Lighter American Main Dishes
Lighten Up, Main Dishes!
We utilized stealth veggies and smaller portions sizes for this pork chop main. The rich sauce gets its velvety consistency from a flour roux, chicken stock, and a touch of half-and-half.
Meatballs and Spaghetti
It takes a tender hand to make a light meatball. The key is in the rolling; you want to leave air pockets in the meatballs, so shape the balls gently in your hand, making sure not to squash them.
To make the cooking process easy, purchase pre-pounded cutlets or ask your butcher to pound them for you.
Whether you enjoy it hot out of the oven or on a cold sandwich, meat loaf is a time-tested American classic. Here, it gains nutrition with the addition of baby spinach and excitement with a sweet-and-spicy glaze.
Dandelion-Stuffed Pork Loin
This is a special-occasion entrée that doesn't take too much time to make. The original version of this recipe won the blue ribbon at the Great Dandelion Cook-Off in Dover, Ohio, and was developed by Sherry Schie.
Chicken-Fried Steak with Milk Gravy
The secret to this steak’s crispy crust is crumbled saltine crackers. To achieve a crispy outside and a tender inside, firmly push the cracker crumbs into the cube steak to fill crevices and to keep the steak from shrinking as it cooks.
Chicken and Dumplings
It’s generally accepted that there are two regionally distinct dumpling styles—the Midwestern biscuit-like option and the Southern pasta-like version. This lightened-up dish is inspired by the Midwest's version, and it's rich and satisfying enough to be a meal.
Barbecue Pork Ribs
Pork loin back ribs are meaty and lean, so they cook quickly. Ribs are all about proper cooking, so that you get just a mouthful of meat you can tear with your teeth (proper barbecue doesn't actually fall off the bone). To ensure they get a nice char and have smoky flavor, start them on a grill with wood chips, but then wrap them in foil and finish in the oven. This ensures even cooking and allows the ribs to make their own pan sauce, which you’ll want to spoon over the top when you serve them.
Slow-Roasted Pulled Pork
This recipe was inspired by one created by Lee and Jack Manfred, a father-son cooking team from Vienna, VA. Its tender meat and flavorful, crispy edges has made it their legendary tailgate dish.
The right amount of salt and spice makes this Italian pasta dish feel decadent, while fresh Parmesan, basil, and arugula keep it light. The canned tomatoes make it a quick dish, easy to pull together during the week. To make the cheese shavings, gently drag a vegetable peeler against the side of a Parmesan cheese wedge.
Various adaptations of this popular recipe from the Silver Palate Cookbook have been a go-to dinner party favorite for decades. It's a simple and delicious one-dish recipe for the busy host, and tastes best when prepared a day or two ahead.
Maine Lobster Bake
An authentic lobster bake is a memorable and festive event. This recipe was inspired by food photographer Ted Axelrod. He steams lobsters, clams, corn, and potatoes in a large pot covered with seaweed. This recipe uses a simple stovetop cooking method.
In the Deep South, cooks in local catfish houses typically coat the fillets in a mixture of cornmeal and flour, then deep-fry to a golden brown.
Sometimes you just don’t mess with a classic. This Texas-style recipe takes chili back to its true Western roots. If you like, you can add beans to stretch the dish—but try it first as it’s meant to be.
Holy calcium! Heavy cream, Parmesan cheese, and butter create the regular calorie and fat-filled alfredo sauce. Here, we used olive oil instead of butter, nixed the cream in favor of a thickened milk-based sauce that uses flour and cream cheese to thicken it, leaving plenty of room for a cup of the good stuff—Parmigianno-Reggiano cheese.We’ve revisited this recipe more than once and made subtle changes to fit into the current eating philosophy and this one always makes the transition smoothly. It’s a solid…and delicious recipe.
Minnesota Wild Rice Soup
Here’s a hearty winter favorite from the upper Midwest. Wild rice—the official state grain of Minnesota—”pops” when you cook it, adding creaminess to the soup.
Hearty and satisfying, this soup gets its rich creaminess from potatoes.
This American classic is a great cold-weather family meal. We take out some of the fat and sodium but keep the flavor and satisfaction. Petite peas add a touch of sweetness to this rich dish.
Unlike traditional stuffed chiles, these peppers are cooked on the stovetop with a small amount of oil and then baked instead of deep-fried. The result is a crispy exterior that rivals that of the fried version, but with significantly less fat and calories.
This dish has been a Bay Area favorite for more than 80 years. Today, no trip to the City by the Bay is complete without it. Serve with crusty bread—ideally, San Francisco’s sourdough.
Black Bean and Cheese Enchiladas with Ranchero Sauce
Ranchero sauce gives this dish authentic Tex-Mex flavor. You can make the sauce ahead, then simply assemble the enchiladas just before baking.
Pasta with Vodka Cream Sauce
Nothing coats pasta quite like whipping cream. This dish uses canned tomatoes and broth for convenience, and fresh basil is stirred in at the end for a boost of flavor. For a nonalcoholic version, replace the vodka with additional chicken broth.
Hoisin-Glazed Salmon Burgers
Quick-pickled cukes give these burgers some crunch. Use cilantro leaves on the burgers instead of lettuce for herby freshness.
Beef and Mushroom Stew
There are just a few minutes of browning required before the oven does all the work for this dish. So easy!
Bacon-Corn Chowder with Shrimp
The trick to this light yet rich-tasting soup is blending part of the corn mixture in a blender. This technique creates a thick, creamy texture and eliminates the need for butter and heavy cream. This soup can also serve six as a first course instead of an entrée.
Spicy Sausage and Mushroom Pizza
Hot sausage gives this classic pizza a welcome spicy kick. Choosing turkey rather than traditional pork sausage keeps down the calories and fat.
What an American classic! Stuffed shells are a bit more involved than a simple pasta dish, but at the same time, a lot less fussy than homemade lasagna. This vegetarian version is packed with flavorful vegetables like zucchini, mushrooms, and spinach. Even though they’re lighter, these shells will fill you up.
Slightly spicy andouille sausage, shrimp, rice, and the cooking “trinity” of the Bayou—onion, celery, and bell pepper—give this regional dish its distinctive flavor. If you want to keep it mild, omit the additional ground red pepper from the rice mixture.
This one-hour soup is surprisingly simple to make, considering how much satisfying flavor it delivers. Lentils, a nutritional powerhouse full of fiber; make a hearty winter soup when combined with a little bit of sausage and a lot of vegetables.
New Orleans Gumbo
The key to an outstanding Cajun gumbo is a deep, dark roux. To get it just right, use a flat-bottomed wooden spoon to get into all the corners of the pot, and be attentive. Cook, stirring continuously, especially during the last 15 minutes. Reduce the heat as needed if you’re concerned the roux is cooking too fast. There’s no rescuing a burnt roux—best to toss it and start over.
Chicken-Matzo Ball Soup
For a shortcut version of this dish, use unsalted chicken stock instead of making your own.
Oven-Fried Fish Sticks with Tartar Sauce
Fish sticks have been a staple since the 1950s. The premade, frozen variety offers a simple, inexpensive way to get dinner on the table, but this homemade version, which uses fresh cod, is superior in flavor, texture, and nutrition. They’re definitely worth the time it takes to make them.
In the early part of the 20th century, chicken divan was the signature dish of the elegant Divan Parisien in New York’s Chatham Hotel. Years later, the Campbell Soup Company redeveloped the recipe for the back of the can of condensed cream of chicken soup. This version skips the can, which reduces the sodium.
This spicy, creamy pasta dish is a regional specialty from the Utica-Rome area of New York state.
Split Pea Soup with Ham
Although a favorite across the nation, this dish was introduced to the U.S. by early English settlers. This recipe omits the salty ham hock, but adds smoked paprika for extra smoky flavor.
Mushroom and Spinach Lasagna
We have yet to meet an American who doesn’t love lasagna. Unfortunately, the original is often served with a side of, “But I shouldn’t….” This recipe will change all that.
Chicken Tikka Masala
Chicken tikka masala is probably the most popular dish in Indian restaurants in America. This version was inspired by New York-based Indian chef Suvir Saran's take on the original.
For a truly perfect burger, grind your own beef or ask your butcher to do it for you. Ground beef from the supermarket is often made from trim and scraps, which can mean inconsistent flavor.