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48 family-friendly dinner recipes everyone will love

Finding food that feeds the whole family can be hard. These recipes make it easy.
/ Source: TODAY

Making dinner that pleases everyone at the dinner table is a nearly impossible task. That’s why we’re rounding up a month's worth of quick, easy and delicious family-friendly dinner recipes that won't completely neglect our nutritious hopes and dreams (I'm looking at you, frozen dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets!). Choose from a range of meals that will satisfy everyone — from healthier, homemade fallbacks for nights when picky eaters prevail (we're talking staples like mac and cheese and oven-baked chicken tenders) to enticing new ideas that will get your family consuming a bevy of colorful veggies (hello, burrito bowls!).

If you want your little ones to dig into something familiar and comforting like macaroni and cheese or Bolognese sauce, all while ensuring that they get adequate vitamins and nutrients, you’ll love our healthy-ish takes on takeout and kid-favorite staples. Take, for example, our recipe for fettuccine alfredo. Instead of the usual cream- and butter-based sauce, Kevin Curry’s recipe uses puréed cauliflower and almond milk for a veggie-packed sauce that still tastes plenty decadent. Other guaranteed winners are eggplant tenders that are a near perfect swap for chicken nuggets and chicken parmesan meatballs, which use ground chicken for a leaner bite and are stuffed with mozzarella cheese.

And if all else fails, ask that young, stubborn diner to stick out their tongue, and exclaim, "Wow! Look at that! You grew a new taste bud!"

That's how I got my six-year-old to try the Bolognese.

From familiar favorites to healthy spins on classic comfort food, make these family friendly dinner recipes all week long.

Skillet Lasagna

Lasagna typically isn’t a weeknight-friendly dinner — that is, until now. Save time with no-boil noodles, which are layered with store-bought marinara sauce, ricotta, mozzarella, herbs and peas.

Alfredo sauce is usually made with a combination of butter, starchy pasta water, heavy cream and Parmesan cheese. This lighter version introduces puréed cauliflower and almond milk, plus the expected pasta water and cheese, for a better-for-you pasta dish that’s as appealing as the original version.

Easiest-Ever Beef Enchiladas

Making traditional enchiladas is a bit of a process, so we’ve made a few smart shortcuts that promise delicious results. To save time, use store-bought red enchilada sauce, cooked seasoned ground beef and a can of mild green chiles.

In under 30 minutes, recreate this takeout favorite with flank steak, broccoli, red bell pepper, garlic and green onions. Serve it over steamed rice for an easy family-friendly meal.

This extra crispy oven-fried chicken is the ultimate dish for all the fried chicken lovers out there. The cracker crust provides a salty-yet-sweet flavor that's hard to resist.

Chile-Cheese Toast

Who doesn't love cheese toast? This version is energizing with jolts of brightness and flavor from the chile and peppers — a perfect pick-me-up any time of the day that can easily be adjusted based any diners' heat preferences.

Not only can this chicken and rice casserole be made ahead and frozen, it's a comforting way to get your kids to eat their vegetables. It doesn't get much easier than this on a weeknight.

Mom's Dal

"I used to sit at the kitchen table finishing my homework as my mom would whip something like this together for all of us to eat as we all finished up our respective activities," says Sarah Thomas about this nourishing (and easy to make) dish.

Eggplant Chicken Tenders

Any recipe from Nikki Dinki's cookbook, "More Veggies Please," is definitely an inspiring start to, well, getting kids to eat more veggies. For these not-so-chicken tenders, she uses an eggplant puree to increase tenderness while infusing a naturally smoky flavor into each bite.

This recipe actually comes from Dylan's husband's great-grandmother from Sicily, who taught it to his (very Irish) mother to ensure she knew how to master the perfect meatball. It worked! Light, flavorful and fluffy, they'll start to fall apart if they sit in sauce too long, so, eat up.

With star anise and lemongrass, the broth in this ramen is more reminiscent of a pho-style soup. Pro tip: when making noodles at home, use baking soda and the result will turn out springy and tender.

Oven-Baked Crispy Herbed Shrimp

This recipe is super simple, plus it uses ingredients that normally get thrown away, including parsley stems and stale bread.

Turkey Bolognese

This dish is pure comfort food — a rich Bolognese, packed with delicious vegetables and satisfying ground turkey. You can serve it over spaghetti squash, zoodles or whole-grain pasta — eater's choice.

Joy Bauer's Burrito Bowls

This recipe is a hearty, filling and vibrant meal packed with good-for-you ingredients that can help ward off headaches and migraines. Plus, it's always fun to have the family participate in assembling a deconstructed burrito.

Sweet, saucy and oh-so-delicious, this is a dish your whole crew will really enjoy. It’s bright, colorful and packed with protein and other countless nutrients, thanks to juicy pineapple, red onion and bell peppers. The best part? This recipe comes together fast on a single sheet pan.

Easy Skillet Chicken Parm

This is a lighter, quicker but just as cheesy version of chicken Parm — no deep-frying required! Melissa Clark's daughter loves it with a big green salad on the side, so you know that it's kid-tested and approved.

Giada's Sheet-Pan Eggplant Parmesan

This healthier and simplified version of eggplant Parmesan is a perfect fit for an easy weeknight meal. You can use regular eggplants for this recipe, rather than Japanese eggplants, and just salt them 20 to 30 minutes before.

Love spinach artichoke dip? This dish is basically the same recipe as the classic dip but with pasta. What could be better?

Vegan Sloppy Joes

This recipe is a home run for people who are worried about walking away from the table unsatisfied. It's great for large groups and serves up well, year-round. We promise, you won't miss the meat.

These baked chicken and ricotta meatballs are lighter than their beefy counterparts and don't require a lot of work. Baking them cuts down on the cook time and eliminates a huge mess, so all you're left with is just one mixing bowl and sheet pan to clean at the end — and, most importantly, 20 delicious meatballs.

A combo of two of Molly Yeh's favorite dishes, this recipe is everything you could ever want on a cold winter's day. It's got tater tots — need we say more?

Sheet-Pan Gnocchi

Store-bought gnocchi are one of Ree Drummond's go-to ingredients during what she calls "this need-things-to-be-easier season." The meatless marvel is both a cinch and a revelation: soft and tender gnocchi pillows roasted on a sheet pan with a variety of veggies and topped with Parmesan and basil.

This sheet-pan Parm skips the frying and calls on roasted garlic bread and broccoli to make it a complete meal with very little cleanup.

Marjorie Meek-Bradley's Ratatouille

For any family who loves the Disney movie, "Ratatouille," make this dish to wow the kids for weeks. Made by chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley to look and taste just like Remy's famous ratatouille in the film, it's definitely a fun way to entice kids to eat more vegetables … especially on movie night!

This recipe features Ryan Scott's DIY take on taco spice, used here to season salmon (though you can also use it on pork, shrimp, beef or tofu). Serve it with guacamole, pico de gallo and tortillas and have a make-your-own-taco night!

This meatloaf is light in texture but bold in flavor. When combined with Siri Daly's favorite potato recipe and cooked on just one sheet pan, it's pretty much an award-winning dish.

Al Roker's Vegetable Lasagna

Lasagna is always a crowd-pleaser, but Al Roker’s stands out for being packed with vegetables — he uses a colorful mix of red bell pepper, zucchini and yellow squash. Leftovers will be a welcome sight for lunch the next day.

Gluten-Free Chicken Milanese

Rice flour and gluten-free panko make this crispy treat a little lighter and easier on the stomach. Giada De Laurentiis serves it the way they do in Italy — topped with an arugula salad dressed with lemon and salt.

Chicken Biryani

"Growing up in India, biryani was one of my favorite family meals," says Palak Patel. "The robust flavor of a variety of spices like cumin, coriander and garam masala bring warmth and heat to the biryani. The saffron and milk add color and aroma."

Kimbap (Gimbap)

These easy rice rolls make for a fun dinner activity on a weekend or slower weekday. They're great for kids because they love helping make them as much as eating them! Not sure where to start? Use our illustrated guide for step-by-step instructions.

Caramelized Orange Pork Roast

There are more than a few ingredients that make the marinade for this fuss-free pork special: white wine, soy sauce, brown sugar, Sriracha, mustard, rice wine vinegar, garlic and orange zest. Leftovers, if there are any, are perfect for sandwiches.

These bowls can be customized, so each family member can pick and choose the ingredients they like best. To get a jump-start on meal planning, make double batches of your favorite components and use them to create different lunches and snacks throughout the week.

If there’s anything that can make spaghetti and meatballs more enticing, it's being able to prepare the whole dish in the slow cooker. This recipe makes a generous amount of meatballs, so pick up some rolls and enjoy meatball subs for lunch the next day.

If your kids love fish sticks, they'll love this homemade version. They are crunchy and flavorful on the outside with tender fish right inside.

Croque Monsieur

This recipe makes a simple ham and cheese sandwich totally decadent. It is a classic and one of Katie Lee Beigel's favorites, especially on a cold winter evening.

Chicken Potpie Casserole

This recipe transforms a traditionally individual dish into a family-friendly, shareable meal. The biscuit topping is also a fun and flaky touch that makes it all the more delicious.

Once you see how easy it is to make these oven-baked chicken nuggets, you'll be whipping them up at least once a week.

Sweet Potato Chicken Bowl

This is a quick and easy recipe for lunch or dinner that easily incorporates veggies and leftovers you might already have in the fridge. That’s the magic of bowls: You just put everything together, serve and enjoy!

This salmon dinner is full of healthy fats, protein and nutrients. It's an easy, fuss-free healthy meal that you will want to make over and over again.

Three-Cup Chicken

This is a classic Taiwanese recipe that is perfect for an easy and speedy supper. It's called three-cup chicken because traditionally it uses one cup of soy sauce, one cup of rice wine and one cup of toasted sesame oil. It is a foolproof, inexpensive recipe for a fabulous family meal.

Cheeseburger Pasta

This super nostalgic recipe is an ode to Hamburger Helper and can be pulled together with ingredients that are usually already on hand.

The Good Chicken

"When I tell my kids we're having chicken for dinner, they always ask if it's 'the good chicken,'" says Elizabeth Heiskell. "'Yes, the good chicken,' I reply, and the celebration begins. This is the chicken breast that's gussied up and gets them excited."

Chicken Parm Meatballs

Two family-friendly entrées come together for one genius bite. Ground chicken is mixed with Parmesan, breadcrumbs, basil and garlic. A small mozzarella ball is stuffed into the middle of each meatball for a cheesy bomb that explodes when you cut it in half. They’re shallow-fried until crispy.

There’s a surprising ingredient in this cozy pasta recipe — pumpkin purée. It adds so much creaminess and nutrients to the sauce. Win-win!

We’re giving you permission to dig into macaroni and cheese for dinner tonight. This one is extra creamy, thanks to a combination of cream cheese, two types of cheddar cheese, sour cream and heavy cream.

A combination of Parmesan cheese and panko breadcrumbs makes a classic batch of chicken tenders crispy and more delicious than ever. They can easily be baked in the oven, but Siri also shared instructions for how to make them in an air fryer.

Vegetable Lo Mein

We’ll never say no to ordering dinner, but making some of our favorite takeout meals at home can be even more satisfying. A bevy of vegetables including dried shiitake mushrooms, napa cabbage, carrots and scallion are tossed with fresh egg noodles. Feel free to add beef, pork or chicken, too.

Mushroom Bolognese

Two varieties of mushrooms — button and maitake — add plenty of heft to this vegetarian Bolognese recipe that’s super satisfying.