I have two particular favorite make-ahead dinners that I haven't written about here before. Both of them work by dividing the prep into two parts. In step one, you make the basis for four (!) meals for two or three people at once and pop them into the freezer. Later, you can make each meal-serving into one of several different variations on a theme. There's some real cooking time on the final end in both cases, so you can't just walk in the door and have dinner on the table in fifteen minutes, but surprisingly little fuss or muss. This is especially true because I have my prep down to a science.
So -- here's my plan. I'm going to make at least two posts about each one in the coming week or weeks. Post one will show you how to do the make-ahead bit. Post two will show you what to do with the base once you have it, and I'll try to be as explicit as I can about the approach I use that leaves me with clean counters and few dirty dishes.
The first of these (though not necessarily the first I'll post about! we'll see) is my favorite thin-crust pizza. This pizza comes almost directly from the Figs Restaurant recipe, which you can find online here, though I'll talk in more detail about my process and how it works with my own methods for cooking ahead. I was first alerted to this pizza by this inspiring post at the Grub Report. If you don't want to wait around for my take on it, follow those links and you can get started all on your own!
The second set of dinners is a suite of soups made using Lidia Bastianich's clever method of creating a rich vegetarian base ahead of time, then combining it with any number of delicious and varied star ingredients to create several quite distinctive final dishes. In particular, I like the Savory Potato Broth from Lidia's Family Table. This basic recipe is also available online (as part of this recipe for vegetable soup with rice) if you want to get started without me. But do check back here for the full unabridged story of exactly how we do it in these parts!