if needed. Add the Swiss chard and toss well to break up the chard clumps. Combine the ricotta and Parmesan cheeses in a small bowl and add the lemon zest, salt, and red pepper flakes. Add to the Swiss chard mixture in the sauté pan and mix well.
Add cooked spaghetti and some of the pasta water as needed. Serve warm.
4. Roasted Pine Nut, Bacon, and Mushroom-Stuffed Skin Chicken Breast
BS In The Kitchen’s Roasted Pine Nut, Bacon, and Mushroom-Stuffed Skin Chicken Breast is a fabulous last-minute dinner dish requiring just 50 minutes to make. To make things even simpler, the recipe incorporates ingredients that you may very well have on hand already in your freezer or pantry. Pine nuts offer a delightful crunch to the dish, while the flavors of scallion, thyme, and garlic lend the dish a simple, yet incredible, taste profile. The result is 2 servings of tender, richly-flavored chicken breast.
- 2 skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts
- 2 slices bacon, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons mushrooms, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons roasted pine nuts
- 2 tablespoons panko bread crumbs
- 1½ tablespoons cream cheese
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons green onion
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon thyme
- ¼ teaspoon parsley
- Olive oil/butter
Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove chicken from fridge.
Fry bacon until cooked, but still soft, in a pan over medium heat. Roast pine nuts in pan on medium heat until browned.
Finely chop bacon, mushrooms, pine nuts, and green onion. In a bowl, mix all ingredients together (except chicken). Run a finger under the chicken skin to loosen it for the stuffing. Use a spoon and finger to stuff the filling under the chicken skin. Spread evenly as you stuff.
Once the chicken skin is stuffed, rub with olive oil or butter, and rub entire chicken breast with salt and pepper. Place chicken in a baking dish and cook for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until chicken reaches internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Serve chicken garnished with parsley.
5. Penne With Sausage and Vodka Sauce
Chew Out Loud’s Penne With Sausage and Vodka Sauce is a comforting dish that offers notes of spicy sausage and tangy tomatoes, along with a rich, creamy sauce. Adding a bit of vodka to the sauce lends it a wonderful complexity (the alcohol content cooks out in the process). This is an easy-to-make dish with the potential for easy and delightful leftovers. The recipe yields 4 entrée-sized servings.
- 1 pound Italian sausage, no casings, mild or spicy
- 1 (28-ounce) can Italian diced tomatoes, with juices reserved
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ onion, minced
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 4 medium garlic cloves, minced
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Table salt, to taste
- ⅓ cup vodka
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ½ pound dried penne
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh basil leaves
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
Directions: In a saucepan over medium-high heat, cook and crumble sausage until cooked through. Set aside.
In a food processor, puree half of the diced tomatoes until smooth. Combine pureed and diced tomatoes, including juices.
Heat oil in a large, heavy saucepan over medium. Add onion and tomato paste, stirring, until onion is light golden, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes, stirring for about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes with juice and ½ teaspoon salt.
Remove pan from heat and add vodka, then return pan to medium-high and simmer 8 to 10 minutes, stirring often and lowering heat level if simmering is vigorous. Stir in cream and cooked sausage, then cook to heat up for about 1 minute. Turn off heat and keep warm.
As the sauce is simmering, bring a large pot of well-salted water to boil. Cook pasta until just shy of al dente (about a minute less than package instructions for al dente). Reserve about half of the pasta water. Drain pasta but don’t rinse, and return it to the pot.
Add the warm tomato sauce mixture and toss over medium heat, until pasta absorbs some of the sauce, about 1 to 2 minutes. Adjust consistency of sauce with the reserved pasta water as needed. Stir in basil, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve with fresh Parmesan.
6. Pork Tenderloin With Honey-Mustard Sauce
Juicy pork tenderloin meets a zippy honey-mustard sauce in Tide and Thyme’s dinner dish, inspired by Giada De Laurentiis. This flavorful and protein-packed pork is pan-seared to result in a beautifully browned crust, then cooked to perfection in the oven. Create an easy, piquant sauce using the browned crust in the bottom of your pan, along with white wine (or vermouth), Dijon mustard, honey, and an assortment of herbs. Serve your Pork Tenderloin and Honey-Mustard Sauce along with roasted potatoes and veggies for an amazing last-minute dinner!
- Vegetable oil cooking spray
- 2 (1-pound) pork tenderloins
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
For the sauce
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ red onion, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup dry white wine or vermouth
- ½ cup honey
- ½ cup Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
Directions: Position an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a heavy baking sheet with vegetable oil cooking spray.
Season the pork with the salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the pork and brown on all sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer the pork to the prepared baking sheet and bake until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers 160 degrees Fahrenheit, about 20 minutes. Allow the meat to rest for 10 minutes on a cutting board before slicing ¼- to ½-inch-thick slices.
In the same skillet used for browning the pork, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, salt, and pepper. Cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Pour in the wine and use a wooden spoon to scrape up the brown bits that cling to the bottom of the pan. Simmer for 1 minute. Whisk in the honey, mustard, vinegar, and thyme. Simmer until thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the butter until melted and smooth.
Top the pork slices with honey mustard sauce and serve.
7. Crispy Gnocchi With Brown Butter, Thyme, and Toasted Hazelnuts
If you’ve got a batch of gnocchi on hand — either store-bought or homemade — then trying this memorable recipe from Cooking For Keeps is a must! These Crispy Gnocchi With Brown Butter, Thyme, and Toasted Hazelnuts will enhance the airy texture of your gnocchi with a light, brown-butter coating accented with thyme. Toasted hazelnuts offer a sophisticated taste and texture to the dish, which comes together in just 20 minutes! The recipe yields 4 servings. If you’d like to try making your own gnocchi at home, Cooking For Keeps also shares a gnocchi recipe and tutorial, bound to produce stunning results.
- 1 batch (about 4 cups) gnocchi
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 6 to 8 thyme leaves
- ½ cup grated Parmesan
- ½ cup hazelnuts, chopped
Directions: Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Season liberally with salt. Turn the heat down to a slow boil. Add gnocchi. Give them a stir to make sure they don’t stick together. Cook for 7 to 8 minutes, until dough is cooked through. Drain. While they are cooking, make the brown butter and toast the hazelnuts.
Heat a medium nonstick pan over a medium heat. Add hazelnuts and cook until slightly toasted. Be careful not to burn. Remove from pan and return pan to stove.
In the same pan, add butter. Let the butter melt, and when it starts to become brown, swirl the pan until it’s a deep brown and smells nutty.
Season with a little bit of salt. Add gnocchi and thyme leaves to brown butter. Once the gnocchi are completely coated in the sauce, let them crisp up on each side.
Once the gnocchi are crisp, transfer them to a serving dish and drizzle with remaining brown butter. Top with toasted hazelnuts and grated Parmesan cheese.