Quality staple ingredients provide you with endless possibility. Today we’re going to look at staple ingredients from the fridge.
This past couple of weeks have been trying, and I have found myself reaching for comfort. One of my favorite go-tos is what I call Comfort Pasta, made with staples from the fridge. Video included in the recipe.
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A long couple of weeks
The last couple of weeks have been a bit rough. Between Ollie’s surgery, more Zooms than usual at work (which means a ton of them; my average day has five Zooms), and my second dose of the vaccine (yay! But also tired), I have craved comfort.
I’ve had takeout and ice cream, but also a serving or two of my Comfort Pasta. Comfort Pasta is made with mostly fridge and pantry staples. It’s a bit of a crime against cooking with its cheater sauce, but it is delicious. Using good quality fridge staples makes the dish.
Staple ingredients from my fridge
What’s in your fridge? Depending on what we cook, our staples are going to be different, but they tend toward salty, sweet, general workhorses, and things with kick.
Obviously, I have other things in my fridge like milk and cream, cheeses, eggs, vegetables, fruits, and herbs on hand, always, but these are the things I keep on hand to complement dishes or to snack on.
What fridge staples do you always have on hand? Below are mine.
- Butter, salted: Salted butter is perfect on bread. Add a few thinly sliced radishes, and you’re off to the races.
- Capers: Tiny little briny delights. Excellent in salads or pastas, a little goes a long way.
- Cornichons: I love pickles, but these are the ones I always have on hand. Salty and sour, these lend a good kick to salads and are delicious on their own.
- Fish sauce: While I don’t really cook it, I absolutely adore Vietnamese food. Fish sauce, made with salted anchovies, is an excellent general workhorse in the kitchen. I use Red Boat, because I have a shellfish allergy, and this one only has anchovies.
- Olives: I love olives. If olives are on a menu, I’ll get them. I always have some on hand, to either eat with other salty bites before a meal, or to use in cooking.
- Parmesan cheese: I usually have this in the form of a hunk of Parmesan Reggiano, but especially over the last year, I have more than once had a tub of shredded parmesan from a supermarket deli department.
- Salami (or other cured meat): Lately I’ve had prosciutto on hand. Can’t have too many salty snacks, in my opinion!
- Soy sauce (which I need to replace): Do you ever go to do an inventory and realize that you have forgotten a staple? I somehow forgot to replace my soy sauce, but this is an all-around workhorse in the kitchen.
Add a little kick
- Dijon Mustard: What doesn’t Dijon mustard do? Adds attitude to salad dressings and tapenades, kick to cream sauces, and excellent on a sandwich, I always have a jar in my fridge, and the replacement jar in the pantry.
- Hot sauce: Right now I have Piri Piri sauce, because I made Piri Piri chicken. It’s really tasty on eggs.
- Worcestershire Sauce: I don’t use this all the time, but this weird little condiment (I mean, really. We all know that this was gunga munga from a kitchen cabinet that someone in Worcester decided to eat) adds a little something to dishes. You can do worse than having a little on steak.
- Better than Bullion: I always, always have chicken on hand, and usually beef. I’d love to say that I make my own stock all the time, but I don’t. I love homemade stock, but I am a busy person and don’t usually have time to make stock and then make soup. Nonetheless, I make a mean pot of soup, and I almost always use Better than Bullion to make it.
- Butter, unsalted: In the words of my nephew at Thanksgiving one year, “Legendary food always has butter.” I could not agree more.
- Cream Cheese: Is there anything cream cheese cannot make better? From the classic schmear, dips, or cream cheese brownies, to a cheater cream sauce like the Comfort Pasta we’re going to make, a block of cream cheese means you can have something tasty.
- Ketchup: Generally in the form of takeout packets. Pro tip: Dip your grilled cheese sandwiches in it.
- Peanut butter: I don’t always have this around, but PP&J makes for a quick and satisfying lunch when the Zooms are back to back. Even better with toast. Can also be used for quick Asian-inspired dishes, or
- Sundried tomatoes: Trader Joe’s has some very nice ones. I use these on salads, in Comfort Pasta, and in chicken dishes when I’m looking for a little tomato flavor.
- Tomato paste (in a tube): Pastas, soups, sauces, tomato paste in a tube is your go-to. Unless you’re making something where you need a whole can, the tube helps you cut back on food waste.
- Yogurt: I tend to keep Skyr on hand these days; I definitely prefer strained yogurt. While I typically eat this for breakfast during the warmer months, yogurt is also an excellent marinade for chicken, and forms the base for delicious dips.
- Apricot jam: I use this for glazes, mostly for chicken.
- Cherries, dried: Tart and sweet, these make for an excellent addition to oatmeal or to yogurt with muesli. For a quick snack, sprinkle a few with some nuts and add a little flaky salt. Also excellent in shallot confit.
- Cranberries, dried: Not overly sweet, these are delicious on salads with a sharp vinaigrette or added to roasted vegetables.
- Fig jam: Serve with cheese, or use as a basis for a quick sauce for chicken with some balsamic vinegar and herbs, fig jam is an excellent workhorse in the kitchen.
- Maple syrup: I am a New England girl. Maple syrup isn’t just for pancakes or Sugar on Snow, use it with some herbs and chili pepper to make delicious roast nuts. Add mustard, and you have the base for a great glaze for Brussels sprouts or other veggies.
- Strawberry jam: For a quick breakfast, I’ll often have bread with strawberry jam and some cream or chevre, along with some fruit (and maybe some prosciutto. Or, it’s also what I use on my PB&J sandwiches.
Comfort Pasta: made with staple ingredients from the frige
Sometimes I’m just hungry and in need of comfort. How many of us have big ol’ bowls of pasta for such occasions? One day I felt like something a little more than just spaghetti with olive oil and parmesan. I opened up my fridge, and pulled out a bunch of staples. While my pasta water boiled, I threw together a makeshift sauce with them and some herbs and spices, and tossed it with my pasta. And behold, it comforted. I’ve been making it ever since. If you’re hungry and in need of comfort, you could give it a try.
Recipe and video below!
- 1 serving dried pasta, your choice generally, a serving of pasta is smaller, and meant to be served at the beginning of the meal. I am not going to judge if your serving creeps up. We're already committing a crime against cooking
- 2 Tbsp cream cheese you could do more or less, depending on how much comfort you need
- small splash olive oil also a little drizzle for the top
- 1-1 ½ tsp tomato paste again, this is more of a suggestion for measurements. The more you add, the more tomato sauce-ish it will be
- 1 small pinch dried oregano basil is also good. Use more or less, depending on your taste
- 1-2 shakes dried chili flakes
- 1 tsp capers, drained and rinsed
- 2-3 olives, chopped
- 1 pinch sundried tomatoes, chopped
- grated parmesan cheese to garnish
- flat leaf parsley, chopped to garnish
- kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- Set salted water on to boil
- Meanwhile, assemble the "sauce" in the same bowl you plan to eat out of. Add the cream cheese, tomato paste, and a small splash of olive oil. Mash it together with a fork
- Sprinkle the oregano and the red pepper flakes. Add capers, olives, and sundried tomatoes. Sprinkle a bit of kosher salt (be careful here, you can add later, but you will need a little)
- Cook the pasta to al dente
- When the pasta is cooked, using tongs or a pasta fork, lift out the pasta and add it to the bowl with the sauce ingredients. You want a little of the pasta water to get into the bowl, but not too much. Using tongs and the fork you mashed the sauce with, toss thoroughly to coat. Give a quick taste, and adjust if you need it
- Garnish with parmesan, chopped parsley, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil. Dig in. Be comforted