Five Dinners to Make From Pantry Staples

As you’ve probably gathered by now, most nights our family dinners rely on a philosophy followed by chefs the world over: Use fresh ingredients and mess with them as little as possible. This is easy to live by early in the week, when our fridge runneth over from our big Sunday shop. By Wednesday or Thursday, however, the hyenas (read: children) have thrashed through the fresh stuff, and we have to look elsewhere for inspiration. So we keep the shelves (and fridge and freezer) full of flavor boosters like homemade pickles, good-quality bacon, heels of Parmigiano-Reggiano, and those mini-containers of tamarind sauce left over from Indian takeout. Here’s how we use them to help spin boring pantry items into dinner gold.

Dinner 1: Split Pea Soup
{All you need: Homemade Stock, Split Peas, Bacon}
If you’ve got great homemade stock, you’ve got great soup. Sauté a little chopped carrot and onion in butter and olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Add dried split peas, stock, and a chunk of smoky bacon (the hunk you’ve dutifully stored in the freezer). Simmer about 45 minutes until peas are tender, whirl with an immersion blender, and serve with croutons

Simple and Speedy Pasta
{All you need: Pasta, Capers, Breadcrumbs}
Sauté minced shallots, garlic, red pepper flakes, and capers in olive oil. Add a half cup of breadcrumbs and cook until breadcrumbs are toasty. Toss with pasta and grated Parm. And when the kids inevitably ask, explain that capers are “tiny explosions of salty goodness.”

Fried Chickpeas
{All you need: Chickpeas, Tamarind Sauce, Cayenne}
Drain and dry canned chickpeas, then fry in neutral oil until crisp, about 15 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and cayenne, and serve with yogurt, tamarind sauce, cilantro, and some flatbread. We’re starving just typing that.

Smoked Trout with Pickled Cabbage
{All you need: Finn Crisp Crackers, Smoked Trout, Mayo, Homemade Pickled Cabbage}
We like to call this one of the world’s best open-face dinners.

{All you need: Spaghetti, Bacon, Eggs, Parmesan}
This is why we keep all that Benton’s bacon in the freezer. If there is a better way to end a long week than a big bowl of carbonara, we do not know what it is.

This is our March “Providers” column for Bon Appetit. Head over to their site for the Carbonara recipe. Photo by Alex Lau for Bon Appetit.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Filed under: Dinner, Quick

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

What is 6 + 11 ?
Please leave these two fields as-is:
IMPORTANT! To be able to proceed, you need to solve the following simple math (so we know that you are a human) :-)


Rachel Taylor

I definitely needed to be reminded of this. I’ve been caught up in stocking up for only specific recipes, but I need to look more at my pantry staples to see what I can make!


Is that really your cupboard? with labels??? i salute you!! (that’s a lotta ginger, by the way!)


These are my favourite kinds of ‘recipes’ that require a little head tilt and squint at what you have instead of a long list of what you’re missing. Love it!


FYI: That is not my pantry. It was shot in Bon Appetit’s old test kitchen — hence the MASSIVE quantities of ginger and other aromatics! I’m envious, too.


I am really excited to make split pea soup tomorrow! (After subjecting my family to leftovers tonight. They really don’t like leftovers.) xox