Weeknight Cooking

5 Ready-in-a-Flash Dinners, All From 1 Base Recipe

July 23, 2018

This week, you're going to spend less time frantically cooking and more time leisurely eating (but no, that doesn't mean popcorn dinners or carry-out). You're also going to win the lottery.

How? Make a giant batch of roasted tomatoes and onions over the weekend. While those burst and sizzle (it'll only set you back 45 minutes!), prep a few additional ingredients (like soft-boiled eggs, cooked beans, and salad dressing) to keep stocked in your fridge.

You'll have all the puzzle pieces to a week's worth of summery, ready-in-a-flash dinners (or lunches). Read on for a shopping list, a weekend prep checklist, and to see how all of your hard works pays off in five distinct meals.

Photo by Bobbi Lin

Your Shopping List

Organized by when you'll be using the ingredients throughout the week:

  • 3 pounds spring onions, pearl onions, or other smallish onions (enough for a 3-times batch of the recipe)
  • Scant 4 1/2 pounds cherry, grape, and/or Sun Gold tomatoes (enough for a 3-times batch of the recipe)
  • 1 loaf of toast-appropriate bread
  • A dozen eggs
  • Ricotta
  • Shrimp (or go with tofu, tempeh, or a different type of seafood)
  • 1 red onion
  • A couple ears of corn (get extra if you'd like to serve it alongside the bean salad; otherwise, pick up some small potatoes)
  • Basil
  • Corn tortillas
  • Dried or canned beans
  • Parmesan, pecorino, or other hard cheese for garnishing pasta
  • Salad greens
  • 2 white onions
  • 1 medium or 2 small eggplant
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 3 summer squash

We're assuming you've got garlic, olive oil, kosher salt, cider vinegar, sugar, dried pasta. If not, stock up on those as well.

Your Weekend Prep

  • Roast those tomatoes and onions! They're your stars. If you're feeding a big family, consider quadrupling (rather than tripling) the recipe. Do be sure to get all of the juices into the storage container, too (to ease this process, line the sheet with parchment paper before you start cooking).
  • Blend the basil oil, which should last for about 3 days.
  • Prep your favorite (or your easiest) salad dressing.
  • Cook beans, if making from dried.
  • If you bought potatoes for the bean salad, boil those, too (or roast them, if you'd prefer).

watch it come together!

Photo by Bobbi Lin

More details:

  • On toast: On Monday, gently rewarm the roasted vegetables on the stovetop. Meanwhile, toast or fry your bread, then use a peeled, halved garlic clove to give it a good rub-down. Smear ricotta over the bread, then spoon the warm tomatoes and onions over top. Perch a halved soft-boiled egg on top, followed by torn basil.
Photo by Bobbi Lin
  • Tacos: On Tuesday, sauté or roast shrimp (or prepare tempeh, tofu, or fish); strip the kernels from the corn (use it raw or sauté with a couple tablespoons of butter or oil); and warm or char the tortillas. Along with the pickled onions, basil oil, and leftover tomatoes and onions (brought to room temperature), you're all set for tacos.
Photo by Bobbi Lin
  • Big ole' bean salad: On Wednesday, mix the roasted 'maters and onions with your cooked beans. Coat with basil oil, then add extra raw tomatoes to freshen things up, along with whatever crunchy vegetables you have in the fridge (cucumber, bell pepper, carrots, radishes). Serve with boiled, steamed, or grilled corn (if you have some leftover from last night); the boiled or roasted potatoes; and/or lightly-dressed greens.
  • Pasta: On Thursday, get out the blender! Blend a cup or two of the roasted vegetables to make a sauce, then transfer to a saucepan over low heat and add a couple tablespoons of butter. Meanwhile, boil pasta! When the pasta is al dente, add it to the roasted tomato sauce, along with a few tablespoons of pasta water, and toss together. Mix in lots of fresh herbs (leftover basil from earlier in the week; mint or parsley if you have those in the fridge) and shower with cheese. Serve with a green salad on the side.
  • Cheater's ratatouille: On Friday, you're more than halfway to ratatouille. Use Alice Waters' Genius Ratatouille as your guideline: Cook the eggplant and set it aside, then soften the onions, peppers, and squash. When the recipe instructs you to add tomatoes, use the roasted tomatoes and onions you have leftover. Then finish as directed. Serve with toasted bread and remaining soft-boiled eggs, or orzo, if you prefer.
  • And one last freebie if you're still looking at leftovers (lucky you!): Make spicy and soft Turkish-style eggs: Follow this recipe for menemen, but replace the tomatoes with your roasted tomatoes and onions.
Roasted tomatoes and onions—and all of their prosperous children. Photo by Bobbi Lin

You've just done such honor to the summer's cutest tomatoes and onions—and to the constraints of your time-crunched weeknights.

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Ready for more recipes to big-batch over the weekend?

Here are a few more of our favorites:

And if you want a no-stress dessert

We originally shared this story in July 2017, but meal prep is always relevant! How do you prep on the weekend to outsmart the pressure of the week ahead? Tell us in the comments below!

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Marcie
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I used to work at Food52. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream.


Marcie July 30, 2017
Are the quantities for 2 people or 4? This looks so perfect for peak tomato season!
Sarah J. July 30, 2017
This should be plenty for 4!
AntoniaJames July 27, 2017
This is terrific. You should write a vegetarian version of "A New Way to Dinner." Seriously. ;o)
strawberrygirl July 27, 2017
Totally. I love this way of meal planning and turning one or two base recipes into varied meals for the week (as opposed to eating the same large batch of soup or something for several dinners in a row), but it's hard to find vegetarian-friendly examples. This one was great. We used a few of these ideas but swapped out a couple of them for gazpacho.
Adrienne July 26, 2017
HALLELUJAH! I've been in a meal planning rut. This makes me excited for my Sunday shop and meals all next week.
Shawna L. July 24, 2017
Please do this feature every week and I will love you forever!
Sarah J. July 24, 2017
:) :) :)
Corrine A. July 24, 2017
+1 on this! Love this so much!
sara July 21, 2017
And shallot and plum tomato tarte tatin with ricota and pine nuts