18 Make-Ahead Main Courses

Peppercorn Crusted Roast Beef with Horseradish Cream
Photo: Jennifer Chong

Whether you're planning to entertain guests or simply anticipating a tight meal schedule, it's smart to have some recipes in your back pocket that can be prepared largely in advance. From Peppercorn Roast Beef with Horseradish Cream to Birria Tacos and Short Rib Chili, here is our roundup of delicious make-ahead dishes to please any crowd.

01 of 18

Garlic-Butter Rib Roast

Garlic butter prime rib
Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell

This impressive, flavor-packed rib roast recipe from chef John Somerall is perfect for a celebration. The secret? A compound butter made with garlic, anchovies, herbs, and shallot. The roast can be prepped the night before and stored in the fridge until ready to bake — just bring it to room temperature before roasting.

02 of 18

Bò Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew)

FW Feb 2019 Vietnamese - Beef Stew
Greg DuPree

A baguette and bò kho are great meal partners, but you also can serve the stew over pasta — try it over boiled egg noodles or rice noodles (select pappardelle-size noodles, such as A Taste of Thai brand).

03 of 18

Philadelphia Roast Pork Sandwiches

Philadelphia Roast Pork and Broccoli Rabe Sandwiches
Photo by Fred Hardy / Food Styling by Ali Ramee / Prop Styling by Christina Brockman

These sandwiches combine roasted pork with melty provolone cheese and broccoli rabe for a seriously satisfying bite. The vegetable's bitter, bright flavor balances the fattiness of the pork, which is incredibly tender and buttery with a flavorful crust. The provolone brings sharpness and helps keep the bottom of the roll from getting too soggy, and the mayo — which has a punch of acidity from pickled peperoncini and its brine — is the finishing touch.

04 of 18

Vegetable and Ravioli Lasagna

Vegetable-and-Ravioli Lasagna
Rick Poon

Fresh spinach ravioli are a clever shortcut for making lasagna: Each ravioli is already a mini layer of pasta, cheese, and vegetable. This recipe is especially fast to make using pre-roasted or grilled vegetables from the deli counter.

05 of 18

Roast Chicken and Warm Escarole Caesar

Roast Chicken and Warm Escarole Caesar
Photo by Antonis Achilleos / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer / Prop Styling by Hannah Greenwood

This dish from the menu at Dusek's in Chicago is a sleeper hit, combining comforting roast chicken and the briny flavors of Caesar salad for a cozy meal. The savory, smoky marinated chicken is a perfect match for the just-wilted escarole, which still retains some crunch and is slightly bitter. Tender roasted potatoes add some extra heft to the preparation, and a homemade Caesar dressing brings it all together.

06 of 18

Sardinian Stuffed Eggplant

Sardinian Stuffed Eggplant
Quentin Bacon

Chef Efisio Farris says that his mother used only eggplants from the first pick of the season (le primizie) for this dish because of their supple texture and earthy-sweet flavor without a hint of bitterness. But if you don't have the primizie option, seek out firm, heavy eggplants with smooth, evenly colored skin.

07 of 18

Peppercorn Roast Beef with Horseradish Cream

Peppercorn Crusted Roast Beef with Horseradish Cream
Jennifer Chong

To make this tender beef roast, brothers and restaurateurs Nakul and Arjun Mahendro start with a center-cut strip roast, which they spread with peppercorns, salt, mustard, and rosemary leaves. An overnight chill seasons and tenderizes the meat and also dries the outside of the roast nicely, helping to create a crispy crust after roasting.

08 of 18

Stuffed Pork Tenderloins with Bacon and Apple-Riesling Sauce

Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with Bacon and Apple-Riesling Sauce
Kirsten Strecker

Debra Whiting, the late chef and co-owner of Red Newt Winery Bistro in New York's Finger Lakes, loved the fresh goat cheese from the local Lively Run Dairy so much that she always worked it into her dinner menu. Here, she mixed the cheese with apple, sausage, and greens, then stuffed it inside a bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin.

09 of 18

Birria Tacos

Birria Tacos Recipe
Greg Dupree

Chef Claudette Zepeda combines two meats to create the best balance of tender texture (from the chuck roast) and succulence (from the short ribs). These birria tacos get slow-cooked flavor from the adobo sauce.

10 of 18

Woven Lasagna with Prosciutto and Fresh Spinach Sauce

Woven Lasagna with Prosciutto and Spinach Sauce Recipe
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Thom Driver

Weaving the pasta sheets in this lasagna allows the outer pieces to bubble and crisp in the oven around the creamy, rustic prosciutto-ricotta filling. The lasagna needs to set up in the refrigerator for at least six hours; the assembled lasagna may be frozen and thawed in the fridge before slicing and roasting. The spinach sauce may be made up to a day ahead. Once the lasagna has chilled, it takes mere minutes to heat and serve this stunning, cover-worthy recipe, making it ideal for a dinner party.

11 of 18

Teff Tagliatelle with Niter Kibbeh

Teff Tagliatelle with Niter Kibbeh
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell

In traditional Ethiopian niter kibbeh, whole spices like nigella, coriander, and cardamom are bloomed in clarified butter, or ghee, then strained. Here, chef Yohanis Gebreyesus leaves the toasted spices in to add texture to this simple but luxurious sauce for pasta made with earthy, fragrant teff.

12 of 18

Beef Stew in Red Wine Sauce

Beef Stew in Red Wine Sauce
Courtesy of Tom Hopkins and The Family of Jacques Pépin

This is the quintessential recipe for beef stew with red wine. Chef Jacques Pépin's mother served it at her restaurant, Le Pélican, where she made it with tougher cuts of meat. Jacques likes the flatiron — a long, narrow cut that's extremely lean but becomes tender and stays moist. He doesn't use stock, demi-glace, or even water in his stew, relying instead on robust red wine for the deep-flavored sauce.

13 of 18

Vegetarian 15-Bean Soup

Vegetarian 15 Bean Soup
Photo by Antonis Achilleos / Prop Styling by Christina Daley / Food Styling by Ali Ramee

Can't make up your mind whether to make bean or lentil soup? Grab a bag of 15-bean soup mix from the dry goods aisle at the market and make this flavorful, hearty soup instead. Bean and lentil soups like this one are often cooked with a ham bone or smoked ham hock; here, we add a few Parmesan cheese rinds instead, which add a surprising depth of flavor and umami when simmered with a pot of soup, stew, or even pasta sauce.

14 of 18

Herb Garden Matzo Ball Soup

Herb Garden Matzo Ball Soup
Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Thom Driver

Matzo ball soup gets a glow-up in this version by cookbook author Leah Koenig, with fresh parsley, dill, chives, and fennel fronds in the matzo balls themselves, plus more herbs, lemon zest, and edible flowers adding color and bright, spring flavors to each finished bowl of soup.

15 of 18

Umami-Mayo Roast Chicken

Umami-Mayo Roast Chicken
Photo by Eva Kolenko / Food Styling by Carrie Purcell / Prop Styling by Jillian Knox

The secret to this juicy roast chicken is umami mayo, a two-ingredient powerhouse combination of brewer's yeast and mayonnaise. Slathering the bird with this mixture before it goes into the oven yields maximal umami flavor and helps lock in the juiciness. Letting the chicken stand uncovered in the refrigerator overnight helps to dry out the skin for a crispier bird.

16 of 18

Chicken, Cheese, and Mushroom Enchiladas with Sour Cream Slaw

Chicken, Cheese and Mushroom Enchiladas with Sour Cream Slaw
© Corey Hendrickson

Crunchy coleslaw made with a sour cream dressing is a cooling accompaniment to these spicy-sauced enchiladas. The assembled enchiladas can be refrigerated overnight; bring to room temperature before baking. 

17 of 18

Short Rib Chili

Short Rib Chili with Pickled Red Onion
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Tyna Hoang / Prop Styling by Christina Daley

Fresh jalapeños, smoky chipotles in adobo, and fruity ancho chile powder give this thick, meaty short rib chili layers of heat, while red wine and tomato add acidity to balance out the richness of the tender short ribs. It can be made up to three days ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. 

18 of 18

Kale-Artichoke Stuffed Shells

Kale and Artichoke Stuffed Shells
Photo by Greg DuPree / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen

Cannellini beans add hearty creaminess to these stuffed shells, while mild heat from Calabrian chiles and earthy sweetness from fennel seeds amp up jarred marinara sauce. Cook a few extra pasta shells to have on hand in case some tear during boiling.

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