click to enlarge One-pot meals
Peter Schaeffer, age 7, prepares zucchini for a batch ofInstant Pot garden bolognese.
Cooking at home is good for your wallet and your health. It's also a chore, even for those who love the activity, because preparing food inevitably results in dirty dishes and a messy kitchen. These mostly hands-off recipes are designed to help you steer past the drive-thru and get an affordable, veggie-packed dinner on the table with minimal fuss and clean up. 

Instant Pot garden bolognese

Serves 4-6 with leftovers 

1 tablespoon olive oil 

1 pound ground beef or pork

¾ teaspoon salt, divided  

3-5 cloves garlic, grated or minced 

1 large onion, finely diced  

2 stalks celery, finely diced 

1 medium zucchini, finely diced 

1 medium eggplant, finely diced 

1 bell pepper, finely diced 

8 ounces sliced mushrooms

1 25-ounce jar of your favorite marinara sauce 

1 teaspoon each garlic powder and dried Italian herb seasoning  

1 cup dry red wine 

2 cups unsalted broth or water 

One pound penne, rigatoni, or shell pasta 

Parmesan cheese and fresh basil to serve

Preheat the multi-cooker using the saute setting on the highest heat. When hot add the olive oil and the meat, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon. Sprinkle ½ teaspoon of the salt over the meat and continue to cook until the meat is nicely browned. Add the sliced and diced vegetables (a food processor makes fast work of chopping all the veggies) and another ¼ teaspoon salt and mix well.

Continue to cook until most of the liquid has evaporated from the vegetables and they begin to brown slightly. Stir in the jar of marinara sauce, garlic powder and herbs, wine and broth, making sure to scrape up all the delicious caramelized bits up from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for five minutes.

Press cancel, then add the pasta, pressing it down with the back of the spoon to submerge it, but don't stir (this can cause the pasta to stick to the bottom of the pot while pressure cooking).  Set the pressure cooker for six minutes on high pressure.

When the time is up, allow it to naturally release pressure for one minute before quick-releasing the remaining pressure. Remove the lid and gently stir the contents of the pot.

Season to taste with additional salt as needed. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving with parmesan cheese and fresh basil. 

Note: you can also make this in a regular heavy-bottomed pot on the stove top. Increase the amount of broth by one cup and do stir the pasta when you add it to the pot. Bring the pasta and saucy water to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and stir continuously until the pasta is cooked through and the sauce is thick, about 15 minutes. 

Sheet pan chicken dinner

Serves 4-6

6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs 

3 carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces  

1 ½ pounds baby new potatoes

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided 

1 ¼ teaspoon salt, divided

½ teaspoon each garlic powder, onion powder, sweet paprika and dried thyme  

1 large head broccoli 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Drizzle one tablespoon of the olive oil over the pan, then arrange the potatoes, chicken and carrots on the pan. Sprinkle with one teaspoon of the salt and the spices, then use your clean hands to rub the oil and seasonings evenly onto the chicken and vegetables. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 25 minutes. 

Meanwhile, cut the broccoli into one-inch florets and toss them with the remaining olive oil and salt. After 25 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and scatter the seasoned broccoli around the chicken in the pan. Return to the oven and bake for an additional 10 minutes, until the broccoli is crisp and the chicken is cooked through and golden. The internal temperature of the chicken should register 160 degrees on a meat thermometer and the juices should run clear when pierced with a knife. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before serving. 

Oven-baked chilaquiles

Serves four 

1 tablespoon olive oil 

1 onion, diced 

1 bell pepper, diced 

1 zucchini, diced  

½ cup cooked sweet corn kernels (if frozen no need to thaw) 

1 16-once jar of your favorite salsa 

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed 

4 cups tortilla chips

4 eggs

¼ cup chopped cilantro 

2 green onions, sliced 

Sliced avocado and shredded cheese, to serve 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottomed skillet over high heat. Add the diced onion, bell pepper and zucchini and cook, stirring continuously until the vegetables have begun to soften and begin to brown slightly. Add the sweetcorn and salsa and ½ cup water. Mix well and bring to a boil, stirring continuously. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the beans and the chips. Mix gently to coat the chips, breaking them up slightly as you stir. 

Turn off the heat under the pan. Use the back of a spoon to make four wells in the chip mixture.  Crack an egg into each well, then transfer the skillet to the preheated oven and bake until the whites are set and the yolks are still runny.  Top with shredded cheese and chopped herbs. Serve immediately with sliced avocado and additional cheese.  

Ashley Meyer

Ashley Meyer has been cooking as long as she has been walking. The daughter of beloved former Illinois Times food columnist, Julianne Glatz, Ashley offers a fresh, inspired take on her mother’s culinary legacy. Ashley studied winemaking at Lincoln University in Christchurch, New Zealand and recently achieved the...

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