Cooking for a family, while making family time

5 ingredient or less dinners

5 ingredient or less dinners

We all find ourselves in a dinner jam, time and again. The best remedy to this unavoidable problem is an arsenal of quick recipes. A lot of these ingredients you will find are pantry staples, like jarred sauces or freezer items like waffles and vegetables. A few of these products are Trader Joe’s exclusives, however I’ve included substitutions that will work just fine. One meal in particular (Carne Asada) will require Trader Joe’s products, so if you’re unable to shop there, omit that one. You will find that a couple of these recipes are ones that I have posted before, however they also fall into the 5 ingredient or less column as well.

Spinach Tortellini

Ingredients: (TWO)

1 package fresh cheese or cheese and spinach tortellini

1 jar marinara sauce

Optional ingredients:

Fresh grated Italian cheese
Grilled chicken

Fresh spinach


Cook tortellini according to package instructions. Toss with warm marinara and serve. EASY!

If using additional ingredients. Grill chicken, while water boils and tortellini cooks. While marinara warms up toss in fresh spinach to wilt. Stir cooked tortellini with spinach marinara, top with grilled chicken and fresh grated cheese.

Any fresh tortellini and jarred marinara sauce will work. Extra points for fresh grated cheese, additional spinach, or grilled chicken, but they’re not a must.

This is not only an easy dinner but a quick one! Fresh pasta (bought in the refrigerated section) cooks super fast! You can easily have dinner on the table in under 10 minutes. To really pump this dinner up add extra of the additional ingredients, garlic bread and a salad.

Pancetta Alfredo

Ingredients: (THREE)

1 box fettuccine noodles
1 jar alfredo sauce

4-6oz chopped pancetta

Optional ingredients:

Fresh basil
Frozen peas



Crisp up pancetta in a frying pan until crisp. Cook fettuccine according to package instruction. Once done toss the pasta in the alfredo sauce, top with pancetta and serve.

If using additional ingredients, heat peas in microwave, then toss in the hot pasta and sauce. Top with pancetta, fresh basil and grated Parmesan.

Another easy dinner, and pasta is a comfort food win. Secret tip, if your jarred alfredo is looking thin, add in a spoonful or two of plain cream cheese. This will thicken up your sauce without changing the flavor.

To keep this easy if you can’t find pancetta in your deli section, crisp up and chop bacon instead.

Chicken and Waffle Bites

Ingredients: (THREE)

Frozen 4 section waffles
Frozen or fresh chicken nuggets

Maple syrup

Optional ingredients:

Fresh thyme

Crushed red pepper flakes


Toast waffles a little extra, you want them to have enough structure to hold up to the toppings. Bake or air fry your chicken until done. Place warm chicken nuggets on top of toasted waffles. Top with maple syrup and serve.

If using additional ingredients it will really only effect your toppings. Still cook your chicken and waffles as mentioned above. For a more “grown up sauce” stir honey and red pepper flakes together with fresh thyme. If you find this sauce to be too thick you can thin it out with a bit of warm water to reach a more syrup like consistency.

For smaller children feel free to use pancake syrup and not real maple syrup. This will give it more of a sweet, familiar flavor that the kids will love. Adults, you can also buy pre-made hot honey in the store.

Mashed Potato Pizza

This is one of my most popular recipes and for good reason, it’s delicious! This went from an annual post-Thanksgiving treat to now being part of our regular dinner rotation.

Ingredients: (FOUR)

1 can refrigerated pizza dough
1/2-1 cup cooked, chopped bacon
1 cup leftover or instant mashed potatoes

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Optional ingredients:

Garlic powder
Dried oregano

Sour cream


Preheat your oven according to pizza dough pack instructions. Roll out your pizza dough and if using additional ingredients sprinkle with garlic power and oregano to season. Next pre-bake your crust 8 minutes. Once done take out and evenly spread mashed potatoes on top of the pizza crust. Sprinkle on cheese, top with crumbled bacon and back into the oven it goes for 10 more minutes. Once done, slice up and serve warm, use sour cream for dipping if desired.

If you like to menu plan like I do, plan to get a 5lb bag of potatoes for the week. Make a double batch of mashed potatoes with whatever you like for one dinner. Then save the leftovers to use in this pizza to make for dinner another night that week. This pizza makes for one agreeable dinner, I love to serve mine with a side salad and call it a night.

Sandwich Bites

This is another recipe I have posted before but you may not have realized how EASY it really is.

Ingredients: (THREE)

1 can refrigerated crescent dough
1/2lb lunch meat of your choice

1 cup sandwich or shredded cheese of choice

Optional ingredients:

Everything bagel seasoning
Marinara sauce

Melted butter


Preheat your oven according to crescent dough package instructions. Unroll your dough and cut each crescent roll into 2-3 long triangles/strips. Layer each dough strip with lunch meat and cheese of choosing. Roll up, brush melted butter on top, if desired, place of baking sheet and cook 10-12 minutes. Done! So easy!

Now you can go crazy with these. Any combinations you like, any sauces you like, any seasonings you like. Do a ham and cheese and dip them in a honey mustard. Turkey and cheese with everything bagel seasoning on top. Pepperoni and mozzarella with a marinara dipping sauce. Vegetarian? Do spinach and artichokes, sun dried tomatoes or hummus. Whatever filling you like, try it out. These little bite size sandwiches cook fast which is perfect in a rush. I usually pair ours with soup and a salad. My favorite quick soup being, these Pacific brand boxed soups, found in the organic section of your grocery store.

Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad

Ingredients: (THREE)

2 bags chopped Caesar salad kit
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts or tenders
Seasoning for your chicken, this grinder from Trader Joe’s is my new favorite for chicken.


Season chicken well on both sides, then either grill, bake or air fry until done. Set chicken aside to rest. Mix together both bags of salad in a large bowl. Slice cooked chicken to lay over the top of the salad and serve.

This bagged salad is my FAVORITE. I buy at least 2-3 per week to have with dinner. If the salad is the main dish like in this recipe, I recommend using 2 bags of salad.

Carne Asada Street Corn

This one will require the two ingredients be bought from Trader Joe’s as they are exclusive products. However, that being said, they are both SO tasty they’re worth the trip to get.

Ingredients (TWO):

1 package carne asada
1 bag frozen Mexican street corn mix


Grill your steak until done to your desired internal temperature. While the steak cooks, warm up the corn on the stove according to package instructions. Slice steak, and lay over corn. That’s it, easy! This one is so flavorful, really, you cannot get more of a bang for your buck than with these 2 products. If you’d like to round out the meal to feed a larger family, I sometimes heat up a can of refried beans and cook some rice to go with.

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