Once you've decided on the main dish for dinner, the rest of the menu usually falls into place. Figuring out the centerpiece does the trick, so we collected some of our favorite main dishes for you to find inspiration.
From quick and easy to make-ahead, from vegan to carnivore, our suggestions are all perfect for a family dinner during a busy weeknight.
01 of 10
This isn't the most orthodox pasta recipe, but it is a good one. Simply choose a long pasta – bucatini or spaghetti works well – buy a jar of your favorite tomato sauce (low sugar and no added tomato paste are the most healthy and flavorful), some cream cheese, and you'll have dinner ready in 20 minutes or less.
Adding cream cheese to tomato sauce gives the dish a creamy tang that is just delicious. It also makes it easy for kids to enjoy because sometimes jarred tomato sauces have too much garlic or spices and the cream cheese tones those flavors down.
Make this pasta vegan by skipping the cream cheese and replacing it with 1/2 cup of unsweetened cashew milk and 1/2 cup of vegan cream cheese.
02 of 10
If you're not used to using the microwave when cooking, this is a great opportunity to make this appliance your new ally. Make a honey-mustard and onion sauce in the microwave, season your chicken with salt and pepper, cover with the sauce, and bake between 35 and 40 minutes at 375 F.
The juicy and flavorful chicken goes well with rice, like our aromatic coconut rice. Use the same oven time and temperature to make some balsamic roasted vegetables and sit down for a healthy dinner in 40 minutes or less.
If you want to make rice in the microwave, simply put 1 cup of rice, 2 cups of water, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a microwave-safe bowl. Stir and microwave on high for 10 minutes, stir again and microwave 5 more. Times vary depending on the power of the appliance but start with less time than you think is needed to avoid overcooking the rice and drying it up.
03 of 10
This fabulous recipe uses all the tricks of a seasoned cook who knows what it's like to be pressed for time. Buy the frozen ravioli of your choice and one jar of red sauce (no added sugar) and one of Alfredo sauce. Place the ravioli on a baking pan and pour the red sauce on top plus the 1/2 cup of water that you just used to "clean" all of the remaining red sauce from the jar. Do the same with Alfredo sauce plus the 1/4 cup of milk used to clean the jar. Bake and eat!
You could make this vegetarian dish for carnivores by adding meatballs on top before baking. When the pasta is cooked after 55 minutes covered and 15 uncovered, add parmesan on top and serve.
Keep the red-and-white theme with a side Caprese salad and offer some crusty bread and butter.
04 of 10
Meatloaf is an American staple that is too irresistible not to try and make your own. Juicy lean beef and veggies baked in a sturdy loaf are part of most people's happy childhood memories.
For this recipe, use good quality beef, eggs, onions, and tomato sauce. Add any spices of your choice like cayenne, chili flakes, garlic powder, or Italian herbs. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes and let rest for 10 more before slicing it.
Meatloaf goes really well with mashed potatoes. If you want a lighter version, try mashed cauliflower. Make a colorful melon salad and sit down to a beautiful family-style dinner. Offer BBQ sauce or homemade green ketchup to pour on the meatloaf.
This recipe uses oatmeal and not breadcrumbs so it's gluten-free.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
05 of 10
This flaky and tender beef roast cooks in the oven for 3 hours. So even if time-consuming, most of the cooking happens without you having to do anything. Just sauteé the onions, brown your meat, reduce the red wine and place everything in the oven with beef broth, and herbs.
You have the option to add potatoes after 2 hours of cooking or leave it untouched for the whole 3 hours of oven time. If you choose to skip the potatoes in the roast, bake some candied sweet potatoes in the same oven to serve as a side dish. Add other vegetables to your roast, like turnips and peppers, so you won't have to worry about making a vegetable dish.
06 of 10
This easy and old-fashioned recipe might have many steps, but it's fairly easy to make and you won't regret it for a minute when your family starts asking for seconds. Place chicken, veggies, and broth in the crockpot and cook for 8 hours on low until the chicken is ready. Drop dollops of biscuit dough into the soup and cook on high for 25 more minutes. That's it.
Garnish with fresh parsley and enjoy with a belly-warming classic bread basket with bacon yeast rolls and softened butter.
07 of 10
Honey and orange make a beautiful and tasty glaze on tender fish. Make the marinade and let the fish soak up the flavors for 30 minutes. After that, you just have to broil it for 10 minutes. Brush extra marinade to coat it while it cooks.
This pescatarian-friendly dish is also egg-free and gluten-free and as simple as it gets. Make an asparagus risotto as a side, and slice some fresh baguette.
08 of 10
This recipe is the epitome of convenience: frozen meatballs, cream soup, frozen peas and carrots, and refrigerated mashed potatoes make a tasty and filling casserole in no-time. Bake the meatballs, sauteé the veggies (onions, mushrooms, garlic) and make a sauce with the soup. Layer the veggies and meatballs and add mashed potatoes. And there you have a casserole that's a complete dinner in 35 minutes.
Make a fennel avocado salad and sit down to enjoy a healthy meal using convenience foods that you might already have at hand.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
09 of 10
Different dietary needs make it hard to plan for dinner. Vegan dishes are always a good starting point because with one option you can cover a few bases like gluten-free, dairy-free and egg-free, which seem to be the most difficult restrictions to cook for.
Our vegan skewers have lots of protein and they don't lack flavor! Marinate your veggies and tofu in Italian dressing and assemble your skewers right before grilling. If there are soy allergies present, you can marinate veggies and tofu separately and make different skewers so people can have one or both. We recommend an overnight marinade for best results, but 30 minutes work well. Grill for 6 minutes.
10 of 10
These Vietnamese pork chops are ready in just under 1 hour and make a fabulous main dish. Marinade your chops for 30 minutes in a sweet and aromatic sauce that features lemongrass, fish sauce, garlic, and sugar. When you pan-fry the chops, the sugars in the marinade brown and create a sweet crust on the outer layer of the pork.
Before you're ready to put the chops on the pan, put some rice in your rice cooker, cook the pork, and sit down for dinner in less than 30 minutes. Make a quick Thai cucumber salad to keep the flavor profiles but contrast temperatures and textures.