Rigatoni pasta with meat sauce on a white plate. Cheese is stringing from the noodles.

5 Staple Recipes for Busy College Students

By Ally Bolender
Web Content Contributor

These are some staple recipes that are delicious, classy and moderately healthy. But the best part is – they’re so cheap and easy to make!

Need to mix in some new staple meals into your routine? Want to impress your parents? Have a cute date coming over? These recipes are practically fool-proof.

My biggest flaw when cooking is that I cannot stick to a recipe. I always end up hijacking it and doing my own thing. Most of the time, it doesn’t turn out as planned (shocker, right?) but these recipes I have adjusted so many different ways and they always work out!

The beauty of these simple recipes is that you can make substitutions easily, just add/take away whatever you want. You can easily tend them to your taste buds. In addition, all of these recipes can be made in whatever pan or skillet you have, as long as it’s big enough. You don’t need to go out and buy anything fancy!

These meals won’t leave you with a lot of dishes to clean and you don’t have to buy a bunch of spices. These are just some simple recipes for normal, non-chef people.

I am by no means a “good” chef, but I have managed to nail all of these meals every time. And trust me – if I can do it, you can do it.

Rigatoni Casserole

The ingredients for the rigatoni casserole sitting upright on a granite countertop.
The ingredients you will need for a rigatoni casserole. Photo by Ally Bolender.

This recipe is probably the easiest and cheapest. It’ll leave you with delicious leftovers for days. Here’s how I do it:

  1. Cook around a pound of ground beef until it is no longer pink. I like to season it with salt, pepper, a little garlic powder and a little Italian seasoning.
  2. At the same time, cook a package of rigatoni pasta. I typically grab a 7-oz bag.
  3. When the pasta and meat is cooked, put it in a baking dish (I use an 11×7) and mix it with:
A pan with the ingredients for rigatoni inside.
Mix all the ingredients together and bake! Photo by Ally Bolender.
  • A jar of pasta sauce (you can make your own, I just find it easier to use a premade one)
  • 1 ½ cups of mozzarella
  1. After you mix the ingredients together in the pan, sprinkle a remaining 1 cup of mozzarella on top, and cook it in the oven at 350º for 20 minutes.

It’s so easy and delicious!

Honey Garlic Steak Bites

Steak bites are sitting on a white plate with fried rice.
My meal of honey garlic steak and fried rice. Photo by Ally Bolender.

This marinated steak is perfect to pair with some rice and vegetables of your choice. I made fried rice with it. Here’s how you make these steak bites:

  1. Get around 1.5 lbs. of sirloin steak, and cut it into even cubes.
  2. In a gallon Ziploc bag, combine:
  • ⅓ cup of soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp of honey
  • 1 tbsp of minced garlic
  1. Now put the steak in the bag and let it marinate for at least an hour.
  2. When you’re ready to cook, heat a pan with some oil and cook one side of the cubes for a minute, then flip. You can cook it however long to get it to the color you want. I did mine medium-rare, and it only took about 3 minutes.

And you’re done! The steak has an amazing flavor and comes out a beautiful color.

Easiest Breakfast Burrito

Breakfast burrito with potatoes, eggs and cheese in a soft flour tortilla.
The easiest breakfast burrito! Photo by Ally Bolender.

I make this breakfast burrito so much. It’s super easy to customize based on the ingredients you have in the fridge. It’s a filling and quick breakfast, and it should take less than 10 minutes!

O’brien potatoes cooking on a skillet.
Cooking potatoes in bacon grease. Photo by Ally Bolender.
  1. Take your favorite frozen potatoes (I love the o’brien style hash browns that comes with peppers in it) and cook it on the skillet with a splash of oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Keep cooking until they’re soft and golden.
  2. Push the potatoes to one side of the skillet and add how many eggs you want to the other. It’s okay if they get mixed up.
  3. Once the eggs are mostly scrambled, mix the eggs and potatoes together and continue cooking under your desired doneness (I like my eggs well done).
  4. Now throw it on a warm tortilla, add your favorite shredded cheese and hot sauce, and you’re done!

If I have extra time, I like to make bacon in the pan first, set aside, and cook the potatoes in the bacon grease. Then I like to break apart the bacon and sprinkle it into my breakfast burrito.

Crispy pieces of bacon laying on a flour tortilla with the egg, bacon, cheese and peppers.
A meal that’s great for breakfast, lunch and dinner! Photo by Ally Bolender.

Teriyaki Chicken and Noodles

This recipe is a little more involved, but you still only need to use one large skillet! You’ll need a lot of ingredients with this recipe though:

  • Chicken, cut into cubes (I use about a pound)
  • 2 packages of ramen
  • Minced garlic, cut white onion and green onion
  • Frozen broccoli florets (non-frozen works fine too – frozen is just cheaper)
  • Brown sugar, corn starch, soy sauce, ginger (optional) and sesame oil

Vegetable broth

  1. Okay, so once you cut your chicken up into bite size pieces, cook it up with some oil and minced garlic in a large skillet until there is no more pink. I like to add a little salt and pepper.
  2. Once it’s cooked, push the chicken to one side of the pan and put these ingredients in on the other to make a teriyaki sauce.
  • ¾ cup soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil (you can add more if you like a stronger flavor)
  • 2-3 tbsp of brown sugar
  • pinch of minced ginger and garlic
  • 1 tbsp of cornstarch
Teriyaki chicken in a red bowl.
Making teriyaki chicken with homemade sauce is the best! Photo by Ally Bolender.
  1. Mix these ingredients together and let it sit until it looks thickened enough. To be honest, I wing this sauce everytime and it turns out good. So, just play around with proportions until you find your favorite. If the sauce is not thickening, add pinches of corn starch at a time until it’s how you like it.
  2. Now mix the chicken with the sauce in the pan, and set it aside in a large bowl.
  3. Now, in that same pan, throw in some oil and cook the white onion and broccoli until the onion is flexible and the broccoli is soft. I like to add minced garlic and soy sauce into the pan too.
  4. Once that’s done, add 2 cups of vegetable broth.
  5. Quickly break apart 2 packages of ramen into the broth and vegetable mixture (discard those flavor packages!)
  6. Now just mix it up into all of the ramen is broken apart and soft. There shouldn’t be too much liquid in the pan.
  7. Mix it with the chicken in the bowl and add some green onions on top. You’re done!

I make this recipe at least once a week and I have leftovers for days. I find that it’s best to make a lot of sauce to begin with, then when you add the noodles to the bowl it spreads around and tastes delicious.

A bowl of teriyaki chicken with noodles and broccoli. Green onions are sprinkled on top.
This meal is delicious and great as leftovers! Photo by Ally Bolender.

Honey-Garlic-Chipotle Salmon

This meal definitely looks boujee, but it’s so ridiculously easy! This is probably one of the healthier recipes as well.

  1. In a bowl, combine:
  • 1 tbsp of honey
  • ½ tsp of chipotle chili powder
  • 1 tbsp of melted butter
  • ½ tbsp of minced garlic
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  1. Now spread this mixture over two 4-6-oz salmon fillets.
  2. In a skillet, heat about a tbsp of oil and add the coated-salmon skin side up.
  3. Sear this side for about 3 minutes, flip, then cook for another 3-4 minutes.

Viola! Your delicious and moderately healthy salmon is ready. I followed this recipe exactly and it came out flawless. I also paired it with garlic bread and broccoli, but you can do whatever!

A white plate with salmon, broccoli and garlic bread.
This honey chipotle salmon comes out gorgeous! Photo by Ally Bolender.

I hope you enjoy these simple and customizable recipes. I think they’re great for mixing into your staple dinner options. Try some out and see for yourself!

Featured image by Ally Bolender.

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