Let's be honest. Preparing your own dinner as a college student is daunting and exhausting. But a lack of time should not stop you from enjoying cooking, even with the most basic equipment. Here is a cheatsheet for my personal favorite Instagrammable, easy, and delicious college dinner recipes.  

1. Burrata Salad

Charlotte He

You can hardly go wrong with a burrata recipe, and it can be prepared in less than 10 minutes. What I love about burrata cheese is its superb creaminess. It goes well with various kinds of fruits and vegetables: nectarines, tomatoes, mango, avocado, peach, kiwi, and blueberries. Since burrata cheese already is higher in fat than other kinds of cheese, I recommend using food with a lean source of protein, such as salmon, shrimp and prosciutto. I prefer a light but flavorful dressing, so I usually go with lemon juice, dijon mustard, and tahini

Charlotte He

To make the salad aesthetically pleasing, the secret is in the plating. Finish your salad with some lemon zest, almond slices, and coconut flakes to enrich the crunchiness and add a final touch.

Here is my favorite version of burrata salad. The zesty citrus flavor from grapefruit gives you the ultimate kick. You cannot miss the combination of burrata and figs. The creaminess of burrata amplifies the natural sweetness of the figs. Yum!

Charlotte He

2. Filet Mignon with Mushroom Sauce

When I first started to learn cooking, I always avoided steaks. I could never cook the steak to the right medium rareness that I wanted. Then I learned to make friends with my oven! College dinner is made ten times easier if the oven is utilized to its full ability. My choice of steak is filet mignon because of its tenderness and juiciness. Mushroom sauce is my go-to for its creaminess. 

Charlotte He

Here are the steps for my oven-roasted steak:

1. Preheat the oven to 450 ˚F and take out the filet mignon from the refrigerator to let it sit in room temperature for at least 20 minutes after patting it dry with kitchen towel.

2. Gently season all the sides of the filet mignon with salt and pepper. 

3.  Heat an oven-safe skillet over high seat for 5 minutes. Add olive oil or grapeseed oil. 

4.  Add the filet mignon to the skillet and do not move the filet mignon for 2-3 minutes (let the Mallard reaction do its magic), flip the filet mignon and add a generous amount of garlic butter, herb, and other seasoning of your choice. 

5. Tilt the skillet and bath the filet mignon by drizzling the butter over continuously.

6. Transfer the filet mignon to baking pan, and put it in the oven for around 7-10 minutes to cook it until your desired doneness. (If you do not want the mushroom sauce, you can directly transfer the skillet to the oven)

7. While the filet mignon is cooked in the oven, add the mushrooms to the skillet. Season it with salt and pepper. Add some cooking wine or red wine as well as heavy cream. Stir it until it gets creamy.

8. After the filet mignon is cooked in the oven, let it cool in room temperature for at least 10 minutes before cutting it so that it can lock the juiciness of the meat. 

Charlotte He

If you are craving something crunchy, I would pair your filet mignon with roasted broccoli. In this case, you can take full advantage of the oven by letting the broccoli roast for roughly 22 minutes while the filet mignon is being cooled. 

Charlotte He

3. Pasta, Udon, and Eggplant Lasagna 

I prefer every kind of noodles to rice, not only because it is not only quicker to cook, but because noodles have more variation that you can be creative with. I always have pasta, ramen, and udon in my cupboard, and whenever I crave something hearty and warm I make my choice for dinner. 

My personal favorite pasta is fettuccine, a flat, thick pasta made of egg and flour. Its texture allows the pasta to absorb any sauce nicely. To create a hearty but not heavy dinner, I pair the fettuccine with zucchini and shrimp, with a splash of heavy cream and a handful of parmesan cheese. 

Charlotte He

Udon is a type of thick noodle from Japan that is typically made from wheat flour. Served in soup, udon is the ultimate dish for the chilly seasons. I usually add some chikuwa, a kind of fish cake that has a long cylindrical shape, along with the udon. Again, you can use the oven to bake some fried chicken leg meat and asparagus while making the udon. 

Charlotte He

I know how delicious this looks. But I also know there are times where you do not want to incorporate heavy carbohydrates in your dinner. Here is a recipe that you should try: eggplant lasagna. It mirrors the steps of making a regular lasagna, except you simply replace the pasta with eggplant. 

Charlotte He

Two big eggplants can easily make three to four portions that you can put in the fridge and heat up for lunch the next day. 

Charlotte He

All of the recipes listed above can be prepared within 35 minutes, with the simplest - burrata salad with shrimp - costing only 15 minutes. Cooking in college dorms can be made easy by utilizing basic equipment, especially the oven, and being creative with your available ingredients. Hopefully, this cheatsheet can give you some inspiration for making fancy but easy college dinner!