11 Family Dinners That Seem Fancy But Are Super Simple

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Do you want to wow your loved ones and make them think you slaved away for hours? Who said your family-style dinner offerings had to come from a box?

The 11 recipes below will make folks think you transformed into Martha Stewart. Whip up one of these fancy-seeming family dinners for super-simple luxury without spending hours laboring over a hot stove. 

1. Linguine With Clam Sauce

Anything with seafood brings to mind visions of cozy New England inns serving up fruits fresh from the Atlantic. You can recreate the experience in your kitchen with this recipe.

The hardest part of creating this dish may involve opening the cans of clams and mushrooms. The whole thing ends up on your family’s table in little more than the time it takes to boil water and make your pasta al dente. 

2. Lobster Grilled Cheese

Lobster is delicious. Lobster is divine. You could add lobster to a pot of mud, and it would taste gourmet. 

Okay, maybe there’s a touch of hyperbole in that last statement. However, while there’s nothing elegant about a grilled cheese sandwich, the addition of lobster elevates it to something you’d see on the lunch menu at the Four Seasons. Break out the “good” chips — the organic ones made from various sweet potato varieties — and add garnish for good measure. 

3. Seared Salmon with Asparagus

What can you make with only a few ingredients? Why not class things up with some pan-seared salmon? All you need for the headliner is salt, pepper, fillets and a pan. 

Pair it with asparagus and hollandaise sauce. If you have a spring mix or herb salad, plate the salmon atop to make the dish look foo-foo. 

4. Risotto With Mushrooms

Risotto refers to a specific variety of rice called arborio, although you can substitute what you have on hand in a pinch. Keep in mind that you may need to adjust your Instant Pot settings. 

You read that correctly — you can start this recipe in the morning and come home to a meal that only needs plating to complete. Of course, you want to add a touch of garnish to make it fancy. 

5. Steak Diane

Does your family crave nothing like a hearty steak after a long day of working outdoors? There’s no need to fire up the grill when you feel exhausted — this recipe cooks on your stovetop.

You won’t need many ingredients, and most, you probably have in your refrigerator. Pair with a simple salad for an elegant meal that takes minutes to whip together. 

6. Crown Roast of Lamb 

This dish screams, “I spent hours in the kitchen after attending gourmet cooking school.” However, if you have the butcher trim the unwanted fat, you can cut your prep time on this meal by half. 

All you need to do is rub the rack with your herb blend and pop it in the oven. While it cooks, you can take care of the sides. If you cheat and open a convenience bag of broccoli with cheese sauce, mums the word. 

7. Chicken Cacciatore 

Did your 11-year-old invite his best baseball buddies over for dinner without asking first? When you have to feed a horde in a hurry, turn to this quick recipe that requires 10 minutes of prep time. 

If you want to make this dish healthier, you can substitute an alternative pasta for the white flour variety. You can find noodles made of anything from protein-packed black beans to quinoa at your local store. 

8. Chicken Tikka Masala 

Are you craving an Indian feast but don’t feel like going out to a restaurant? You can put your Instant Pot to work with this recipe and come home to a house filled with the scent of exotic spices.

This version doesn’t contain nuts, although you can add a handful of cashews or almonds if you wish. All you need to do in the evening is to cook your rice and serve. 

9. Vegan Hemp and Black Bean Burgers

If you put your grill away for the season, have no fear. These delicious and cruelty-free burger substitutes cook up better on the stovetop.

The beauty of this recipe is that it’s chock-full of good-for-you ingredients like hemp seeds, pepitas and red bell peppers. You can make the patties on your food-prep day, freeze them, then whip them out for an easy meal. 

10. Spaghetti Turkey Bolognese 

Bolognese sauce is incredible, but if you’re watching your waistline, it’s relatively high in calories. However, this turkey version slashes the fat and helps keep you from having to add new notches to your belt. 

While this dish takes a while to combine the flavors, you don’t have to linger in the kitchen. Although you’ll need an afternoon to do it right, the prep time tops out at only 15 minutes. 

11. Shrimp Lo Mein 

Chinese takeout is divine on busy evenings, but who needs the price tag? You slash your prep timey starting with a fresh coleslaw mix — no laboriously chopping carrots and cabbage.

You can also make nearly infinite variations. While shrimp take only minutes to cook, you can go with chicken, pork or beef instead. You can also make a vegetarian-style entree for meatless Monday. 

  1. Make These 11 Fancy-Sounding Family Dinners Without Breaking a Sweat

You don’t have to head to an elegant restaurant to enjoy exclusive dining. Make these 11 fancy-sounding family dinners in the comfort of your home. 

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