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70 Best Make-Ahead Meals for Fall

Smart cooks know the best way to beat the clock on a busy night is with make-ahead meals. Here are cozy fall dinners you can prep in advance.

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Rustic Italian Tortellini Soup

This is my favorite tortellini soup recipe. It’s quick to fix on a busy night and full of healthy, tasty ingredients. It originally called for spicy sausage links, but I’ve found that turkey sausage, or even ground turkey breast, is just as good. —Tracy Fasnacht, Irwin, Pennsylvania

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Mini Shepherd S Pies Exps Sdas17 38061 C04 07 6b 9

Mini Shepherd's Pies

These savory little pies may be made with simple convenience items, but I'm just as confident serving them to drop-in company as I am to my husband and three boys. —Ellen Osborne, Clarksville, Tennessee
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Maple Mustard Chicken Exps Hscbz19 43591 E07 12 6b 5

Maple Mustard Chicken

My husband loves this chicken dish. It calls for only five ingredients, and we try to have them all on hand for a delicious and cozy dinner anytime. —Jennifer Seidel, Midland, Michigan
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Fall Vegetable Sloppy Joes Exps Thedsc19 187808 B03 01 4b Rms 18

Fall Vegetable Sloppy Joes

I make this dish in the fall and sneak grated vegetables into the sloppy joe mixture, which is especially good for children who don’t like to eat their vegetables! Just walk away and let the slow cooker do all the work. Top the filling with a little shredded cheese before serving. —Nancy Heishman, Las Vegas, Nevada
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Turkey Sausage Pizza Exps Cwmas19 167746 E04 04 6b 3

Turkey Sausage Pizza

If pizza night is a must in your house, double this recipe and freeze one for later. —Melissa Jelinek, Apple Valley, Minnesota
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Pumpkin Lasagna Exps Pcbbz17 45358 C03 23 5b 4

Pumpkin Lasagna

I especially like this comforting fall dish because it's vegetarian. Even friends who aren't big fans of pumpkin are surprised by this delectable lasagna. Canned pumpkin and no-cook noodles make it a cinch to prepare. —Tamara Huron, New Market, Alabama
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Exps194759 Sd163575d10 14 2b 10

Hearty Slow-Cooker Chili

When it’s time to build my zesty chili, I combine everything the night before. In the morning, I load the slow cooker and let it do the work. —Molly Butt, Granville, Ohio
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Contest Winning Broccoli Chicken Casserole Exps37392 Th143193b04 22 3bc Rms 12

Contest-Winning Broccoli Chicken Casserole

This delicious chicken and broccoli casserole recipe is a twist on chicken divan that came from an old boss. It’s quick, satisfying comfort food. —Jennifer Schlachter, Big Rock, Illinois
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Maple Pecan Pork Chops Exps Thca17 29554 D11 01 3b 5

Maple-Pecan Pork Chops

For a standout holiday dinner, start with this change-of-pace entree. Begin by simmering the chops in apple juice, then drizzle with sweet maple syrup and top with crunchy pecans. —Test Kitchen, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
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Stuffed Chicken Rolls

Just thinking about this dish sparks my appetite. The ham and cheese rolled inside are a tasty surprise. Leftovers reheat well and make a perfect lunch with a green salad. —Jean Sherwood, Kenneth City, Florida
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Melt-in-Your-Mouth Chuck Roast

My husband and I like chuck roast recipes, so this slow-cooked recipe is terrific. You'll also love how flavorful and tender this comforting beef chuck roast turns out. —Bette McCumber, Schenectady, New York
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Pepperoni Pan Pizza Exps Hscbz17 9865 C07 25 2b 7

Pepperoni Pan Pizza

I've spent years trying to come up with the perfect pizza crust and sauce, and they're paired up in this recipe. I fix this crispy, savory pizza for my family often, and it really satisfies my husband and sons. —Susan Lindahl, Alford, Florida
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Pork And Green Chili Casserole Exps Opbz18 1218 E06 05 5b 11

Pork and Green Chile Casserole

I work at a local hospital and another job part time, so I'm always on the lookout for good, quick recipes to fix for my family. Some of my co-workers and I exchange recipes. This zippy casserole is one that was brought to a picnic at my house. People raved over it. —Dianne Esposite, New Middletown, Ohio
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Chicken Butternut Chili Exps Hck17 195086 08b 12 1b 2

Chicken Butternut Chili

At our house, we just love a good comforting, hearty, tomato-based chili with bold flavors! This unique chili is loaded with veggies and flavor. You can also prepare the recipe in the slow cooker. Just add ingredients to the crock and cook over high heat for about 4 hours. —Courtney Stultz, Weir, Kansas
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Exps178281 Sd163618c12 08 5b 5

Pasta Fagioli al Forno

The name of this Italian-inspired dish means "baked pasta with beans." But my busy family translates it as "super satisfying dinner." —Cindy Preller, Grayslake, Illinois
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Beer Braised Pulled Ham Exps Thfm17 186361 D09 23 4b 3

Beer-Braised Pulled Ham

To jazz up ham, I slow-cooked it with a beer sauce. Buns loaded with ham, pickles and mustard are irresistible. —Ann Sheehy, Lawrence, Massachusetts
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Saucy Chicken Tortellini  Exps Edsc17 188247 C03 10 2b 2

Saucy Chicken & Tortellini

This heartwarming dish is something I threw together years ago for my oldest daughter. When she's having a rough day, I put on the slow cooker and prepare this special recipe. —Mary Morgan, Dallas, Texas
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Sausage Swiss Chard Lasagna Exps174899 Fm143298c03 14 5bc Rms 5

Sausage & Swiss Chard Lasagna

Rustic and comforting, I found this rich and cheesy lasagna to be a great way to get kids to eat healthy greens—it's such a tasty casserole they'll never know the Swiss chard is there! —Candace Morehouse, Show Low, Arizona
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Golden Chicken Potpie Exps Thfm18 39639 B09 15 8b 6

Golden Chicken Potpie

The golden crust and creamy sauce make this veggie-packed pie a surefire hit. Mild and comforting, the family favorite has convenient freezer instructions for a night when there's no time for prep. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen
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Texas Style Lasagna Exps H13x9bz17 2368 C06 28 2b 2

Texas-Style Lasagna

With its spicy flavor, this dish is a real crowd-pleaser. It's great with side servings of picante sauce, guacamole and tortilla chips.— Effie Gish, Fort Worth, Texas
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Skillet Shepherd's Pie

This is the best shepherd's pie recipe I've ever tasted. It's very quick to make, and I usually have most—if not all—of the ingredients already on hand. —Tirzah Sandt, San Diego, California
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Four-Cheese Sausage Rigatoni

To make this twist on traditional baked pasta, we start with creamy goat cheese and build from there with mozzarella, ricotta and Parmesan cheese. —Teresa Ralston, New Albany, Ohio
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Deviled Chicken

My family has always loved this flavorful golden brown chicken. I watch for frequent sales on leg quarters to keep the cost per serving low. —Linda Trammell, Kingston, Missouri
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Taco Filled Pasta Shells Exps Ghbz18 13814 E08 15 4b 3

Taco-Filled Pasta Shells

I've been stuffing pasta shells with different fillings for years, but my family enjoys this version with taco-seasoned meat the most. The frozen shells are so convenient, because you can take out only the number you need for a single-serving lunch or family dinner. Just add zippy taco sauce and bake. —Marge Hodel, Roanoke, Illinois
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Meaty Pasta Casseroles Exps Ghbz18 40883 B08 15 6b 5

Meaty Pasta Casseroles

I love this recipe because it makes two hearty casseroles. Every time I make it I add a little something different, such as extra garlic, to give it an added boost of flavor. —Debra Butcher, Decatur, Indiana
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Traditional Meat Loaf

Topped with a sweet sauce, this traditional meat loaf recipe tastes so good that you might want to double it so everyone can have seconds. It also freezes well. —Gail Graham, Maple Ridge, British Columbia
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Chicken Manicotti

When one of my friends came home from the hospital with her newborn, I sent over this freezer casserole. She and her family raved over how good it was. Try substituting olives for mushrooms or using veal instead of chicken. —Jamie Valocchi, Mesa, Arizona
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Roast Beef And Gravy Exps Ghbz18 16999 E08 08 9b 4

Roast Beef and Gravy

This slow-cooker roast beef and gravy is unbelievably easy. On busy days, I put this main dish in the crock and forget about it. My family likes it with mashed potatoes and fruit salad. —Abby Metzger, Larchwood, Iowa
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Chicken Burritos

This mouthwatering chicken burrito recipe makes enough for two casseroles, so you can enjoy one today and freeze the other for a busy weeknight. They're super to have on hand for quick meals or to take to potlucks. —Sonya Nightingale, Burley, Idaho.
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Sunday Pork Roast

Mom would prepare pork roast for our family, friends and customers at the three restaurants she and Dad owned. The herb rub and vegetables give it a remarkable flavor. It's one of my favorite pork roast recipes. —Sandi Pichon, Memphis, Tennessee
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Turkey Cordon Bleu Casserole Exps49871 Sd142780b08 15 1bc Rms 3

Turkey Cordon Bleu Casserole

Impress your holiday visitors with this fancier twist on the traditional casserole. —Kristine Blauert, Wabasha, Minnesota
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Pizza Noodle Bake Exps Ghbz18 40275 C08 30 3b 8

Pizza Noodle Bake

Here’s a family-pleasing casserole that comes together in a snap, making it perfect for a weeknight meal. Double the recipe and freeze one for later! —Bernice Knutson, Soldier, Iowa
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Tomato Balsamic Chicken Exps Sddj17 197017 B08 11 8b 9

Tomato Balsamic Chicken

I came up with this saucy chicken during a particularly busy holiday season. As new parents, my husband and I both appreciate having a go-to dinner that's easy, homemade and delicious. —Anne Colvin, Chicago, Illinois
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Mozzarella Beef Roll Ups Exps Sdas17 27594 B04 04 6b 1

Mozzarella Beef Roll-Ups

The kids will love these pepperoni and beef wraps. They're easy to assemble because each tortilla is simply wrapped around a portion of hearty meat filling with a piece of string cheese. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen
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Slow-Cooker Sweet-and-Sour Pork

Chinese food is a big temptation for us, so I lightened up a favorite takeout dish. As the pork cooks, the aroma is beyond mouthwatering. —Elyse Ellis, Layton, Utah
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Chicken Pizza Exps30800 Fm143298b03 11 8bc Rms 9

Chicken Pizza

My fun twist on typical pizza is an excellent way to use up leftover pesto. And since it’s loaded with protein-rich chicken and black beans, it’s hearty enough to satisfy everyone! —Taste of Home Test Kitchen, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
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Slow-Cooked Pepper Steak

After a long day working in our greenhouse raising bedding plants, I enjoy coming in to this hearty beef dish for supper. It's one of my favorite meals. — Sue Gronholz, Beaver Dam, Wisconsin
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Wintertime Braised Beef Stew Exps Diydap21 41100 B10 12 1b

Wintertime Braised Beef Stew

This easy beef stew is incredibly rich. Since it's even better a day or two later, you may want to make a double batch. —Michaela Rosenthal, Woodland Hills, California
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Slow Simmered Meat Ragu Exps59435 Sd142780c08 16 3bc Rms 7

Slow-Simmered Meat Ragu

After a day of simmering in the slow-cooker, this ragu is not your typical spaghetti sauce. It's almost like a stew, so feel free to skip the pasta. —Laurie LaClair, North Richland Hills, Texas
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Italian Stuffed Shells Exps Thn16 5942 D06 21 3b 2

Italian Stuffed Shells

A dear friend first brought over this stuffed shells recipe. Now I take it to other friends' homes and to potlucks, because it's always a big hit! —Beverly Austin, Fulton, Missouri
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Skillet Beef Tamales Exps39416 Sd143204b12 06 2bc Rms 9

Skillet Beef Tamales

I found something similar to this years ago and have recently added my own spin. Here’s the outcome: an easy, cheesy meal your family can't get enough of. We don't have to tell them it's healthy. —Deborah Williams, Peoria, Arizona
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Fiesta Chicken Exps H13x9bz 7936 D06 23 3b 6

Fiesta Chicken

Chili powder and picante sauce add just the right dash to this hearty main dish. It's a snap to assemble since it uses convenience foods. —Teresa Peterson, Kasson, Minnesota
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Parmesan Chicken Nuggets Exps91788 Sd2856494b12 03 3bc Rms 11

Parmesan Chicken Nuggets

My 3-year-old went through a chicken-nuggets-and-french-fries-only stage, so I made these golden nuggets for him. Even the grown-ups like them! —Amanda Livesay, Mobile, Alabama
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Breadstick Pizza Exps142521 Fm143298d03 07 2bc Rms 1

Breadstick Pizza

Not only do refrigerated breadsticks lend a fun twist to pizza, but they make this dish a weeknight staple at my house. Feeding kids? Slice pieces into small strips and let the kids dip each strip into marinara sauce. They’ll love it! —Mary Hankins, Kansas City, Missouri
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Chicken & Cheese Noodle Bake

This is the recipe my daughters and I often make for new parents when they come home from the hospital. With its creamy spaghetti filling and melted cheese topping, this casserole holds a nice cut and comforts hungry tummies. —Fancheon Resler, Bluffton, Indiana
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Brisket N Bean Burritos Exps Scbz18 34452 C07 10 4b 3

Brisket 'n' Bean Burritos

This easy recipe is stuffed with not one, but two kinds of meat: smoky bacon and tender beef brisket. —Ruth Weatherford, Huntington Beach, California
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Black Bean Turkey Enchiladas

My best friend and I created this recipe together because we wanted a meal that’s easy to prepare, affordable and nutritious. We both have hectic schedules, so when we’re feeling crunched for time, it’s a relief to have these wholesome enchiladas waiting for us in the freezer. —Holly Baber, Seattle, Washington
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Blue Ribbon Beefy Burritos Exps86001 Th143192c02 11 4bc Rms 7

Blue Ribbon Beefy Burritos

I have a son who lives in Mexico, so we don’t see him very often. When I make these burritos, it feels as if he is right there at the table with us, inhaling them. —Marina Castle, Canyon Country, California
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Meat Loaf Muffins

Serve these tangy meat loaf muffins for dinner or slice them up for a take-along sandwich lunch. They're just as flavorful after freezing. —Cheryl Norwood, Canton, Georgia
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Steak San Marino Exps117180 Thhc2377565d 08 21 1bc Rms

Steak San Marino

I'm a busy pastor's wife and mother of three, and this delicious, inexpensive and easy main dish helps my day run smoother! The steak is so tender and flavorful, my kids gobble it up and my husband asks for seconds. —Lael Griess, Hull, Iowa
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Super Easy Country-Style Ribs

I'm a die-hard rib fan. When we were growing up, our mom made these for us all the time, and we still can’t get enough of them. —Stephanie Loaiza, Layton, Utah
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De Lightful Tuna Casserole Exps Hrbz16 35345 B09 08 4b 6

De-Lightful Tuna Casserole

This mild, homemade tuna casserole will truly satisfy your family's craving for comfort food without all the fat! —Colleen Willey, Hamburg, New York
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Slow Cooker Chicken Stew Exps Ssbz18 47812 B03 09 3b 2

Slow Cooker Chicken Stew

I like to sprinkle chicken stew with toasted almonds or cashews and serve with hot couscous. Flavored with cinnamon and a touch of sweetness from the apricots, this pretty dish will stand apart from the rest at potlucks, too! —Angela Buchanan, Longmont, Colorado
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Ham & Swiss Chicken Roll-Ups

White wine dresses up cream of chicken soup to make a lovely sauce for chicken, ham and Swiss cheese roll-ups. The tried-and-true recipe comes from my mother. —Carol McCollough, Missoula, Montana
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Cheesy Turkey Meat Loaf

Nothing says comfort food better than meat loaf! Get this one started in the morning and you’ll have a fantastic hot meal ready even by lunchtime. —Deanna Martinez Bey, Wake Forest, North Carolina
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Simmered Turkey Enchiladas

I discovered a different way to serve economical turkey thighs. I simmer them in tomato sauce, green chiles and seasonings until they're tender and flavorful, then serve them in tortillas with our favorite fresh toppings. —Stella Schams, Tempe, Arizona
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Tender Salsa Beef Exps Scbz18 128014 B07 11 8b 3

Tender Salsa Beef

This is my Mexican-style twist on comfort food. To keep it kid-friendly, use mild salsa. —Stacie Stamper, North Wilkesboro, North Carolina
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Ham & Cheese Potato Casserole

This recipe makes two cheesy, delicious casseroles. Have one tonight and put the other on ice for a future busy weeknight. It's like having money in the bank when things get hectic! —Kari Adams, Fort Collins, Colorado
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Sweet Orange Chicken Exps Scbz1806 83886 E06 28 6b 3

Sweet Orange Chicken

This orange chicken recipe with orange marmalade is a family favorite. It's sure to be a hit at your next get together!—Louise Gilbert, Quesnel, British Columbia
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Double-Duty Layered Enchilada Casserole

Here's a heap of cozy comfort. The Taste of Home Test Kitchen took my recipe for chili without beans and turned it into a scrumptious enchilada casserole. —Molly Butt, Granville, Ohio
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Chicken Piccata Pockets Exps Thfm17 198353 C09 23 2b 7

Chicken Piccata Pockets

My husband loves chicken piccata. I tried it in a puff pastry pocket with a bit of cream cheese; it tasted sensational. When he took leftovers to work, everyone asked what smelled so great. —Arlene Erlbach, Morton Grove, Illinois
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Individual Pork & Cranberry Potpies

My neighbor gave me this recipe years ago. I love how these pies are different from the usual chicken potpie. The flavor combination just screams fall, but freezing them allows my family to enjoy them any time of year. They are especially good for an easy dinner during the cold winter months. —Mary Shenk, Dekalb, Illinois
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Chunky Chicken Cacciatore Exps Scmbz19 184448 B01 23 3b 13

Chunky Chicken Cacciatore

This healthy pasta recipe is so versatile! Look in your fridge for anything else you want to throw in, like red pepper, mushrooms, extra zucchini—you name it. And if you're a vegetarian, go ahead and leave out the chicken. —Stephanie Loaiza, Layton, Utah
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All Day Red Beans Rice Exps Sscbz18 45258 C08 23 2b 14

All-Day Red Beans & Rice

My family loves New Orleans-style cooking, so I make this authentic dish often. I appreciate how uncomplicated it is. And its smoky ham flavor is scrumptious. —Celinda Dahlgren, Napa, California
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Mini Sausage Pies Exps Sdas17 186834 C04 07 1b 6

Mini Sausage Pies

The simple ingredients and family-friendly flavor of these little sausage cups make them a go-to dinner favorite. And everyone gets their own pies—which makes them even better! —Kerry Dingwall, Ponte Vedra, Florida
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Pork Tacos with Mango Salsa

I've made quite a few tacos in my day, but you can't beat the tender filling made in a slow cooker. These are by far the best pork tacos we've had—and we've tried plenty. Make the mango salsa from scratch if you have time! Yum. —Amber Massey, Argyle, Texas
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Spaghetti Meatball Supper

It was such a joy to come home and find my mom making spaghetti and meatballs for dinner. This recipe has always been dear to my heart. —Debbie Heggie, Laramie, Wyoming
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Sweet Potato Tortellini with Hazelnut Sauce

Using wonton wrappers instead of fresh pasta dough makes homemade tortellini easy to prepare. For more formal dinners, this makes an impressive vegetarian entree. —Charlene Chambers, Ormond Beach, Florida
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Italian Sausage Rigatoni Bake Exps176885 Fm143298c03 14 2bc  Rms

Italian Sausage Rigatoni Bake

This casserole combines all of our favorite Italian flavors, but the fresh mozzarella really sets it apart! —Blair Lonergan, Rochelle, Virginia
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Stamp Of Approval Spaghetti Sauce Exps Mtcbbz17 39564 D02 24 2b 5

Stamp-of-Approval Spaghetti Sauce

My father is very opinionated, especially about food. This recipe received his almost unreachable stamp of approval. I have yet to hear a disagreement from anyone who has tried it! —Melissa Taylor, Higley, Arizona

Amy Glander
Amy is a book editor at Taste of Home where she gets to pour her passions for food and storytelling into trade and series cookbooks. When she’s not writing or editing, you’ll find her antiquing, cooking and baking from her favorite vintage cookbooks and exploring Milwaukee’s urban beauty with her digital SLR in hand.