Back to School

11 Big-Batch Dinners to Get You Through the Busy Fall Rush

Easy meals when you need them most.

August 30, 2018

This past weekend I saw Halloween cards at Target, and it hit me like a pound of gourds: We’re basically in fall.

Okay, so we still have Labor Day. But September is when it all begins. We inch closer and closer to 5 p.m. sunsets. And school drags everyone back into town, our lazy days now packed with homework and meetings and practices. And before you know it, we’ll be planning and prepping for the Thanksgiving turkey and a marathon of holiday parties. ’Tis the season where time flies.

Personally, I love this time of year and its slew of fun-filled activities. But it’s always helpful to be prepared with a make-ahead soup, curry, or casserole in the wings. Below, I’ve gathered some of my favorite big-batch dinners to cook now and eat later. That way it’s A-okay that fall whooshes on by.

This is a tortilla soup with a twist—instead of spicy chiles, pasillas (also called chiles negros) impart dark, smoky, and fruity flavors. You can make this soup several days in advance, but reserve the chard and add just before reheating.

Not only does this dish pack a lemony, caper-y punch, but it’s basically a one-dish meal. Everything (including cooking the lentils) cooks in one pan. To stretch it throughout the week, I add a can of chickpeas after it all comes out of the oven.

I’m biased, but my mom’s red beans and rice makes the perfect big-batch dinner. (I grew up on it.) The longer it hangs out in the fridge, the better it tastes.

Weeknight dinner queen Alexandra Stafford developed this dish to incorporate more make-ahead meals into her rotation. “I made a lasagna that I could stash in the fridge and bake as needed,” she says. “This version here calls for roasted eggplant and sautéed greens, but you can really add any cooked vegetables you like: roasted red peppers, sautéed mushrooms, roasted butternut squash, sautéed beet greens, roasted cauliflower, etc.”

Summer squash is still in season, and it wants to be this creamy vegan curry. Plus, it comes together in a flash—just 30 minutes of cooking!

Whether they’re stuffed in a sandwich or swirled into spaghetti, nothing beats meatballs. This recipe has a time-saving trick: Instead of searing the meatballs, making the sauce, then adding everything together, here you make the sauce and meatballs together.

Thanks to a rocket-hot sheet pan, this is one of the speediest sheet pan chicken dinners you can make. Serve atop a salad or grains for extra bulk.

What’s better than breakfast that doubles as dinner? One that’s make-ahead. This quiche from Posie (Harwood) Brien has an easy press-in crust that’s just the ticket to weeknight success.

A simple, cozy dinner that is there for you all week long. I love the spicy chorizo, hearty chickpeas, and smoky roasted red peppers—I’m sure you will, too.

Nothing against one-step mac and cheese, but the baked kind with a golden, crispy top instantly transforms a bad day. This version lightens up the noodles of our youth by using stock instead of cream and adding a forest of broccoli.

EmilyC gives us the golden formula for turning any vegetable into a hearty fall dinner: cooked grains + dressing + vegetable (quick-cooking or cooked) + melty cheese + crumb topping.

One More Dinner we love

What's your favorite dinner for back-to-school season? Share recipes and tricks in the comments below!

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Katie is a food writer and editor who loves cheesy puns and cheesy cheese.