rigatoni with butternut squash and sage

Last week, we asked you what Burning Questions you had for my next food advice column, and the responses were so funny…

Or maybe I should say the response, singular. I’m not kidding when I say that 8 out of 10 of you asked the same (eternally evergreen) question: Will you please give me ideas for fast, easy dinners? Makes sense! Herewith, in honor of squash-soup-and-stew weather, 10 ideas for simple meals that shout fall in my house.

Rigatoni with Roasted Butternut Squash and Sage Toss cubed butternut (or honeynut) squash, chopped onion with olive oil, salt, pepper, and roast at 425°F for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare rigatoni according to package directions, drain and toss with a little butter. In the same pasta pot, over high heat, fry 8 to 10 sage leaves in olive oil, 10 seconds until crispy. Toss pasta, squash and sage together, top with Parmesan and chili flakes, and serve.

“Pizza Salad” with Warm Beans Toss romaine leaves with tomatoes, red onion, bocconcini (small mozzarella balls), croutons, and an oregano-spiked red wine vinaigrette. In a medium skillet set over high heat, cook a halved garlic clove and 1/2 a medium onion (chopped) in olive oil. After three minutes, add 3 cups (1 1/2 14-ounce cans) cooked (drained) white beans and cook until warmed through. Add warm beans to salad with Parmesan, chili flakes, and fresh torn basil if you have it.

Warm Mushroom Toasts with Gruyère and Greens In a large skillet, over medium-low heat, sautée chopped onion and mushrooms (white, shiitake, cremini, or a mix) with salt and pepper in olive oil. Meanwhile, lightly toast slices of crusty bread, then top with Gruyère and broil until the cheese is melted. Add chopped greens (kale, chard, mustard) to the mushrooms and cook until wilted, another minute. Drizzle with sherry vinegar (or red wine vinegar) and serve on top of cheese toasts.

Baked Sausage with Apples, Potatoes and Onions Toss whole small potatoes and chopped onion with olive oil, thyme leaves, salt and pepper and place on a baking sheet. Nestle in four links of sweet Italian sausage (pork or chicken) and bake at 400 for 40 minutes. Meanwhile, toss chopped apples (Granny Smith is ideal) in olive oil, then add to the baking sheet for the last five minutes of baking. Remove from the oven, drizzle with cider vinegar, and serve with dollops of Dijon mustard.

Avgolemono In a large soup pot, bring a 32-ounce container of chicken or vegetable broth to a boil. Add 1/4 cup orzo and aggressively simmer for about 7 minutes. Reduce heat to low, then in a medium bowl, whisk together 3 eggs and the juice from one lemon. Ladle about 1 cup of the hot broth into the egg-and-lemon mixture, whisking to combine, then add the mixture back to the simmering saucepan. Stir just until the soup becomes opaque and thickens as the eggs cook, 1 to 2 minutes. Add fresh dill, salt and pepper, and chicken (optional).

chicken pot pie

Chicken Pot Pie Simmer small chunks of carrots, potatoes, and onions in chicken broth just to cover, then stir in a tablespoon or so of flour (that has been whisked with a little milk) and simmer until thickened. Add frozen peas and cubes or shreds of cooked chicken (a storebought rotisserie is good here) then pour mixture into pie dish, cover with one 9-inch prepared pie dough, brush the dough with egg wash (one whisked egg) and bake for 30 minutes at 425°F.

Roast Salmon with Brussels Sprouts Preheat oven to 375°F. Toss halved brussels sprouts with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 15 minutes, tossing halfway through. (And don’t worry if they look a little charred.) Turn heat to 450°F. Nestle single-serving-size salmon filets among the sprouts and roast another 10 minutes. Serve drizzled with your favorite dressing. (I love ginger-miso).

Shredded Vegetable Soup with Parm Bring a medium pot of broth (chicken or vegetable) to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Add shredded vegetables (anything you have; hearty leaves like kale can be torn) and simmer until vegetables are cooked through, not more than 2 or 3 minutes. Ladle into bowls and top generously with grated Parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with crusty bread.

Brussels Sprouts Pizza Heat oven to 450°F. Press and stretch a 16-ounce storebought pizza dough on a baking sheet brushed with olive oil until it reaches the edges of the pan. (You want the crust to be thin.) Top with 1/2 cup grated Parmesan. In a large skillet, over medium-high heat, cook halved Brussels sprouts and chopped red onions in olive oil. (Optional: Skip the olive oil, fry a piece of bacon and cook the vegetables in the bacon’s rendered fat.) Add Brussels mixture to the pizza dough, then bake for 10 minutes, until dough is crispy and golden.

Baked Potatoes with All the Fixins Heat oven to 425°F. Scrub russet potatoes clean and prick them all over with forks. (No longer skipping this step!) Rub them all over with olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt, and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes. While they bake, prepare desired topping: Sautéed kale, spinach, mushrooms, caramelized onions, sour cream, bacon pieces. When potatoes are cool enough to handle, split lengthwise, sprinkle with sharp cheddar and broil another two minutes until the cheese has melted. Add desired toppings and serve.

What fast fall meals are you making these days?

P.S. More burning questions and chicken-y white beans with romaine that’s just right for fall.