Three 30-minute meal recipes

Reader's Digest Editors 17 May 2019

These delicious meals can be made in less than 30 minutes and make enough to feed the whole family.

Pasta with two-cheese sauce

two cheese pasta

This is one of the quickest options for a nutritious family meal—the cheese mixture is prepared in the time it takes the pasta and peas to cook. When you add the hot pasta to the parmesan and ricotta, the heat melts them, producing an instant creamy sauce. Basil makes a colourful garnish. Serves 4. Preparation and cooking time: about 15 minutes


  • 400 g fusilli (spirals) or other pasta shapes
  • 11/2 cups (235 g) frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup (50 g) freshly grated parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2/3 cup (160 g) ricotta
  • finely torn fresh basil or oregano
  • salt and pepper


  1. Cook the pasta in boiling water for 7 minutes. Add the peas, return the water to the boil and continue cooking for 3–5 minutes, or according to the pasta packet instructions, until the pasta is al dente and the peas are cooked.
  2. Meanwhile, put the parmesan into a large serving bowl, add the olive oil and beat until thick paste forms. Add the ricotta and beat until well blended. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Drain the pasta, reserving about 100 ml of the pasta cooking water. Immediately add the hot pasta to the cheese mixture and stir until the pasta is well coated with the cheese. Add the reserved cooking water to thin the sauce.
  4. Adjust the seasoning, if necessary, and sprinkle generously with fresh basil or oregano. Serve at once.

Health tips

  • Parmesan, traditionally served with so many pasta dishes, is very high in fat. Here only a small amount is used for its distinctive flavour, and it is combined with ricotta, which is relatively low in fat – ricotta contains 11 g fat per 100 g, while the same weight of full-fat cream cheese has 47 g fat.
  • Peas are a good source of fibre and they supply vitamin C, folate, iron and zinc. Peas also contribute B vitamins, in particular, B1, and their protein content is high for a vegetable that also provides a useful amount of folate.


Hoisin beef stir-fry

beef stir fry

For a quick meal try this colourful stir-fry of thin strips of tender steak with fresh ginger, button mushrooms, red capsicums and crisp snow peas, served on Chinese egg noodles. Hoisin sauce, a sweet Chinese barbecue sauce made from soya and red beans, gives the stir-fry a rich flavour. Serves 2. Preparation and cooking time: 25 minutes


  • 2 sheets medium Chinese egg noodles, about 170 g in total
  • 1 tablespoon sunflower oil
  • 2 large cloves garlic, cut into shreds
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 large red capsicum, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 125 g baby button mushrooms, halved
  • 1 sirloin steak, about 200 g, trimmed of fat and cut into thin strips
  • 85 g snow peas, halved lengthwise
  • 4 spring onions, cut into chunky lengths
  • 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil (optional)
  • shredded spring onion to garnish


  1. Put the noodles in a bowl, cover with boiling water and leave to soak for 5 minutes, or according to the packet instructions.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the sunflower oil in a wok or large frying pan, add the garlic and ginger, and cook very briefly to release their flavour.
  3. Toss in the capsicum and mushrooms, then stir-fry over high heat for 2–3 minutes or until starting to soften.
  4. Add the strips of steak, snow peas and spring onions, and stir-fry for a further 1–2 minutes or until the meat just turns from pink to brown.
  5. Mix in the hoisin and soy sauces and stir well until bubbling, then drizzle in the sesame oil, if using. Drain the noodles. Serve the stir-fry on the noodles, garnished with shredded spring onion.


Moroccan chicken with couscous

chicken cous cous

Aromatic cumin, coriander and cinnamon give this chicken a real Middle Eastern flavour and serving them with chickpeas further enhances the ethnic theme. Zucchini and sugar snap peas add colour and all the benefits of fresh vegetables. Serves 4. Preparation and cooking time: 30 minutes


  • 400 g skinless chicken breast fillets
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 300 g zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes, about 400 g
  • 200 ml vegetable stock
  • 11/3 cups (250 g) couscous
  • 400 ml boiling water
  • 200 g sugar snap peas
  • 1 can chickpeas, about 410 g, drained and rinsed
  • 10 g butter
  • salt and pepper
  • chopped fresh coriander to garnish


  1. Cut the chicken on the diagonal into strips about 1 cm thick. Heat half the oil in a wok or heavy-based frying pan. Add the chicken, onion and garlic, and cook over moderately high heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes or until the chicken turns white with golden brown flecks.
  2. Reduce the heat to low and add the cumin, coriander and cinnamon stick. Cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add the zucchini and stir well, then add the tomatoes with their juice and the stock. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Meanwhile, put the couscous in a saucepan and pour over the boiling water. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Stir well, cover and leave to soak, off the heat, for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the sugar snap peas and chickpeas to the chicken mixture. Cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  5. Stir the butter into the couscous and cook over a moderate heat for 3 minutes, fluffing up with a fork to separate the grains. Pile the couscous onto a serving platter. Spoon the chicken on top and garnish with chopped coriander. Serve hot.