Tasty, Hasty Dinners For When There's No Time To Cook

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Pasta with sausage, tomato sauce and arugula. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Pasta with sausage, tomato sauce and arugula. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Life is hectic this time of year — from school to meetings to soccer practice to play rehearsals, and don't forget play dates and after-school activities. It’s exhausting. But if you believe there’s no time for cooking, I’m here to say you’re wrong.

These three dishes can be made quickly, without a whole lot of effort and are way better for you and your family than takeout. Get organized the night before and you’ll be good to go.

Pasta With Sausage, Tomato Sauce And Arugula

There's no time to cook? Think again. The sauce for this dish cooks in the time it takes to boil the pasta. Use your favorite shaped pasta for this quick, easy dinner.

Serves 4.


  • 1 pound pasta, whatever shape you like (I like cavatappi or farfalle)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 sausages, Italian sweet or hot or a combination (you can use pork, chicken, turkey or vegetarian)
  • 2 1/2 cups of your favorite tomato sauce
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 to 2 tablespoon, chopped basil, optional
  • 1 1/2 cups arugula leaves
  • Grated Parmesan cheese


  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boil over high heat.
  2. Meanwhile, place the oil in a large skillet over moderately high heat. Remove the sausage meat by squeezing it out of the casing. Add the sausage to the hot oil and cook, stirring to brown, 7 minutes. Add tomato sauce, salt, pepper and basil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 5 minutes.
  3. Add pasta to the boiling water and cook according to the package. Scoop out 1/3 cup of the pasta water and add to the skillet with the sausage. Drain pasta.
  4. In a large bowl, toss the pasta with the sausage and tomato sauce. Top with the arugula and sprinkle with cheese.

Baked Sweet Potatoes With All The Toppings

Baked sweet potatoes with all the toppings. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Baked sweet potatoes with all the toppings. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

All you have to do is bake a sweet potato (go on and zap it in the microwave if you’re super short on time) and then place out small bowls filled with toppings — everything from nuts and cheese to caramelized onions or sautéed spinach. This is a great way to use up leftover bits of cooked vegetables or even meat.

Serves 4.


Sweet potatoes:

  • 4 medium sweet potatoes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Topping ideas:

  • Butter or olive oil
  • Grated cheese
  • Crumbled feta or blue cheese
  • Chopped nuts
  • Chopped scallions and or chives
  • Cinnamon-maple butter: mix 2 tablespoons soft butter with 1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Sautéed spinach
  • Sauteed onions
  • Sauteed mushrooms
  • Chopped red or green peppers


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Prick a few holes in potatoes with a fork and place on a baking sheet or wrap in foil. Bake for about 30 to 60 minutes, depending on the size and freshness, or until a fork gently inserted in the center is just soft. Or microwave on high heat for about 5 minutes, until tender.
  2. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Serve hot potatoes with all or any of the toppings.

Quick Miso Ramen With Chicken And Bok Choy

Quick miso ramen with chicken and bok choy. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Quick miso ramen with chicken and bok choy. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

You can make this ramen simply and quickly by using boxed chicken stock (or vegetable stock) and rotisserie roasted supermarket chicken, or if you have some time to plan ahead, use homemade stock and leftover roasted chicken.

Serves 4.


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil or spicy sesame oil, plus some for finishing the dish
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger
  • 1/3 cup chopped scallions
  • 2 tablespoons miso paste
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
  • 1/3 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • 5 cups chicken or vegetable stock (look for organic, low-sodium varieties if using boxed or canned)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, shredded or cut into small cubes, optional
  • 4 ounces udon or ramen noodles
  • 2 small or baby bok choy, cut lengthwise into quarters

Optional ingredients

  • Sauteed mushrooms
  • Soft boiled eggs, cut in half
  • Kimchi
  • 4 nori sheets (dried seaweed) cut into strips


  1. In a medium pot, heat 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil with the sesame oil over moderate heat. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of the ginger and half the scallions and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the miso paste and stir to coat the aromatics with the paste and cook 2 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce and stir. Add half the cilantro and all the stock and cook, stirring, until the broth comes to a gentle simmer. Add the cooked chicken, partially cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, bring a pot of lightly salted water to boil.
  3. In a skillet heat the remaining oil over moderately high heat. Add the remaining ginger and cook 1 minute. Add the bok choy, cut side down, and cook 3 minutes. Gently flip and cook another 3 minutes or until the bok choy still holds its shape but is almost tender. Add the remaining soy sauce and cook over high heat for another minute, until the bok choy is glazed.
  4. Add the noodles to the boiling water and cook according to the package. Drain.
  5. To serve: divide the noodle between 4 large bowls. Divide the broth on top and then add the sautéed bok choy and remaining scallions and cilantro. Drizzle with just a touch of sesame oil or spicy sesame oil. Add any other ingredients you choose to make and serve hot with spoons and chopsticks.

This segment aired on September 30, 2019.


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Kathy Gunst Resident Chef, Here & Now
Kathy Gunst is a James Beard Award-winning journalist and the author of 15 cookbooks.



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