The best ingredients are seasonal ingredients, of course! But, there are times that you have to rely on whatever is in your pantry ----like when its one in the morning and you want to whip something up. I like to always make sure my pantry is stocked with what I call my essentials.
The following are musts and can even get you out of a jam if people drop in at a moment's notice.
A COUPLE OF VARIETIES OF DRIED PASTA: I always have both penne and spaghetti on hand. My life would be very dull without pasta! And besides, can you think of any other dish that can be whipped up with little fuss, and can feed a family of four for a dollar a serving?!
GOOD OLIVE OIL: Its always about extra virgin in my books. I use olive oil for all my cooking. I generally have two types: One for basic frying, sautéing etc and the best one I can get for simply drizzling at the last minute to finish dishes just before serving.
GARLIC: It has a long shelf life and is the base for many dishes and sauces. Lightly browned in a little olive oil and you have a sauce… Spaghetti Aglio e Olio.
CANNED PEELED PLUM TOMATOES: Because they’re picked at their peak this is a decent substitute for fresh in a pinch, or when fresh are out of season. And, of course, with a little bit of garlic and olive oil, throw in your peeled plum tomatoes and within minutes you have a good basic tomato sauce. Cook up your penne and you’re good to go!
A TIN OF TUNA: It’s so versatile. That Aglio e Olio sauce that I told you about two paragraphs ago? Well, now add that tin of tuna to the frying pan with the browned garlic and olive oil and you have a spin off from your Aglio e Olio, which I call Aglio e Olio e Tonno! Now, add some peeled plum tomatoes and let it simmer for five or ten minutes, while your penne is cooking and suddenly you have a new sauce and a completely new pasta dish.
CANNED LEGUMES: It doesn’t matter. Buy what you like. They’re so convenient and inexpensive. They’re packed with protein and they’re good to go in a jiffy. I like to give mine a rinse before I use them. In a pan, heat up some olive oil, garlic and throw in your beans and in no time you’re eating! You want to fancy it up a bit? Throw in that tin of plum tomatoes and let that cook for ten minutes. You want to turn this into a soup? Throw in a couple of cups of water, bring it all to a boil, break up some of the pasta, throw it in and in fifteen minutes you have Pasta Fagioli.
OR BACK TO THE OPEN CAN: Rinse your raw beans, add in the tuna, some good olive oil and you’ve got a salad.