Family Dinner Secrets From Star Chefs
Pasta and protein
Top foodies spill their own tricks for getting family meals on the table—fast.
Giada De Laurentiis
De Laurentiis plans ahead. "I cook a variety of pasta in different shapes, along with a protein like turkey or lamb. I store each item separately so the flavors don’t blend.
At dinnertime, I simply select a pasta, a protein, and a fresh vegetable, add a bit of olive oil and heat."
—Giada De Laurentiis is the host of Food Network’s Giada at Home and mom to 3-year-old Jade.
Neely’s favorite dinner shortcut is a slow cooker.
"You can create the simplest dishes in the world by tossing in some meat, chopped carrots, and potatoes with a few of the spices from my ‘Spice Fairy’ rack and generate a delightful meal with little labor."
—Gina and Pat Neely are the hosts of Down Home with the Neelys and parents to two daughters, 16 and 22.
Moulton relies on her food processor to save time.
"If you grate a vegetable, it takes no time at all to cook in a large skillet with a little oil.
For example, beets normally take 45 minutes to boil or steam and 1 1⁄2 hours to bake, but once you grate them, they take only 3 minutes to cook in a skillet in a little oil."
—Sara Moulton is the host of public television’s Sara’s Weeknight Meals, author of Sara Moulton’s Everyday Family Dinners, and mom of two grown children.
Ellie Krieger’s fast and healthy holy grail includes quick-cooking whole grains (whole-wheat couscous, quinoa, whole-grain pasta), vegetables that don’t require much prep (grape tomatoes, pre-washed greens, frozen peas), and proteins that don’t take much time to cook (fish, shrimp, chicken breasts, canned beans).
"If you have those three elements and seasonings like garlic, onion, chili powder, or curry powder, the meal possibilities are endless."
—Ellie Krieger is a registered dietitian, mom to 9-year-old Bella, and author of the New York Times best seller So Easy.
Guy Fieri saves time on busy weeknights by making one-pot meals, like a simple stir-fry.
"That way the family gets their veggies, protein, and grains all in one meal."
—Guy Fieri is the host of Food Network’s Guy’s Big Bite and founder of the non-profit group Cooking with Kids (CWK). He’s also the father of two sons, ages 15 and 5.
Shea Gallante’s secret kid-friendly weapon? Basil pesto.
"My kids love it, it’s healthy, and it keeps for a week. If I come home late, I can quickly boil a pot of pasta or cook a couple of chicken breasts and dress it in the pesto."
—Shea Gallante is the executive chef and partner of the rustic Italian restaurant Ciano in Manhattan, and the father of a 6-year-old and 2-year-old twins.