Become a Writer Advertise With Us

There are certain foods that have been stereotyped as “typical college foods” – if you’re in college, open your pantry cupboard and you’ll probably see one – if not all – of them.  If you have Ramen noodles, canned spaghetti or ravioli, frozen pizza or instant mac and cheese, congratulations; you’re officially a typical college kid!

But just because your dorm room is filled with college food basics doesn’t mean your meals have to be boring or basic—there are tons of easy ways to upgrade your instant dinners into meals that are slightly more impressive without much effort or extra cash.  Try out the following tips to spruce up your dinners and make your meals a little more gourmet:

Ramen Noodles

  • Toss a salad mix with uncooked ramen pieces and mandarin oranges for an Asian salad.
  • Add a can of creamed soup to cooked and drained ramen noodles for hearty chowder.
  • Turn Ramen into spaghetti by adding tomato or Alfredo sauce and sprinkling with Parmesan cheese.
  • Place cooked Ramen into iceberg lettuce cups along with precooked chicken and your favorite veggies.

Canned Pasta

  • Saute canned spaghetti and sauce with vegetables and soy sauce for a spin on stir fry.
  • Make an easy soup by adding your canned noodles to beef broth, along with frozen veggies.
  • Bake canned ravioli with cottage cheese, Italian spices, spinach and canned tomatoes for “college lasagna.”

Frozen Pizza

Add mixed toppings to a basic cooked cheese pizza for a more interesting dinner.  Try these combinations:

  • Ham or prosciutto, arugula and lemon juice
  • Ground beef, taco seasoning, shredded lettuce, sour cream and salsa
  • Rotisserie chicken, corn and diced tomato
  • White beans, olives, garlic powder, pepper and oregano

Instant Mac and Cheese

  • Mix cooked mac and cheese with canned tuna, celery salt and top with crushed potato chips for an easy tuna casserole.
  • Make buffalo mac and cheese by adding canned chicken, hot sauce and powdered ranch dressing.
  • Class up your instant mac with diced tomatoes, garlic powder and some basil.

Bonus: try this easy ravioli lasagna recipe from Chef Boyardee® for a quick dinner that tastes like home.

Ravioli Lasagna from Chef Boyardee®

Ravioli Lasagna

Prep Time: 15 min

Total Time: 30 min

Serves: 6

Calories per Serving: 240


PAM® Original No-Stick Cooking Spray
1 cup frozen loose cut leaf spinach
2 cans (15 oz each) Chef Boyardee® Beef Ravioli
1 can (14.5 oz each) Hunt’s® Diced Tomatoes, drained well
1-1/2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
1 cup 1% low-fat cottage cheese
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup shredded Italian blend cheese

Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray 8×8-inch glass baking dish with cooking spray. Place spinach in microwave-safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on HIGH 2 minutes; squeeze spinach dry.

Combine ravioli, drained tomatoes and Italian seasoning in medium microwave-safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on HIGH 3 to 4 minutes or until mixture is hot. Combine cottage cheese, spinach and black pepper in small bowl.

Place half of ravioli mixture in bottom of baking dish. Top with half of cottage cheese mixture and 1/2 cup shredded cheese. Repeat layers. Bake 15 minutes or until cheese is hot and bubbly.

How do you class up your college food? Will you be trying any of these recipes? Let us know!

Meredith writes on behalf of Chef Boyardee®.  For more recipe ideas on how to spruce up your college pantry essentials, visit

Featured photo credit: theimpulsivebuy via photopin cc