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My Favorite Pantry Recipes for an Easy, Delicious Dinner

A lot of us are cooking a lot more at home due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Lot of you told me on Instagram that you were interested in a list of my favorite pantry recipes.

Below is a list (which I’ll keep updating) of some of my go-to dishes to make while keeping safe at home. Some may require one or two special fresh ingredients, but most can be done without them or modified based on what you do have on hand.

You’ll also notice that these recipes are all vegetarian. I generally do not cook meat or poultry at home, but feel free to add in your favorite proteins to any of these recipes.

Happy cooking!

Pantry Pasta With Vegan Cream Sauce

I really liked this Vegan Cream Sauce Pasta from Bon Appetit – it reminded me of an item I had the vegetarian restaurant here in Denver called Somebody People. In the SP version, they used pine nuts – so that could also be a good substitute if you don’t have walnuts.

Toasting the nuts is KEY. Do not skip this step. The recipe does include some fresh ingredients like garlic, rosemary, and parsley, but you can get away with dried rosemary/parsley if push comes to shove. You can also substitute the fresh lemon zest/juice with just lemon juice.

I also recommend a liberal dash of salt on the finishing.

RECIPE: BA’s Pantry Pasta with Vegan Cream Sauce

No-Knead Bread

Prior to the COVID-19 quarantine, I’d never attempted to bake, let alone make bread. However, I’ve found Mark Bittman’s No-Knead Bread recipe (modified from Jim Lahey’s original technique) to be straightforward and deliver reliably good results.

I’m not sure if it’s the elevation or the fact that our home is generally very warm, but usually my first rise time is much shorter than the 12-18 hours, and our fridge seems to be way too cold to get the 24 hour method to produce any rise. What I’ve done instead is to start the dough early in the evening, let it rise for a few hours until it’s doubled, put it in the fridge overnight, and then take out the next morning to do the second rise. That seems to work for me!

Also instead of plastic wrap and a bowl, I use a standard dough-rising bucket with the lid on, but not closed + a damp dishcloth.

RECIPE: Mark Bittman’s No-Knead Bread

Pasta e Ceci

The ultimate flex soup! I found this beautiful Pasta e Ceci soup recipe in Vegetarian Times magazine years ago and have made it dozens of times since. This recipe has always come out delicious, no matter how many substitutions and modifications I’ve made.

Even though the original recipe calls for chickpeas (right there in the name), I’ve always used white kidney beans (cannellini beans) instead because I love their creamy texture. I also add in fresh swiss chard or kale during the onion cooking step pump up the greens (you can probably can use frozen versions in a pinch).

I’ve found any short pasta works fine here – I really like using shells because they act as little boats filled with broth, making each spoonful super tasty.

I recommend doubling the recipe if you want to get multiple meals out of one cooking session. When I reheat the next day I add a little more water to the soup since the noodles do tend to absorb a lot of the liquid overnight.

RECIPE: Pasta e Ceci

Zucchini Gemelli Pasta with Cilantro Pesto

This Zucchini Pasta with Cilantro Pesto recipe was a great find from Sunset magazine. I love the melding of Mexican and Italian flavors in this recipe. It’s the perfect spring/summertime pasta dish. Works well being made ahead and then served at room temperature.

The original recipe calls for gemelli pasta, but I’ve found fusilli, penne, or penne rigate are good substitutes. You really just want a pasta that’s going to be able to grip and hold the sauce.

This recipe also requires a few fresh zucchini and fresh cilantro. I’ve done a variation with a mix of cilantro and parsley (all I had in the fridge at the time) and it worked out fine. Also if you don’t have cotija cheese, you can use Parmesan as a substitute – it won’t really deliver on the Mexican-inspired element of the recipe, but you’ll still get the salty cheese element into the dish.

RECIPE: Zucchini Gemelli Pasta with Cilantro Pesto

Arroz Negro (con Frijoles), Fluffy Hummus, Lentil “Meatballs”, and more

I can’t sing enough praises about the Cool Beans cookbook by Joe Yonan, which came out earlier this year in February.

Yonan is a food and dining writer for the Washington Post and pens their Weeknight Vegetarian column, so the recipes in his book are 100% vegetarian and always contain vegan substitutions.

You’ll find the recipe to these dishes along with more amazing bean-centric sides, soups, entrees, and even desserts (!) in one of my newfound favorite cookbooks of all time. Since I don’t cook meat at home I’m always looking for ways to add beans to recipes so our diet stays healthy and nutritious, so this book has been a wealth of inspiration and ideas. I cannot recommend it enough. I’ve made at least six recipes from the book so far and each one has been excellent. In particular, the recipe for Little Seasame‘s Creamy, Fluffy Hummus (shown here with the book’s Show-stopping Whole Roasted Cauliflower) will cause you to never EVER buy grocery hummus again.

While you can get this cookbook from the usual national booksellers, support a local business by ordering it from a Denver shop like Book Bar (on Tennyson Street) and the Tattered Cover. While you’ve probably head that online book sales are robust, they are still only a fraction of what these shops would sell if we weren’t in the midst of a pandemic.

BUY THE BOOK: “Cool Beans” by Joe Yonan (Not sponsored, just 1,000% recommend)

While the recipes for these particular dishes aren’t available online, here are a few that are in the book that I’ve seen published.

Brothy Pasta with Chickpeas

This Brothy Pasta with Chickpeas from Bon Appetit is great for when you don’t know what to cook because it’s very likely you already have all the ingredients you need to make this dish stocked in your pantry. It’s quick and easy and is perfect when you want something warm and extra brothy, but don’t actually want soup.

RECIPE: BA’s Brothy Pasta with Chickpeas

Gado-gado Spaghetti

The first time I made this Gado-gado Spaghetti recipe was when I was on my 14-day wilderness hiking trip with NOLS. It was the best thing my cooking group and I made during our course and was so good I started making it at home.

While the original recipe was written for backpackers, I’ve since made a number of modifications when making this at home. Instead of ramen noodles or spaghetti I use Greenoodle which I get from a local Asian grocery store, but I know they also sell it at Whole Foods. Greenoodle is great because it is made of moroheiya, which contains a lot of vitamins, minerals and dietary fibers (and tastes particularly delicious in this recipe).

Instead of dried onion I use fresh green onions/scallions, and instead of packed broth I used Better than Bullion. I’ve subbed in a bunch of alternate sweeteners for the brown sugar – in the past I’ve used agave nectar and I’ve also used Xylotol.

To make the recipe heartier and more filling, I add a ton of green veggies – whatever I have on hand, either frozen or fresh. Favorites include broccoli florets, green peas, and green beans.

In the past I’ve added alternative meat chicken strips made by Beyond Meat, which they’ve since discontinued. More recently I’ve added cooked chickpea (garbanzo) beans and have found them a really great addition to the recipe.

RECIPE: NOLS Gado-gado Spaghetti

Recommendations?

Have any pantry recipes you love that you think I should try? Please let me know in the comments!

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