13 Pasta & Rice Dishes That Aren’t Your Average Weeknight Meals

What makes these dishes stand out is not just the variety they offer but the way they bring people together. A well-prepared pasta or rice dish can turn dinner into a moment of connection, encouraging conversation and shared experiences around the table. It’s about more than just eating; it’s about creating memories that linger long after the last bite has been enjoyed.

Broccoli Rabe and Sausage in a serving bowl with tomatoes in the background.
Sausage & Broccoli Rabe Pasta. Photo credit: Cook What You Love.

Baked Spanish Rice

Baked Spanish Rice in two black baking dishes.
Baked Spanish Rice. Photo credit: Cook What You Love.

If you’re on the hunt for something different to try for dinner, why not consider Baked Spanish Rice? It’s not your run-of-the-mill weeknight meal. It’s great for when you have friends over because it really stands out on the dinner table, and baking it in the oven makes the rice texture just perfect.
Get the Recipe: Baked Spanish Rice

Pesto Orzo Salad

Orzo salad resting on a dark plate.
Pesto Orzo Salad. Photo credit: Cook What You Love.

Sometimes you need a dish that’s light yet fulfilling, and that’s where Pesto Orzo Salad comes into play. It’s a step away from your typical pasta dish, making it perfect for picnics or bringing along to a friend’s house. Plus, it’s super versatile, serving well either chilled or at room temperature.
Get the Recipe: Pesto Orzo Salad

Arroz Verde

Arroz Verde rice in a black pan with tomatoes and herbs.
Arroz Verde. Photo credit: Cook What You Love.

Ever feel like shaking things up a bit with your side dishes? Arroz Verde is the way to go. It turns ordinary rice into something extraordinary with a pop of color and a burst of herb goodness. It’s far from your everyday rice dish, pairing wonderfully with a variety of mains. Plus, its bright color and enticing aroma are sure to be a hit at any meal.
Get the Recipe: Arroz Verde

Steak & Pasta Salad

Overheat shot of steakhouse pasta salad.
Steak & Pasta Salad. Photo credit: Cook What You Love.

Who says you can’t have steak on a salad? Steak & Pasta Salad is the perfect blend of hearty and light, making it an exceptional choice for those days when you can’t decide between the two. It’s definitely not what you’d expect from a typical salad or pasta dish. The combination makes for a refreshing yet fulfilling meal, especially good for the warmer months.
Get the Recipe: Steak & Pasta Salad

Mediterranean Rice

Mediterranean Rice in a black bowl on concrete.
Mediterranean Rice. Photo credit: Cook What You Love.

When you’re looking to bring a bit of the Mediterranean into your kitchen, Mediterranean Rice should be on your menu. It’s a simple dish with a freshness that complements a wide range of mains, making it more than just another rice dish. Whether you’re pairing it with seafood or chicken, it adds a Mediterranean touch to your dining experience.
Get the Recipe: Mediterranean Rice

Sloppy Joe Casserole

A serving of Sloppy Joe Casserole pasta with meat on a plate with a fork.
Sloppy Joe Casserole. Photo credit: Cook What You Love.

For a twist on a classic that will surprise and please the dinner crowd, Sloppy Joe Casserole is a top pick. It’s cozy, comforting, and perfect for a hearty meal that’s a bit different from the norm. This casserole combines familiar flavors in a new way, making it a hit for both adults and kids alike. Plus, who doesn’t love a good casserole on a chilly evening?
Get the Recipe: Sloppy Joe Casserole

Brisket Fried Rice

Brisket fried rice in black serving dish on white background.
Brisket Fried Rice. Photo credit: Cook What You Love.

Brisket Fried Rice is a game changer when you’re looking to repurpose leftovers in a way that’s anything but boring. This dish takes the comfort of fried rice and upgrades it with the rich taste of brisket, making it a standout meal that’s not your everyday fried rice. It’s a filling, enjoyable twist that’s perfect for a cozy night in.
Get the Recipe: Brisket Fried Rice

Salmon Pasta Salad

Salmon pasta salad in a black bowl with forks nearby.
Salmon Pasta Salad. Photo credit: Cook What You Love.

If you’re tired of the same old pasta dishes, Salmon Pasta Salad is a game changer. It’s refreshing and perfect for seafood lovers looking for something different. This isn’t your average weeknight meal; it’s something you’d whip up when you want a light yet fulfilling dish, especially during the warmer months.
Get the Recipe: Salmon Pasta Salad

Ham Fried Rice

Ham fried rice on a white plate.
Ham Fried Rice. Photo credit: Cook What You Love.

Ever have one of those days where you just don’t know what to do with your leftover rice? Ham Fried Rice is the answer. This dish turns your leftovers into a not-so-average weeknight feast, blending the delicious taste of ham with the simplicity of rice. It’s quick, easy, and a total crowd-pleaser that proves you can make something special out of the ordinary.
Get the Recipe: Ham Fried Rice

Giant Cheese Stuffed Shells

Giant Cheese Stuffed Pasta Shells in two black serving dishes.
Giant Cheese Stuffed Shells. Photo credit: Cook What You Love.

Giant Cheese Stuffed Shells take comfort food to a new level. Perfect for when you’re in the mood for pasta dishes that go beyond your standard weeknight meal. They’re a showstopper for dinner parties but also simple enough to enjoy any time you need a little extra comfort.
Get the Recipe: Giant Cheese Stuffed Shells

Chicken Fried Rice

Chicken fried rice on a white plate with a green napkin.
Chicken Fried Rice. Photo credit: Cook What You Love.

How about Chicken Fried Rice? It’s that go-to dish that’s anything but boring. It’s the perfect solution for using up leftovers and turning them into a meal that’s both fulfilling and out of the ordinary. Plus, it’s customizable, which means you can make it just the way you like, every single time.
Get the Recipe: Chicken Fried Rice

Sausage & Broccoli Rabe Pasta

Broccoli Rabe and Sausage in a serving bowl with tomatoes in the background.
Sausage & Broccoli Rabe Pasta. Photo credit: Cook What You Love.

Looking for something that packs a punch of flavor? Sausage & Broccoli Rabe Pasta is your dish. It’s a blend of bitter greens and sweet sausage that creates a contrast you wouldn’t expect to work so well. This dish is for those nights when you want pasta but are looking for recipes that step outside the norm of weeknight dinners. It’s hearty, nutritious, and anything but boring.
Get the Recipe: Sausage & Broccoli Rabe Pasta

Creamy Spinach Orzo

Creamy spinach orzo in a blue bowl with tomatoes nearby.
Creamy Spinach Orzo. Photo credit: Cook What You Love.

Creamy Spinach Orzo might sound like a side dish, but it often steals the spotlight. This is the kind of dish you’d serve when you want to impress without straying into overly complicated recipes. It’s simple, elegant, and far from your everyday pasta dish.
Get the Recipe: Creamy Spinach Orzo

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