When it comes to preparing food on a busy weeknight, three things are key — recipes must be easy, fast and fresh. These 11 essential cookbooks will help any home cook get a meal on the table with minimal fuss and delicious, reliable results the whole family will enjoy again and again.
1. Barefoot Contessa at Home: Everyday Recipes You'll Make Over and Over Again by Ina Garten, $20, Amazon
The Food Network star reveals her tried-and-true secrets to dinner success — whether it's putting a meal on the table right after work or hosting an impromptu dinner party for a dozen guests.
2. How to Cook Everything: 2,000 Recipes for Great Food by Mark Bittman, $20, Amazon
Before there was Google, there was Mark Bittman's award-winning guide on how to cook, well, everything. This edition — revised for the book's 10th anniversary in 2008 — offers up even more techniques, tips and tricks than the original, along with the New York Times writer's refreshingly straightforward recipes.
3. The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook: Recipes and Wisdom from an Obsessive Home Cook by Deb Perelman, $21, Amazon
Deb Perelman, the self-professed "obsessive home cook" behind Smitten Kitchen, doesn't cut corners when it comes to recipe testing so you can trust that her take on the perfect pizza or beef brisket will work without fail.
4. One-Pot: 120+ Easy Meals from Your Skillet, Slow Cooker, Stockpot, and More by Editors of Martha Stewart Living, $16, Amazon
Leave it to the editors of Martha Stewart Living to make both cooking and clean-up a breeze. Their collection of one-pot recipes are anything but one-note. Sure, there's the typical slow-cooker roast, but the book also features baked risotto, pressure-cooked short ribs and a skillet chocolate chip cookie that's guaranteed to turn heads and make mouths water.
5. The Mom 100 Cookbook: 100 Recipes Every Mom Needs in Her Back Pocket by Katie Workman, $6, Amazon
Katie Workman's book has been rescuing busy moms (and dads!) since it debuted in 2012. As a parent of two, Workman is no stranger to dealing with picky eaters or reworking leftovers into something exciting. Her book also offers up plenty of smart, practical cooking advice you'll actually use.
6. Joy the Baker Cookbook: 100 Simple and Comforting Recipes by Joy Wilson, $11, Amazon
Weeknight dinners aren't all about the savory! If you want to whip up a treat without any fuss, turn to blogger Joy Wilson's cozy sweets. Think six-ingredient chocolate lava cakes and an irresistible white chocolate mousse that can easily be made ahead.
7. Everyday Italian: 125 Simple, Delicious Recipes by Giada de Laurentiis, $20, Amazon
Using easy-to-find ingredients, the celeb chef's very first cookbook boasts page-after-page of Italian recipes that are low on fuss, but high in flavor.
8. Dinner: Changing the Game by Melissa Clark, $24, Amazon
Tired of turning to the same-old stir-fry or five-ingredient pasta? Enter Melissa Clark, who breathes new life into dinner staples like burgers, sheet pan chicken, pork chops and more — without relying on complicated techniques or hard-to-find ingredients.
9. Nigella Express: 130 Recipes for Good Food, Fast by Nigella Lawson, $24, Amazon
If speed is an essential part of your evening routine, pick up this bestseller, which is filled with handy shortcuts that will decrease your time in the kitchen, not the quality of your meals.
10. Super Natural Every Day: Well-Loved Recipes from My Natural Foods Kitchen by Heidi Swanson, $11, Amazon
Eating healthy doesn't have to be intimidating. James Beard-nominated writer Heidi Swanson offers advice on incorporating superfoods into your everyday routine in a way that's down-to-earth and approachable.
11. Keepers: Two Home Cooks Share Their Tried-And-True Weeknight Recipes and the Secret to Happiness in the Kitchen by Kathy Brennan and Caroline Champion, $15, Amazon
Meal prep made easy is the goal behind this keeper of a cookbook from former Saveur editors Kathy Brennan and Caroline Champion. It's packed with recipes that are guaranteed to become new weeknight favorites, like a lemony turkey Bolognese and coconut chicken curry.
Want to check out more amazing cookbooks? Check out our 13 favorites for healthy meals.