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60 Mother's Day dinner ideas for the mom who deserves more than brunch

An elegant dinner is just the thing to make the mother figure in your life feel special.
Becca Jacobs
/ Source: TODAY

No matter what the mother figures in your life like to eat for dinner, you’ll find a generous number of recipes to choose from in this spring-forward lineup. Meat, poultry, fish and vegetables are all represented, as are cuisines — all-American recipes are accompanied by everything from Italian-American and French classics to takeout-inspired treats. Choose from simple main courses such as meatloaf and roast chicken to start. Pair them with a few crowd-pleasing sides — you can’t go wrong with creamy risotto, baked macaroni and cheese or seasonal vegetable tarts. There are plenty of vegan and vegetarian options, too. Ever the versatile ingredient, cauliflower makes its way into two pasta sauces — one a hearty and filling bolognese, the other a smooth and silky cream sauce.

If you’re not keen on making an elaborate Mother’s Day feast this year, we have you covered. Most of these recipes are quick and simple, and many of them have make-ahead components or can be prepared completely in advance. Pair any combination of mains and sides (or just serve sides for dinner!) together to make a dinner that won’t soon be forgotten. Take our advice — flowers and chocolate are nice, but a homemade dinner (even at its most basic) is sure to show Mom just how much you care.

We can’t say for sure if this is a good or bad thing, but once your family tastes some of these recipes, they will be asking you to cook dinner for every Mother’s Day going forward. Let’s call it a testament to your skills in the kitchen.

One big pot is all you’ll need to make this stovetop clambake — it’s perfect if you don’t have outdoor cooking access or the weather isn’t cooperating on Mother’s Day. The ingredients go into the stock in the order they take to cook — potatoes and lobster go first while quick-cooking mussels and clams finish last.

If you’re running low on oven and stovetop space or you just want a quick, mess-free way to grill up some steaks, look to the air fryer. The countertop appliance consistently churns out perfectly cooked rib-eye steaks every time.

Individual Chicken Potpies

Instead of serving chicken potpie family-style, serve everyone their own individual dish. That way, no one will have to fight over the buttery puff pastry crust.

This decadent but simple dinner is sure to put a smile on everyone’s face. We use a reverse searing method for these steaks, where you bake the rib-eyes and finish them off with a quick sear in a hot skillet. The cheesy mashed potatoes are a no-brainer side dish.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Who says macaroni and cheese has to be a side dish? We’re upgrading it to main course status for Mother’s Day. This recipe is the perfect combination of creamy pasta and crunchy baked topping.

This hearty risotto gets its golden color from a pinch of saffron threads. The recipe incorporates rich beef bone marrow into the mix, which is a delicious contrast to the light and creamy rice.

Chicken Piccata

If you need a quick main course, chicken piccata is a worthy option. Thin chicken cutlets are dredged in a mixture of flour and Parmesan cheese before they’re cooked and coated in a bright lemon-caper sauce.

Add something light and bright to the dinner table with this one-pot risotto. Season the shrimp with some smoked paprika before sautéing — it’ll add a lovely color, flavor and aroma to the seafood.

An herbaceous rub is responsible for most of the flavor in this dish, but it’s so simple to execute. All you need is fresh rosemary, lemon zest and lots of garlic. The chicken thighs cook quickly in the air fryer and the skin crisps up quite nicely for one delicious bite.

Halibut pairs well with other mild, but flavorful ingredients. Here, it is poached with some aromatics and served with herbed couscous, buttery beurre blanc and poached fennel (which becomes sweeter and less astringent as it cooks).

Ina Garten's Chicken Marbella

Chicken Marbella is an old-fashioned dish, but it has remained a favorite for good reason. The meaty chicken is cooked with a sauce that gets sweetness from prunes and brown sugar, acidity from lots of red wine vinegar and brininess from capers and olives.

Pasta is always a good option, and this lighter take on bolognese is sure to delight. The meaty cauliflower mimics the texture of ground meat, and you’ll get plenty of flavor from the crispy Calabrian chili breadcrumbs.

Air Fryer Pork Chops

If you’re a fan of barbecue, these pork chops won’t disappoint. They are seasoned with a brown sugar and smoked paprika rub before taking a quick turn in the air fryer.

 Lemon Tarragon Chicken

A few powerhouse ingredients — namely, lemon zest and tarragon — make a great marinade for chicken thighs. Let them marinate as long as you can (they can chill in the refrigerator overnight) and just give them a quick sear in a hot skillet when you’re ready to serve dinner.

Not only is this macaroni and cheese recipe simple (you don’t even have to make a roux!) but it can and should be made the day before. Just pop it into the oven to bake on Mother’s Day — it’ll be smooth, creamy and delicious for Mom.

Shrimp Scampi with Bucatini

Long strands of pasta tossed with plump, juicy shrimp are great, but this recipe is all about the sauce. It’s bright and lemony with just the right amount of garlic and chili flakes.

This pasta dish is bursting with bold flavors. It has spicy Italian sausage, juicy balsamic-glazed grapes and a hefty portion of creamy goat cheese, which melts into the warm orecchiette.

Chicken Paillard Saltimbocca

Saltimbocca is typically made with veal cutlets, but this recipe uses chicken, which everyone will surely love. The cutlets are simply seared and served with a salad featuring baby arugula, fried prosciutto and sage leaves.

While easy to prepare, people are always impressed by scallops. Scallops are rich and delicious on their own, so they only need simple ingredients to make them perfect — we use butter, flaky sea salt and a few sprigs of fresh thyme.

Dylan's Tomato Risotto

Concentrated tomato paste is what gives this Sicilian risotto its distinctive flavor and color. Shallots, garlic and rice all simmer in broth along with crisped bacon bits, which add a ton of flavor to the final dish.

Bobby Flay's Chicken Parmigiana

Chicken Parmigiana is the quintessential Italian-American dinner, and this recipe gets each component just right. The chicken cutlets are crisp and golden, the tomato sauce is bright and sweet and the cheeses are melted to perfection. Leftovers are delicious when warmed and piled into crusty hero rolls.

With more warm, sunny days comes fresh summer produce. All of the ingredients in this macaroni and cheese are stand-outs, from the smoky bacon and sweet corn to the combination of extra-sharp cheddar and Parmesan cheese.

When simplicity is the order of the day, nothing beats pasta with Parmesan cheese. This dish is kid-friendly and protein-packed, thanks to the addition of marinated white beans.

Spicy Lobster with Linguine and Mint

The mother figure in your life will feel all kinds of special when greeted with a lobster dinner. Steam the lobsters in a vodka bath and toss the tender meat with linguine and a flavorful tomato sauce.

Fire up the grill to make the most flavorful chicken of your life. The chicken pieces are dry brined before going on the grill, so every bite of meat is seasoned to perfection. Add a bright finishing touch with a dressing made of fresh cilantro, chilis, scallions and lime.

Tomato Zucchini Tart

Homemade pie dough is so simple to make, and it’s a lovely gesture on Mother’s Day. Use it to make this summery tart with roasted garlic, tomatoes, zucchini and nutty fontina cheese.

Ina Garten's Baked Virginia Ham

Baked ham isn’t just for the major holidays — it’s a simple main dish that’s a perennial crowd-pleaser. Amp up the flavor by adding a sweet and sticky glaze made with mango chutney, Dijon mustard and orange zest.

Everyone’s favorite dip can easily be turned into a hearty chicken dinner. The chicken thighs bake in a cheesy spinach artichoke sauce. Homemade croutons are served on top as a nod to the traditional crostini used for dipping.

Spice lovers won’t be able to resist this flavorful skillet full of shrimp and burst tomatoes. It gets plenty of heat from crushed red pepper flakes, so be sure to serve it with something that will balance out the fiery flavors, such as crusty bread or buttered pasta noodles.

Savannah's Mom's Homestyle Fried Chicken

Two secret techniques make this one of the best fried chicken recipes around. Crushed crackers or potato chips give the chicken an irresistibly crunchy coating. Adding some bacon grease to the frying oil adds even more salty, savory flavor.

Green Pea Risotto with Scallops and Parmesan

Celebrate spring (and the moms in your life) with this simple risotto. A sweet pea purée is stirred into the rice as it cooks — blanching and shocking the peas in cold water helps the vegetables to maintain their vibrant green color. Top each bowl with a few buttery seared scallops for good measure.

Cacio e Pepe

We have yet to meet someone who will turn down a plate of homemade pasta. This Roman dish uses only five ingredients (including salt and pepper) to make an irresistibly creamy pasta. The cheese, which is mixed with starchy pasta water, clings to the spaghetti to create a silky sauce.

A simple roast chicken dish provides big flavor to the meal but also allows you to spend time on side dishes and desserts. Here, chicken thighs are roasted with cracked fennel seeds, fresh thyme and thin slices of lemon that caramelize in the oven.

Siri's Heart-Shaped Meatloaf

This meatloaf has the flavor and texture that you expect — only it’s shaped into an adorable heart for mom. Baste the meatloaf with a seasoned tomato mixture to help keep it nice and moist.

Sheet Pan Flounder with Roasted Tomatoes and Black Olives

Roasting fish fillets such as flounder or sole is great for when you don’t have much time on your hands. However, a lack of time does not mean a lack of flavor. Cherry tomatoes and garlic become sweet in the oven; this and black olives are the ideal accompaniment for mild white fish.

Chicken Parmesan Lasagna

Chicken Parm or lasagna? If you can’t decide which classic Italian dish your mother figure would enjoy more, don’t fret — they can have the best of both worlds. Here, lasagna noodles are layered in a pan with marinara sauce, ricotta, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, along with breaded and fried chicken cutlets. It’s one delicious collaboration.

The shrimp patties for these burgers are well seasoned with all kinds of aromatics and spices, but the star of the show is undoubtedly the spicy mayonnaise. Some of it is spread onto the buns before they’re toasted — the rest can be smeared onto the burgers or served on the side for dipping.

This hands-off cooking method has multiple benefits, but we’re partial to the fact that the garlic flavor really intensifies in the slow-cooker. Not only that, but the chicken legs remain perfectly moist. Serve this with some warm, crusty bread for soaking up the sauce.

This recipe lies somewhere between chicken and rice and chicken noodle soup. Searing the chicken first helps infuse flavor to the whole dish, and the orzo cooks in the broth, slowly thickening the mixture.

Fresh seafood and citrus are a match made in heaven. When combined with bitter greens, heart-healthy avocado and an umami-packed miso dressing, a nutritious and delicious salad is born.

Easy Skillet Chicken Parm

Want a foolproof Italian-American dish with no fuss? Instead of being breaded and fried, these chicken cutlets simmer with all of the traditional chicken Parmesan ingredients — marinara sauce, mozzarella, Parmesan and fresh basil.

This quick pasta recipe is packing some heat. Spicy Italian sausage bulks up the dish and a generous pinch of red pepper flakes flavors the tomato sauce. Meanwhile, roasted eggplant manages to mellow everything out with its sweet summer flavor. For an even faster dinner, make the tomato sauce a day or two ahead of time.

Ina Garten's Filet Mignon with Mustard and Mushrooms

These tender beef filets cut like butter and are perfect for a special occasion. They are topped with sautéed mushrooms and dressed up with a creamy Cognac-infused mustard pan sauce.

Classic Parmesan Risotto

Few things are more comforting than a bowl full of cheesy risotto. With a handful of ordinary ingredients and a touch of patience, you’ll have a creamy side dish for anything from roast chicken to filet mignon.

Despite being a meat-and-potatoes kind of meal, this dish is light and fresh for spring. Both the chicken thighs and potatoes become crisp and golden, and everything is brightened up with a delicate salad with mustard vinaigrette.

These bite-sized nibbles are a great accompaniment to any Mother’s Day dinner. The scallops are seasoned with a spice rub made of brown sugar, smoked paprika and cumin — they sit on top of individual tortilla crisps, along with a sweet corn and avocado sauce.

Rigatoni Arrabbiata

This classic Italian pasta dish packs a punch. The tomato sauce is made with a fiery infused oil, which utilizes five types of spice — bird’s-eye chilis, crushed red pepper flakes, dried chile de árbol, red jalapeños and gochugaru.

With this dish, you get a hearty protein and side salad all in one. Chicken cutlets are coated with breadcrumbs and Parmesan, then topped with a refreshing arugula, tomato and avocado salad.

Alison Roman's Creamy Cauliflower Pasta with Pecorino Breadcrumbs

A whole head of cauliflower makes the sauce for this pasta even creamier. The key to making perfect homemade breadcrumbs is to sprinkle in the Pecorino Romano cheese while the mixture is still warm — they will cluster together with the panko and become extra crunchy.

Carbone's Meatballs

A combination of ground beef, veal and sweet Italian sausage is what sets these meatballs apart from the rest. Sear the meatballs and finish them in the oven with your favorite tomato sauce for an easy appetizer or main course.

As the chicken roasts, its drippings flavor the slices of bread, making the insides soft and flavorful and the edges crisp. Serve everything on a bed of arugula — it’s hearty enough that the heat from the chicken will wilt the leaves slowly.

Lobster Roll Sliders

Not ready to commit to full-size lobster rolls? These Hawaiian rolls are filled with a similar mixture of buttery lobster meat, mayonnaise, lemon and herbs. Serve them to start the meal or make extra so they can be the main dish.

This is no ordinary steak and potato dish. Juicy rib-eyes are cooked with a flavorful mixture of paprika, mustard and thyme and served alongside thin-cut French fries. The blue cheese compound butter melts perfectly over the steaks.

Ratatouille is a simple yet elegant dish full of fresh seasonal produce. A medley of vegetables — eggplant, zucchini, onions, bell peppers and tomatoes — are shingled in a casserole dish and simmered until tender. It can be eaten warm, cold or at room temperature.

Ratatouille Sheet Pan Chicken

The classic French flavors of ratatouille find their way into this simple sheet-pan chicken dish. Juicy tomatoes and eggplant create a summery sauce for the herb-crusted chicken. A squeeze of lemon brings everything back to life once it comes out of the oven.

Linguine al Limone

Fresh lemon leaves hold a lot of hidden flavor — by crushing them with the palms of your hands, you’ll release the natural oils. The juice of two whole lemons adds even more tart, floral aroma. Be sure not to skimp on the Parmesan cheese — half of it is stirred into the pasta sauce, while the other half is reserved for sprinkling on top.

Simple roast chicken adds some protein to an already hearty bread salad. The best part is that all of the vegetables and chicken roast together on the same baking sheet. Drizzle a simple red wine vinaigrette over the salad while it’s still warm so everything can absorb it.

With asparagus at peak season, now is the time to make a batch of this luxurious risotto. You could even use other spring vegetables, such as fresh peas or fava beans. It’s flavored with plenty of Parmesan and Pecorino Romano cheese and a few pats of black truffle butter to finish.

There’s no need to choose between steak and seafood for Mother’s Day. For this surf and turf main, steaks are seared to medium-rare and spice-rubbed shrimp cook in just a few minutes. Choose some of your favorite vegetables to serve alongside — try a mixture of potatoes, cauliflower, zucchini and bell peppers.

Sweet and spicy is the name of the game. Here, boneless skinless chicken thighs are basted with a sticky glaze made of sweet chili sauce and homemade hot honey barbecue sauce. Serve them over rice or with your choice of grilled vegetables.