University cooking might conjure up images of instant noodles and hodge-podge dinners made from fridge leftovers, but simple student fare can be delicious and even fit for a dinner party. Basic doesn't have to be boring, and thrifty plates can be suitably showstopping with the right ingredients.


First, make sure your house is stocked with all the student kitchen essentials and branch out with our best ever student recipes, or simply pick and choose your favourite dinner party starters, mains and desserts from the menu options below and present your meal with pride.

Looking for the perfect student gift? Create an easily customisable My BBC Good Food cookbook filled with your pick of essential uni recipes. It's sure to be a lifesaver for first-time cooks or budding chefs.

Student starters

A roast aubergine on a plate opened and topped with yogurt and harissa

Soups are a surefire dinner party winner. They can be made using reasonably priced root, canned or frozen vegetables, prepared in advance and vamped up with clever toppings and garnishes. Our creamy leek, butter bean & chorizo soup is irresistible. Serve with a hunk of warm, crusty bread and watch it disappear. For a vegetarian option, try our roasted sweet potato & carrot soup, top with a swirl of crème fraîche for an eye-catching final flourish.

Roast aubergines with yogurt & harissa make a great stress-free starter. Roasting brings out deep, earthy flavours and a tender texture that melts in the mouth. Alternatively, our halloumi, carrot & orange salad is perfect for cheese aficionados. Ribbons of fresh carrot with sweet and sharp citrus and salty halloumi cheese are a match made in heaven.

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Jazz up a humble shop-bought hummus with our clever additions, like pistachio lamb meatballs, chorizo & red pepper or spiced cauliflower. Put together an easy meze platter for a help-yourself Middle Eastern-inspired starter, with minimal effort.

More easy starters...

Peppered potato soup
Slow cooker broccoli & cheese soup
Easy green gazpacho
Stuffed mushrooms
Tomato bruschetta

Student main courses

Tray of tomatoes with a chicken in the centre

Everyone enjoys a classic roast chicken dinner. Why not save yourself some time and effort with our summer roast chicken traybake? Give the traditional roast a revamp with a few tinned and frozen ingredients. Serve with a simple green salad or crusty bread for a main that will satisfy the pickiest of palates. Go for something full of indulgent flavours, like our gnocchi with mushrooms & blue cheese. Both soft, creamy goat's cheese and strong blue cheese work well in this simple dish, and it takes just 20 minutes to make.

You probably already have the bulk of the ingredients for a classic spaghetti carbonara in your kitchen cupboards. Invest in a block of parmesan and a pack of pancetta or streaky bacon and you can make this deliciously creamy, cheesy pasta treat. Everyone should have a rich risotto in their recipe arsenal. Our chorizo & pea risotto uses storecupboard and freezer ingredients to make a satisfying bowlful of comfort.

More easy mains...

Puttanesca baked gnocchi
Spring roast chicken
Smoked salmon spaghetti with chilli & lemon
Slow cooker chickpea stew
Soy & sesame-glazed celeriac

For when you're not entertaining and want to enjoy a simple and comforting midweek meal, check out our top 10 basic student recipes, and quick and easy student recipes.

Student sides

Lettuce topped with cucumber and soy seeds

Side dishes are a great way to round out your dinner party menu and ensure your guests are well-fed. Salads are a light, refreshing option that won't overshadow your main course. Our spicy tuna, courgette & chickpea salad is a great make-ahead option that can be whipped up in just 20 minutes. It's also budget-friendly, using storecupboard ingredients like capers and tuna. For a flavourful and visually appealing plate, try our wedge salad with soy seeds & quick-pickled dill cucumbers.
Warm side dishes are also a welcome addition to any meal. Courgette fries are a great way to satisfy your guests' cravings for something crispy and savoury. Or try our green beans with lemon & parmesan for a more elegant side dish.

And, of course, no dinner party is complete without bread! Our easy white bread and crusty bread recipes will impress your guests. For something a little different, why not try our pampushky recipe, a tear-and-share garlic bread.

No matter your taste, there's sure to be a side dish on this list that your guests will love next time you're hosting a dinner party.

More enticing sides…

Smoky chickpea salad
Charred corn & feta salad
Mackerel & new potato salad
Microwave honey & fennel carrots
Greek loaded fries
Indian flatbread

Student desserts

Cherry bars topped with dark chocolate and cherries

Turn a handful of ingredients into something special with these clever recipe hacks. We love a make-ahead pudding we can prep in advance. Take five minutes to whip up our individual banoffee trifles with ready-made cake and sauces. Want something dark, sweet and sophisticated? Try our easy dark chocolate & cherry bars; they need just four ingredients and no one will guess they were made in under half an hour. A chocolate lover's dream dessert.

Make something fabulously fruity in the form of our apple crumble sundae. Transform some vanilla ice cream, ginger nut biscuits and Granny Smith apples into a dish everyone will want seconds of. Fancy a taste of nostalgia? Indulge in a slice of our coffee ice cream terrine, our grown-up twist on a childhood classic. Five everyday ingredients and 25 minutes is all it takes to create this dreamy cocoa-rich dish.

If you want to try your hand at baking, check out our budget-friendly baking recipes and top 10 student baking recipes.

More easy desserts...

Butterscotch banana pie
Easy caramel cake
Raspberry & ginger fridge cake
No-churn brown bread ice cream
Strawberry mousse

Don't forget the drinks! Get everyone in the spirit with our student cocktail collection and refreshing non-alcoholic cocktails, from mocktail punches to cordials, coolers and spritzers.

More student-friendly recipes

7 healthy student suppers
Top 10 student baking recipes
13 best student kitchen essentials
Essential recipes for university


What's your favourite cheap but impressive recipe? Leave a comment below...

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