32 Meal Train Recipes To Comfort Friends and Family in Need
There’s no better way for Southerners to show our love than through a home-cooked meal. Just as the kitchen can be a space for us to relax and recharge (did you know that baking for others has real psychological benefits?), delivering a meal to someone in need can have an immeasurable impact on their day. When a loved one is going through a hard or busy time, the last thing they should have to worry about is getting a meal on the table—that’s where a meal train comes in.
What exactly is a meal train, you ask? “When someone is going through a major life event, like the birth of a child, a death in the family, or recovery from an illness, injury, or medical procedure, a meal train is a smart and caring way to make sure that person is well-fed,” our Editors write. Setting up a meal train for a friend or family member in need ensures that, even in times of great stress or worry, they’ll have the comfort of a hot, home-cooked meal. These crowd-pleasing recipes are designed to be simple, satisfying, and sustaining—not only will they keep in the fridge for a few days, but they’ll likely leave the recipient with another meal’s worth of leftovers.
Pay it forward with 30 simple, wholesome, and utterly satisfying meal train recipes. We’ve also included 2 bonus dessert recipes that are sure to brighten spirits. After all, a home-cooked meal is the ultimate expression of love.
Slow-Cooker Bolognese Sauce over Pappardelle Pasta
If you really want to set a friend up for a few meals, delivering a big container of homemade Bolognese sauce is an ideal solution.
Recipe: Meatloaf Casserole
We’ve take your grandma’s tried-and-true meatloaf and, in true Southern fashion, turned it into a casserole.
Recipe: Zucchini Lasagna
Meal train food doesn’t have to be heavy! This low-carb Zucchini Lasagna is a great healthy dinner option.
Recipe: Italian Casserole
Filled with spaghetti, spinach, Italian sausage, and ricotta, this casserole delivers an entire Italian feast in one dish.
Homestyle Ground Beef Casserole
Recipe: Homestyle Ground Beef Casserole
This Homestyle Ground Beef Casserole just screams “cozy.” Plus, we almost always have an extra package of ground beef in our fridge.
Kentucky Hot Brown Casserole
Recipe: Kentucky Hot Brown Casserole
Transform the South’s favorite sandwich into a family-friendly main with this simple Kentucky Hot Brown Casserole recipe.
Chicken-and-Prosciutto Tortelloni Soup
With hearty pockets of pasta and leafy greens, this Chicken-and-Prosciutto Tortelloni Soup is here to ward off any sickness.
Recipe: Pasta-Chicken-Broccoli Bake
Stuffed with tortellini, vegetables, chicken, and pecans, this casserole is a complete meal all on its own.
French Onion Soup Casserole
Recipe: French Onion Soup Casserole
Soup is an ultra-comforting meal, but if you’re worrying about transporting that pot of sloshing hot liquid across town, a mess-free French Onion Soup Casserole is your best bet.
Shrimp and Grits Casserole
Recipe: Shrimp and Grits Casserole
The best part about this Shrimp and Grits Casserole? You can have it for dinner, then reheat it for breakfast the next morning.
Roasted Tomato Soup with Cheddar Cheese
We’ll take our Roasted Tomato Soup with a nice dose of shredded Cheddar cheese, please!
Gnocchi Gratin with Ham and Peas
Recipe: Gnocchi Gratin with Ham and Peas
Bring a little elegance to the meal train routine with this sophisticated, French-inspired pasta bake.
Recipe: Chicken-Mushroom-Sage Casserole
This pretty casserole may look impressive, but it’s actually quite easy to execute, making it an ideal meal train recipe.
Chicken Sausage with Fennel and Apples
Pick up a pack of chicken sausage at the grocery store and this sheet pan recipe comes together in a snap.
Ham and Noodle Casserole
Recipe: Ham and Noodle Casserole
Sometimes you just need a little dose of home-style comfort. This Ham and Noodle Casserole ticks all the boxes.
Sloppy Joe Casserole
Recipe: Sloppy Joe Casserole
Sloppy joes can be messy, but this casserole packs all that delicious flavor with a no-fuss clean-up.
Recipe: Breakfast Enchiladas
Shake up any weekend brunch routine with these tasty Breakfast Enchiladas (they can double as breakfast for dinner).
Old-Fashioned Chicken and Dumplings
Mama made this recipe on every sick day of our childhood, and we’re paying it forward by making a big batch for the meal train.
Cheesy Chili Hash Brown Bake
Recipe: Cheesy Chili Hash Brown Bake
It doesn’t get much easier or more convenient than these pre-portioned Cheesy Chili Hash Brown Bakes.
Creamy Chicken Alfredo Casserole
Recipe: Creamy Chicken Alfredo Casserole
When we imagine comfort in a dish, this creamy, cheesy pasta bake comes to mind. Plus, rotisserie chicken helps this meal come together in a flash.
Reunion Pea Casserole
Recipe: Reunion Pea Casserole
Looking for a catch-all casserole filled with plenty of meat, beans, cheese, and veggies? Meat our Reunion Pea Casserole.
Baked Ziti with Summer Vegetables
Baked ziti gets a reputation for being heavy, but this lightened-up version features plenty of fresh summer produce.
Beer-Braised Beef Tips with Root Vegetables and Horseradish
Ramp up your old-school pot roast with a splash of stout and a kick of spicy horseradish.
Southern Wedding Soup
Recipe: Southern Wedding Soup
There’s no wedding quite like a Southern wedding. With pork-and-beef meatballs, this soup is as filling as it is soul-warming.
Chicken, Sweet Potato, and Corn Slow-Cooker Chowder
Not only is this slow-cooker chowder packed full of protein and nutrients, but it serves 10, which means there will be plenty of leftovers.
Soulful Chicken Soup
Recipe: Soulful Chicken Soup
The meal train isn’t complete without a weekly delivery of Soulful Chicken Soup. Adults and kids alike can’t resist this family favorite.
Recipe: Chicken Bog
The best part of this simple chicken dinner? It only takes one pot, and it comes together in just 30 minutes.
Recipe: Turkey Meatballs
These versatile turkey meatballs can be enjoyed over pasta, sandwiched between a roll as sliders, or served all on their own.
Garlicky Roasted Spatchcock Chicken
Sure, we never fail to keep our fridges stocked with a rotisserie chicken, but this homemade version is simply irresistible. While you’re at it, save the bones to make your own chicken stock.
Beef Stew with Buttery Garlic Bread
Making your own garlic bread adds an extra touch of love to this hearty, stick-to-your-bones meal.
Glazed Buttermilk Donut Cake
Recipe: Glazed Buttermilk Donut Cake
Want to deliver a really decadent treat? Bake up this Glazed Buttermilk Donut Cake—it’ll be the talk of the town.
Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
This recipe acts as definitive proof that a plate of chocolate chip cookies can cure all ailments. This upgraded sweet treat is the perfect accompaniment to any warming soup or casserole.