6 Pantry Staples that Boost the Flavor of Any Dish

Many of the most comforting, homey dishes come from a small selection of very basic ingredients—ingredients that can seemingly always be found in the pantry. Think pasta puttanesca, warming, simple risottos, and practically anything with eggs. This list has you covered.

The pantry is usually filled with all sorts of forgotten peculiarities—my favorite recent find was a 1988 tin of sauerkraut—but often the ingredients you need most, the ones that seem to always be there, just aren’t.

Kitchen Stories

Everyone's been there: You open the cupboard and find 'nothing' to cook with aside from baking powder and strawberry jam. The voice in the back of your head telling you to give up and go to the chicken shop across the road starts to sound very tempting.

To avoid a repeat of this situation, here are 6 ingredients to always keep stocked in your pantry—so however desperate the ingredients situation may be, you can always rustle up something out of nothing. Coincidentally, these are also the ingredients that will add instant flavor and depth to an otherwise drab meal. They’re the MVPs of your pantry.

Here’s what to get:

Anchovies

These salty little fellas may be small, but they are quite capable of packing a savory punch, when added in to salad dressings (like the classic Caesar), for example. They are extremely versatile and can just as easily be used to create a subtle but important layer to your tomato sauce.

Pasta Puttanesca

Pasta Puttanesca

→ Go to recipe

Chili flakes

Maybe less essential for those who aren’t so keen on heat, but chili flakes, used with caution, can turn a dish from bland to exciting in an instant. Their other ability, of which I am sure they are less proud, is to enhance a terrible dish, removing certain unforgiving aftertastes, as discovered at some less-than-fine culinary establishments.

Turkish flatbread

Turkish flatbread

→ Go to recipe

Canned tomatoes

Pasta sauces, soups, curries, the list goes on. Such is the versatility of this canned tomato-y wonder, that no-one really has an excuse to not have one hidden away in their pantry.

Shakshuka

Shakshuka

→ Go to recipe

Olive oil

The glue that holds it all together. It's even better to have two: one basic bottle for sautéing, and a more flavorful cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil for dipping and dressing.

Spaghetti aglio e olio

Spaghetti aglio e olio

→ Go to recipe

Garlic and onions

The ultimate staples for savory cooking, this is a pair more classic than fish and chips, curry and rice, and PB&J. These alliums provide the base flavor for a large percentage of the world’s dishes.

Cream of asparagus soup

Cream of asparagus soup

→ Go to recipe

Stock

Tiny and cubed, powdered, ready- or homemade—stock is packed with umami. What more could one want from a pantry staple? Chuck this into most dishes for an improvement, giving the meal a deeper, richer flavor.

One-pot pasta

One-pot pasta

→ Go to recipe