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Relying on a sheet pan or skillet, these fish, chicken, lamb and vegan recipes are quick to prepare but full of flavour

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Many of us have had enough cooking. Nevertheless, the need continues. I am now on the lookout for easy, interesting meals that don’t take too much time or energy. One-pot cooking has been around forever, but it has been cleverly adapted using a sheet pan. This is certainly a good way to make a meal, but I like sauces and I find on the sheet pan liquids boil away. My preference is to use a large cast-iron skillet, a broiler pan or a metal sheet pan with high sides. Even a large metal gratin dish works for this kind of cooking.

For those of us who just want to get a meal on the table, these 10 suggestions should help. Pair some of these dishes with a salad or carb, while others are complete meals.

Pasta with burst tomatoes and shrimp

Michelle Siu/The Globe and Mail

Serves 4

You can omit the shrimp for a vegetarian or vegan take. Italians seldom mix fish and cheese, so bread crumbs are used instead of cheese when a pasta dish has fish in it. If you omit the shrimp, add ¼ cup grated Parmesan. Use either one green or several: spinach, dandelion, kale or swiss chard all work.

  • 12 ounces fettuccine
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes
  • 1 lb shrimp, peeled
  • 12 ounces stemmed mixed greens, roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chili flakes
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • ¼ cup toasted bread crumbs

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add fettuccine and boil for 10 to 12 minutes or until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta cooking water.

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat while the pasta is boiling. Add garlic and cherry tomatoes and fry until tomatoes burst, about two to three minutes. Add shrimp and cook until they turn light pink, two to three minutes longer. Stir in greens and chili flakes and sauté until the greens wilt, one to two minutes.

Add pasta to skillet and toss together. Add enough pasta cooking water to moisten everything, up to one cup. Season well with salt and pepper. Sprinkle bread crumbs on top and serve immediately.

Baked penne with mixed vegetables

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

Serves 4

This vegetarian pasta is a good base for whatever vegetables you like. Try broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, kale or anything else you might have in your vegetable drawer. If you like smoky flavours, smoked provolone cheese will lend a more complex taste.

  • 8 ounces penne
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 small or one large zucchini, cut in 1-inch slices
  • 2 leeks, washed and thickly sliced, using white and light green parts only
  • 8 ounces mixed mushrooms, torn into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 cups canned tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • ½ teaspoon chili flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 ½ cups coarsely grated provolone cheese
  • ⅓ cup grated parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add penne and cook for six to eight minutes or until pasta is slightly undercooked. It will continue to cook when baked. Drain and reserve, reserving 1/2 cup cooking water separately. Place pasta in large bowl.

While pasta is cooking heat one tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add zucchini and sauté until golden on the outside, about five to six minutes. Add leeks and mushrooms and sauté for three minutes or until softened. Remove vegetables from skillet with slotted spoon and reserve.

Crush tomatoes by hand and add to same skillet along with any juice. Bring to boil then stir in reserved pasta cooking water, balsamic vinegar, garlic, chili flakes and oregano and bring back to boil. Simmer for two to three minutes to combine flavours. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in vegetable mixture.

Preheat oven to 375 F. Remove skillet from heat and stir sauce into pasta, adding remaining two tablespoons oil. Stir in provolone. Taste for seasoning. Pour pasta mixture into oiled baking dish. Cover with foil. Bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and sprinkle with parmesan. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes longer or until mixture is bubbling and cheese is golden on top. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Halibut with spiced Moroccan sauce

Serves 4

This is an excellent dish to perk up bored taste buds. Perfect for entertaining or a family dinner, it could be made with chicken thighs, shrimp or scallops as well as other thick firm-fleshed white fish or salmon. Serve with couscous, which takes five minutes to prepare.

  • 4 halibut fillets (about 6 ounces each)

Spice mixture

  • ¼ cup chopped coriander
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • 2 teaspoons chopped garlic
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • Pinch cayenne
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • ¼ cup lemon juice


  • ½ cup white wine
  • ⅔ cup chopped fresh or canned tomatoes
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon sugar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • ½ cup cracked green olives

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Place coriander, parsley and garlic in a food processor and chop together. Add olive oil, cumin, paprika, cayenne, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Puree until paste-like.

Reserve two tablespoons spice mixture for fish.

Combine wine, tomatoes, sugar and remaining spice mixture. Add tomato mixture to a baking dish. Place halibut in baking dish, skin-side down, and rub reserved two tablespoons spice mixture over fish. Season with salt and pepper

Bake for 10 minutes, add olives and bake another five minutes or until white juices just begin to appear. Place fish on a serving platter and surround with sauce.

Maple-crusted Arctic char with avocado relish

Serves 4

If you want a vegetable to serve with this, place asparagus or broccoli on the baking sheet when first placing in the oven. Add fish after 10 minutes and continue baking. Serve with warm tortillas

Avocado relish

  • 1 ripe avocado, peeled and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons banana or other mild pepper, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons green onion, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated lime rind
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Arctic char

  • 1 ½ lbs Arctic char fillets, skin on
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons cracked peppercorns
  • Salt to taste

Preheat oven to 275 F.

Mash avocado with a fork until chunky. Stir in peppers, onion, cilantro, lime juice and rind and maple syrup. Season well with salt and pepper and reserve, covered with plastic wrap.

Cut fillets in half or thirds if they are big. Brush olive oil and about one tablespoon maple syrup lightly over flesh and skin of char. Season with salt and cracked peppercorns.

Heat a baking sheet in the oven for 10 minutes (with or without vegetables). Transfer fillets to the sheet, skin side down, and brush with remaining maple syrup. Bake 10 to 15 minutes or until just cooked.

Place one or two slices of fish on each plate and top with avocado relish or serve it on the side.

Chicken with garlic and lemon

Serves 4

This recipe was a favourite of Joseph Hoare, who was a great food editor at Toronto Life, a fine man and genuine food lover. Originally made with chicken breasts, which are a good substitute, the thighs are juicier and a great foil for the lemon. My favourite sides for this are spinach and orzo.

  • 2 small lemons or 1 large
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 head garlic, cloves separated, root ends cut off, unpeeled
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 bone-in chicken thighs
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped, or 1 teaspoon dried

Grate lemon zest, then remove any remaining peel and white pith from lemon and cut flesh into thin slices.

Bring stock to boil, add garlic cloves and simmer for 10 minutes, strain stock and reserve. Cool garlic cloves slightly and slip skins off.

Preheat oven to 375 F. Heat oil in a large oven-proof frying pan over medium heat. Season thighs with salt and pepper and fry skin-side down three minutes or until skin is golden; turn over and fry second side two minutes longer. Remove to a plate and discard all but two tablespoons fat from pan.

Add flour to fat in pan and cook until flour turns a straw colour. Add wine, thyme, reserved stock and grated lemon zest to pan. Bring to a boil, stirring. Return thighs to pan. Scatter reserved garlic and lemon slices on top.

Cover pan and bake for 15 minutes, uncover pan and bake 10 to 15 minutes longer or until chicken is tender but not dry. If sauce is not thick enough, remove chicken and reduce over medium heat until it coats a spoon. Serve chicken with lemon slices, garlic and sauce.

Southwestern-style chicken and rice

Serves 4

I don’t use a lot of rice because I think it should be a background, not a filler, but to extend the dish, increase the rice to 1½ cups and the stock to three cups. Serve with a salad of romaine lettuce, orange and onion.

Note: Using the same ingredients and changing the spicing gives versatility to this simple dish. For Indian chicken and rice, substitute two tablespoons curry paste for chili powder and add one tablespoon grated ginger along with the garlic. Sprinkle with crispy fried onions and hard-boiled egg slices just before serving. For Italian chicken and rice, remove chili powder and jalapeno and season instead with one teaspoon dried thyme and one teaspoon dried oregano. Substitute one cup chopped canned tomatoes for one cup chicken stock.

  • 4 chicken legs, divided into legs and thighs
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • ½ red pepper, diced
  • ½ green pepper, diced
  • 1 teaspoon jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced, or to taste
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup long-grain rice
  • 2 cups chicken stock or water
  • Juice of one lime
  • ¼ cup chopped coriander or basil

Season chicken with one teaspoon chili powder, salt and pepper. Heat oil in skillet on medium heat and brown chicken about five minutes per side or until golden brown. Remove from skillet and reserve.

Pour off fat leaving about one tablespoon. Add onion, peppers, jalapeno and garlic. Sauté together for three minutes or until peppers soften slightly. Add remaining chili powder, stir together then add rice, stock and lime juice. Bring to boil.

Reduce heat to simmer and return chicken to pan, tucking it into rice. Cover and simmer 25 to 30 minutes or until rice is tender and chicken is cooked through.

Sprinkle with coriander just before serving.

Crispy roast chicken breasts

Serves 4

This is an easy recipe and can be made in anything from a cast-iron frying pan to a sheet pan. Cooking chicken breasts on the bone keeps the meat moist and juicy. Add one or several other vegetables to make this a one-pan meal. After grating the lime zest, remove the white pith and cut lime into thin slices, then scatter over the vegetables.

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, thyme or rosemary, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon grated lime rind
  • ½ teaspoon garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 carrots
  • 1 medium onion, Spanish or cooking
  • 4 chicken breasts, bone in (about 250 to 300 grams each)
  • Any combination of kohlrabi, fennel, red pepper, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, fingerling potatoes or white turnips, cut in chunks
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon marmalade, red currant jelly or chutney

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Combine olive oil, salt, pepper, herbs, grated lime and garlic.

Don’t bother peeling the carrots, just wash them and cut into 2-inch pieces. Peel the onion, cut in half then cut each half into four wedges. Toss with two tablespoons of the flavoured oil.

Scatter onions and carrots on the base of a large cast-iron skillet, broiler pan or sheet pan. Place in oven for 10 minutes. Brush chicken breasts with some of the flavoured oil and salt them. Toss remaining vegetables with remaining oil. Nestle chicken breasts among or on top of the vegetables on the heated pan.

Roast chicken until well browned and juices run clear, 30 to 40 minutes depending on size. Remove chicken and vegetables and spoon off any fat. Stir chicken stock, balsamic vinegar and marmalade, red currant jelly or chutney into the liquid in the pan. Bring to boil, season if needed and serve over the chicken.

Lamb chops with spiced mint pesto

vicuschka/iStockPhoto / Getty Images

Serves 4

This was a favourite from my cooking school days and a great way to prepare lamb chops so they are tender and juicy. Serve with farro or fregola and a salad.

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon jalapeno peppers, chopped
  • 6 green onions
  • 2 cups fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 8 loin lamb chops, at least 1-inch thick

In food processor, process pine nuts, garlic, jalapeno, green onions and mint leaves until finely chopped. With processor running, pour the olive oil through the feeder tube until combined. Add lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Brush some pesto on each lamb chop and place in ovenproof baking dish.

Preheat oven to 500 F. Place lamb chops in oven and bake for three minutes. Turn off oven and leave chops to cook for 15 to 20 minutes longer – 15 minutes leaves them pink, 20 minutes for medium.

Place lamb chops on serving plate and serve with remaining mint pesto.

Soba noodles and spicy greens

PoppyB/iStockPhoto / Getty Images

Serves 2 to 3

An easy vegan noodle dish that can be served as a main or a side. If not preparing for vegans, add stir-fried shrimp or scallops. If you buy wasabi powder, mix it in equal quantities with water to make the paste.

Spicy wasabi dressing

  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons wasabi paste
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons sake
  • 2 tablespoons mirin or 1 teaspoon sugar


  • 8 ounces soba noodles
  • 4 green onions, slivered
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 2 tablespoons chopped ginger root
  • ½ teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • 4 cups sliced baby or other bok choy
  • 4 cups baby spinach
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons toasted black or white sesame seeds

Whisk together sesame oil, wasabi paste, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sake and mirin until smooth. Reserve.

Cook noodles in a large pot of boiling water for three to four minutes or until al dente. Drain and toss with green onions and half of spicy wasabi dressing. Reserve on a platter.

Heat vegetable oil in skillet on high heat and add garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes. Stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add bok choy and stir-fry for two minutes. Add spinach and sauté for one to two minutes or until wilted. Remove from heat and stir in remaining dressing. Toss with noodles and garnish with sesame seeds.

Vegan Ma Po bean curd

Serves 4

I think of this dish as the ultimate comfort food – slightly spicy, a bit of sweetness and loads of mushrooms. The mushroom soaking liquid acts as the stock. Adding in some kombu makes it richer, but isn’t necessary. If you want to make this with meat, substitute ground pork or ground chicken for all the mushrooms, and use chicken stock instead of the mushroom soaking liquid. The pickled turnip can be used as a condiment for hamburgers, but if you can’t find it omit. The dish reheats well in a skillet.

  • 6 dried Chinese mushrooms
  • 1 two-inch piece kombu (optional)
  • 1 ½ cups boiling water
  • 4 scallions
  • 6 ounces white button mushrooms, stems trimmed, quartered
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon roasted chili oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 12 Chinese chives or regular chives cut into ½-inch segments
  • 3 tablespoons minced pickled turnip (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons fermented chili black bean paste
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 1 ½ lbs medium to firm silken tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes

Soak dried mushrooms and kombu in boiling water for 15 minutes or until tender. Drain, reserving ¾ cup soaking liquid. Discard kombu. Remove and discard hard stems from mushrooms.

Finely chop whites of scallions and slice greens. Reserve separately.

Combine rehydrated and fresh mushrooms in a food processer and pulse 10 times or until finely chopped.

Heat a wok over high heat. Add vegetable oil and roasted chili oil, swirling to coat pan. Add mushrooms, garlic, ginger, scallion whites, chives and pickled turnips (if using). Cook, stirring for 30 seconds, then spread into an even layer to let moisture evaporate for 30 seconds. Repeat for six minutes or until vegetables are very tender and liquid is almost all gone.

Combine cornstarch and one tablespoon reserved mushroom soaking liquid. Add to wok with fermented chili black bean paste, sugar, wine, soy sauce and remaining soaking liquid. Cook, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened, about one minute. Add tofu and carefully fold in, trying not to break up. Cook until heated through, one to two minutes. Top with scallion greens and serve immediately with rice.