5 Perfect Dinner & Dessert Pairings for Every Weeknight


We’ve teamed up with HelloFresh to make your weeknights a little sweeter. Sign up for their meal kit service now through May and you’ll get Free Desserts for Life (really!). Use code FOOD52 at checkout. (Note: One free dessert item per box while subscription is active.)

Most cooks know that the best way to guarantee home-cooked dinners is to plan a weeknight menu in advance. In reality, though, I often head to the market with just a few ideas in mind and come up with a menu while staring at the meat counter or strolling the produce bins. This is risky business, since it can lead to meals my kids find boring (roast chicken again?), and a few stray ingredients in search of a home (Oh hello eggplant! Remind me what I had in mind for you?). As for dessert—it doesn’t even enter the realm of weeknight cooking unless it’s in the frozen section.

But sometimes I do want to pull out all the stops, even on a Monday night. Maybe we have a birthday to celebrate, or I invited friends to dinner on a Friday and am stumped on the perfect dessert to end the night. The tyranny of choice is real—so, to make weeknight cooking more inspired and thoughtful, I’ve come up with a cheat sheet for five easy dinner and dessert pairings—including menu inspiration from a huge time-saver, HelloFresh.

The meal kit service, which delivers you everything you need for a week of amazing eats, lets you skip all the planning, shopping, prepping, and even baking. Given their array of 45+ rotating recipes to choose from every week, along with their ready-to-serve desserts from HelloFresh Market that you can get free for life (yes, you read that right—read on for the details!), I’ve offered a little help in picking out the perfect treats.

The menus below are flexible enough that you can substitute your own favorite recipes or HelloFresh meals. Each one gives you a formula to follow when you want a special, weeknight meal at home that answers the all-important question: What’s for dessert?

Monday: One-Pot Chicken Sausage & Kale Soup & Chocolate Pound Cake

The convenience of getting everything you need for a week’s worth of farm-fresh, inventive weeknight meals delivered—along with the ready-to-serve desserts from HelloFresh Market—means more time for yourself and the lovely people you’re feeding. Their One-Pot Chicken Sausage & Kale Soup, for instance, is a hearty, soul-warming soup that comes together in 35 minutes flat. Pair it with their decadent Chocolate Pound Cake (like most of the HelloFresh Market desserts here, all you need to do is let it come to room temp—no baking needed!).

You could also start the week with a main-dish kind of soup that will yield a few leftover lunches like this contest-winning minestrone. It’s overflowing with hardy produce and pantry staples like fresh kale, potatoes, carrots, and chickpeas, and can easily swing vegetarian if you sub in a Parmesan rind for the bacon. As it’s simmering on the stove, your Tiger Cake—a divine, one-bowl marble cake—can be baking away and done in time for dessert, leaving extra slices to snack on during the week.

Photo by Bobbi Lin

Tuesday: Crispy Kickin’ Cayenne Chicken & Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake

Skip the grocery shopping, baking, and chilling time with this easy dinner and dessert from HelloFresh. The Buffalo wing-inspired Crispy Kickin’ Cayenne Chicken takes just 30 minutes from stove to table, and their Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake is a creamy treat to cool your palette.

A longer but still simple way to dinner: this sheet-pan chicken with broccoli and chickpeas clocks in at under an hour of oven time. Just be sure to bake these mini cheesecakes before you slide it in the oven. (Everyone can garnish theirs the way they like with fresh fruit, caramel, or chocolate, and you’ll have a few left to pull out of the fridge another night.)

Wednesday: Garlicky Steak Bowls With Tomato-Cuke Salad & Apple Berry Blossoms

There is no bigger crowd-pleaser in my family than steak, a true special-occasion dinner in my book. These Garlicky Steak Bowls With Tomato-Cuke Salad are a flavorful twist on steak night that clocks in at 20 minutes total cooking time. Serve it with HelloFresh Market’s Apple Berry Blossoms, tender, flaky pastry filled with baked apples and berries that you just reheat and serve.

If starting from scratch at home, toss a salad, then sear and roast these New York strip steaks. Your oven will now be ready for this apple crisp to begin bubbling away. I love this one from Alice Medrich for the surprising brightness the orange zest and apricots bring—and because you don’t even have to peel the apples.

Thursday: Chicken Sausage Rigatoni & White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake

It’s Thursday, your energy is waning, so let’s not go crazy tonight. The Chicken Sausage Rigatoni from HelloFresh is smothered in a creamy, cheesy pink sauce and takes a fraction of the time as any home-cooked sauce. For dessert, just pull their White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake out of the fridge for a tangy, sweet treat.

Another idea: Toss your favorite pasta with a beloved, 4-ingredient red sauce—Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce With Onion & Butter. Follow it with a dead-simple dessert: pudding-like lemon posset. Just boil cream and sugar, add lemon juice, chill for two hours, et voilà.

Friday: Pan-Seared Scallops & Peanut Butter Lava Cake

You made it to Friday, and you haven’t ordered out once? That calls for a celebration in and of itself. HelloFresh’s decadent, Pan-Seared Scallops & Lemon Butter Sauce couldn’t be easier to prepare (35 minutes start to finish). Close out the night with a retro dessert everyone loves. Their rich Peanut Butter Lava Cake takes as little as 30 seconds to get ooey-gooey with molten peanut butter.

A similar pairing that’s quick to make at home: miso-mustard scallops with sugar snap peas with clementine lava cakes. You could easily halve the recipe—or reward yourself with two extras for the weekend.

What are your favorite dinner and dessert combos? Tell us in the comments below!

‘Free Dessert for Life’ offer only valid for new customers with qualifying auto-renewing subscription purchase. ‘Get 16 Free Meals’ offer is based on a total discount applied over a 9-week period for a 2-person, 3-recipe subscription. Discount varies for other meal plans and sizes. ‘Free Dessert for Life’ offer is based on a limit of one free dessert item added to any plan for as long as a customer remains active; if subscription is canceled, this offer becomes invalid and will not be reinstated upon reactivation. Shipping fee applies on all deliveries after the first box. Not valid on premiums, meal upgrades, add-ons, taxes or shipping fees. May not be combined with gift cards or any other promotion. No cash value. Void outside the U.S. and where prohibited. Offer cannot be sold or otherwise bartered. HelloFresh has the right to end or modify any offer at any time. Additional restrictions may apply. See https://www.hellofresh.com/termsandconditions for more.

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