Simple and light dinner recipes to make things easy

Simple and light dinner recipes to make things easy
A streamlined version of the cult TikTok recipe (Getty/iStock)

How to make light dinner recipes easily

There are some people who collapse on the couch after Thanksgiving or a roast dinner and don't get up for hours or even days. And then there are the people who treat the entire weekend like a cooking and baking marathon, using up leftovers and going straight to baking cookies.

We've got recipes for both courses below: completely simple and light dinners to make things easy, as well as a leftovers recipe that's a bit more complex than putting everything in the microwave, for enthusiastic cooks. We also have a festive Hanukkah time.

A pan of feta pasta with cherry tomatoes

In 2018, Finnish blogger Jenni Hayrinen posted a recipe for baked feta pasta. The dish became a complete TikTok sensation, popular to the point that supermarkets were selling it without feta. This version simplifies your recipe. Instead of cooking the pasta separately, it's added to the saucepan with the feta and baked tomatoes, making it a cozy one-pan meal (also note that you'll need an electric kettle to boil the water. So maybe (may be more like a one-and-a-half pan meal.) Don't think of this as a pasta dish in an Italian sense, al dente. It's more like a creamy casserole along the lines of mac and cheese. In any case, it is comforting and extremely easy.

Adapted by: Melissa Clark

Serves: 4 servings

Total time: 1 hour


550g cherry tomatoes

5 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole

5 thyme sprigs

2 rosemary sprigs

1½ tsp salt

120ml (½ cup) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving

225g (8oz) feta

½ tsp black pepper, plus more for serving

Pinch of red-pepper flakes

340g (12oz) short pasta, such as farfalle, campanelle, rotini or cavatappi

700ml (3 cups) boiling water

Handful torn basil leaves

Flaky sea salt, for serving


1. Heat the oven to 200C. In a 1.9-L gratin dish or shallow saucepan, or in a 27-cm by 17-cm baking dish, combine the tomatoes, garlic, thyme, rosemary, and ¾ teaspoon salt. Toss with half the olive oil to coat. Arrange the feta cheese in the center of the plate and top with the remaining half of the olive oil. Sprinkle the black pepper and red pepper flakes over everything. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the garlic has softened and the tomatoes have burst the skin.

2. Add pasta to skillet in an even layer and sprinkle with remaining ¾ teaspoon salt. Pour boiling water on top. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, carefully submerge the paste. Cover tightly with foil and bake until pasta is al dente, 17 to 19 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the pasta rest, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes to absorb excess liquid.

3. Stir in the basil until everything is well incorporated, and the tomatoes and cheese create a creamy sauce. When serving, top with more black pepper, oil, and flaked sea salt.

Salmon with dill and ginger

<p>This dish has a refreshing mix of juicy, crunchy, creamy, spicy and sweet </p>
This dish has a refreshing mix of juicy, crunchy, creamy, spicy and sweet(Getty/iStock)

Gently grilled to a buttery undercooked tenderness, salmon stars in this easy-to-prepare dish. Fruity citrus and dill meet horseradish and ginger, resulting in a refreshing and uplifting blend of juiciness, crunch, creaminess, spiciness and sweetness. Both the salad and the salmon can be made two days in advance, and everything is fine at room temperature or cold. To further embellish, consider baby greens, thinly sliced cucumbers or fennel, roasted beets, soba, toast, furikake, or chili oil.

By: Ali Slagle

Serves: 4 servings

Total time: 25 minutes


1 680g (1½lb) salmon fillet, skin-on or skinless

Salt and black pepper

6 tbsp finely chopped dill

1 5cm (2in) piece ginger, scrubbed and finely grated (no need to peel)

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving

1 grapefruit

2 oranges

6 small radishes, cut into thin wedges

1 avocado

Flaky sea salt, for finishing (optional)


1. Heat the oven to 160C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Pat the salmon dry, then place it on the tray skin side down (if it has skin) and season with salt and pepper.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the dill, ginger, and olive oil until blended. Spice with salt and pepper. Spread half of the dill-ginger mixture over the top of the salmon (reserve the rest of the dill-ginger mixture). Bake until cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes (you'll know the salmon is done when the fish flakes or when you insert an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part at 50°C).

3. While the salmon is cooking, cut off the top and bottom of the grapefruit and place the grapefruit on one of the cut sides. Follow the curve of the fruit to cut through the skin and pith. Squeeze the peels into the remaining dill-ginger mixture to bring out the juice. Cut the fruit in half from top to bottom, then cut into half moons 0.5 cm thick and remove the seeds. If your pieces are especially large, divide them in half again. Transfer the fruit and any juices on the cutting board to the bowl. Repeat with the oranges. Add the radishes, season generously with salt and gently toss to combine.

4. Break the salmon into large chunks and divide among plates with the citrus salad. Peel and pit the avocado, then quarter lengthwise and add to dishes. Season with salt. Pour the juices from the bowl on top and season with black pepper, another drizzle of olive oil, and flaky sea salt, if using.

Tofu and bok choy with ginger tahini sauce

<p>Showcasing the uniquely silky texture of soft tofu </p>
Showcasing the uniquely silky texture of soft tofu(Getty/iStock)

This simple dish showcases the unique silky texture of soft tofu. The tofu is steamed over a layer of bok choy, which eliminates the need for a formal steamer and makes this meal a breeze to prepare (napa or kale leaves would also make good bedding for the tofu). Once steamed, the warm, soft tofu is drenched in all the bright flavors of a creamy, tangy tahini sauce that's enriched with aromatic ginger and fragrant herbs. For a heartier meal, double the tofu or serve with a side of rice.

By: Kay Chun

Serves: 4 Servings

Total time: 20 Minutes


450g baby bok choy, quartered lengthwise through the core

Salt and black pepper

1 400-450g (14-16oz) package soft (not silken) tofu, drained and cut into 4 equal squares

6 tbsp tahini

60ml (¼ cup) low-sodium soy sauce

3 tbsp distilled white vinegar

1 tsp minced ginger

¼ tsp minced garlic

Small handful (¼ cup) chopped spring onions (from about 1 spring onions), plus more for garnish

Small handful (¼ cup) chopped coriander, plus more for garnish

Toasted white sesame seeds, for garnish


1. In a large skillet with a lid, arrange the bok choy in an even layer to cover the bottom of the skillet and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the tofu pieces on top of or between the bok choy, depending on the depth of your pan. Add ½ cup (120 ml) of water to the pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover securely to prevent steam from escaping, reduce heat to medium, and steam until bok choy is tender and tofu is warm, about 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine tahini, soy sauce, vinegar, ginger, garlic, scallions, cilantro, and 1 tablespoon water. Beat until well blended and season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Using a spatula or large slotted spoon, transfer bok choy and tofu to 4 serving plates (discard any remaining water in pan). Pour some of the sauce over the tofu and garnish with spring onions, coriander, and sesame seeds. Serve warm.

Pure potato latkes

<p>Perfect for Hanukkah... or any time of year </p>
Perfect for Hanukkah… or any time of year(Getty/iStock)

Perfect for Hanukkah or any time of year, these latkes bring out the pure flavor of the potato, because that's basically the only ingredient in them. Making latkes can be a last-minute nightmare, as over-eager cooks put too many patties in hot oil, which takes longer to fry and results in a greasy mess. But these can be prepared ahead of time. This recipe, adapted from chef Nathaniel Wade, starts with precooked potatoes, which are cooled, grated, seasoned with just salt and pepper, pressed into patties and refrigerated, then deep fried just before serving. You can serve them with crème fraîche or sour cream, smoked salmon and little specks of chives, or traditional brisket and homemade applesauce.

Recipe from: Nathaniel Wade

Adapted by: Joan Nathan

Makes: 8 latkes

Total time: 1¼ hours, plus cooling and chilling


4 large russet potatoes, washed and dried

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Vegetable oil, for frying

225g (8oz) sliced smoked salmon (optional)

Creme fraiche or sour cream, for serving (optional)

Chopped fresh chives, for serving (optional)


1. Adjust the rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 180C. Bake the potatoes directly on the rack for 30 minutes, then flip and bake for another 15 minutes until hot but still raw in the middle. Remove and let cool for about 30 minutes.

2. Cut the potatoes in half widthwise. Holding the curved side of the rind with one hand, grate the flat, meaty side of each piece using the large holes of a box grater. The grating process should split them open like a jacket, leaving you with perfect potato skins to fry later, if desired (you can also use a food processor with a grating blade; just peel the potatoes beforehand). Sprinkle the grated potatoes with 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Adjust seasoning to taste.

3. Take about 70 g (½ cup) of grated potato in your hands and gently squeeze between your palms to form a patty. Press the patty until it is about 1.5cm thick and carefully place the latke on a plate. Repeat with the remaining grated potatoes to make about 8 latkes. Cover and refrigerate a few hours or overnight.

4. Just before serving, heat a large, heavy skillet with about 1/4 inch of oil over medium-high heat. When hot, a potato strip dropped into the oil should sizzle. Working in two batches, gently fry four latkes until crisp and golden, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to paper towels or a paper bag to drain, and repeat with the remaining latkes.

5. Serve hot, topped with a slice of smoked salmon, a dollop of creme fraiche or sour cream, and a little chives, if desired.

Turkey pho

<p>A play of Vietnamese chicken noodle soup </p>
A play of Vietnamese chicken noodle soup(Getty/iStock)

A play on Vietnamese chicken noodle soup, this clear broth, combined with rice noodles and seasoned with roasted onions and ginger, star anise, brown sugar and fish sauce, is served with a plate of fresh side dishes. But this is more than your basic noodle soup: a squeeze of lime at the end adds a bit of flavor, and the mung beans and Thai basil make for a crunchy bite.

By: Samin Nosrat

Serves: 6

Total time: About 1 hour


2 medium yellow onions, halved and peeled

10cm (4in) piece of fresh ginger (do not peel)

3l (12 cups) turkey or chicken stock, preferably homemade

60ml (¼ cup) fish sauce, plus more to taste

1 star anise

2 tbsp brown sugar

1 (450g) package dried rice vermicelli

340g (12oz) mung bean sprouts (about 3 cups)

1 small bunch Thai basil sprigs

3 jalapenos, stemmed and thinly sliced

2 to 3 limes, quartered, to taste

450g (1lb/4 cups) shredded cooked turkey

Salt, to taste

Large handful coarsely chopped coriander leaves and tender stems (about 1 large bunch)

Large handful thinly sliced spring onions (about 1 bunch)


1. Cook the onions and ginger directly over the open flame of a gas burner for about 5 minutes, turning occasionally, until charred on all sides (if you don't have a gas stove, grill the onions and ginger). ginger on a foil-lined baking sheet, turning occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes until browned on all sides). Let the charred ginger cool, then cut it into 1.5cm coins.

2. In a large saucepan or similar pot, combine the onions, sliced ginger, broth, fish sauce, star anise, and brown sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, cook rice noodles according to package directions. Drain and reserve.

4. Arrange the mung bean sprouts, Thai basil sprigs, jalapenos, and limes on a plate and place on the table.

5. Remove the onions, ginger, and star anise from the pot. Add the shredded turkey to the pot and return to a simmer. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning with fish sauce and/or additional salt, if needed.

6. Divide the rice noodles, cilantro, and scallions evenly among large soup bowls, then pour hot broth over the top, making sure each bowl has a healthy serving of turkey. Serve immediately, accompanied by a source of garnishes.

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