With this mission in mind, I immediately thought of my own pantry, a three-shelf, 10” deep cabinet currently shared by four people. Due to these space restrictions, I have to be judicious about my supplies, keeping only the most consistently useful on hand. Beyond the usual baking products, they are (in charming alphabetical order):
Beans (black, red, pinto, garbanzo)
Canned Tomatoes (diced, crushed, whole, paste)
Dried herbs & spices (all kinds)
Extra virgin olive oil
Onions (yellow, red)
Pasta (thin spaghetti, rotini, elbows)
Rice (brown, white, couscous)
Stock (chicken, veggie, beef)
Vinegar (balsamic, white, red wine, cider)
Armed with a reasonable variety these ten basic ingredients, I can generally whip up a nice selection of main course, side dish, or snacky-time snack-type dealies. Bargains by nature, the food can be kept relatively healthy, too, if close attention is paid to the olive oil.
With this in mind, behold: cut-and-pasted below are 20 dishes made entirely from the aforementioned pantry staples. As always, there are some things to note:
1) I’ve only tried the Roasted Chickpeas and Sara Moulton’s dish, but nearly everything is either highly rated by site reviewers or given the Food Blogger Seal of Approval (meaning a respected culinary web writer’s tried it and liked it enough to post about it).
2) Nutritional calculations are from the original sites or my own math. (Some dishes couldn't be quantified because there were no serving sizes listed.) Please e-mail me if you see mistakes (firstname.lastname@example.org).
3) Substitutions (canned tomatoes instead of fresh, etc.) are given in a number of dishes where it wouldn't affect the taste too much (i.e. they’re not a main ingredient). I know fresh foods will almost always be more flavorsome than canned/dried, but sometimes they can be switched without crazy damage.
Bonus: after the initial 20 dishes, there are nine more that only require one or two extra ingredients. If you have ‘em on hand, give ‘em a shot.
SPREADS AND SNACKS
All Recipes: Roasted Garlic
79 calories and 2.9 g fat per serving
All Recipes: White Bean Spread with Garlic and Rosemary
Use dried rosemary and reduce the quantity by 1/3rd.
48 calories and 1.8 g fat per serving
Cheap Healthy Good: Roasted Chickpeas
135 calories and 4.3 g fat per serving
BEANS AND RICE
A Year of Crockpotting: Crockpot Beans and Rice
All Recipes: American-Style Red Beans and Rice
517 calories and 5.1 g fat per serving
All Recipes: Black Beans and Rice
140 calories and 0.9 g fat per serving
All Recipes: Vegetarian Refried Beans
Sub in diced tomatoes for fresh.
159 calories and 3.1 g fat per serving
Eating Well: Easy Black Beans
117 calories and 1 g fat per serving
Food Network: Refried Beans
166 calories and 3 g fat per serving
SOUPS AND CHILIS
All Recipes: Fantastic Black Bean Chili
Leave out ground turkey and sub in another can of your favorite bean.
All Recipes: Garbanzo Tomato Pasta Soup
323 calories and 6.1 g fat per serving
Boston Globe: Pasta e Ceci
Sub 1/3 teaspoon dried rosemary for fresh.
504 calories and 18.6 g fat per serving
Cook Almost Anything: Roasted Garlic-Onion Soup
Use dried herbs for fresh ones and skip the parsley.
The Peppertree: Tomato-Rice Soup with Roasted Garlic and Navy Beans
What Geeks Eat: Black Bean Soup
Many black bean soups use bacon, ham, carrots, and celery as flavorings. If you have 'em in the fridge, go nuts.
PASTA, RICE AND COUSCOUS
All Recipes: Pasta and Beans
Sub in diced tomatoes for fresh.
284 calories and 6.6 g fat per serving
Cookbook Catchall: Linguine with Garlic and Olive Oil (Aglio e Olio)
Much of the olive oil will pool at the bottom of the dish, so the fat and calorie content are estimated a bit high.
587 calories and 19.7 g fat per serving
Epicurious: Curried Couscous
Leave out the mint leaves and raisins.
219 calories and 5 g fat per serving
Epicurious: Curried Rice
224 calories and 5.5 g fat per serving
FatFree.com: Garlic Tomato Couscous
Use 1/2 cup canned diced tomatoes instead of fresh.
115 calories and 0.2 g fat per serving
EXTRA SPECIAL BONUS DISHES
Though they require one or two more inexpensive ingredients, these dishes can be just as healthy, fast, and easy as the pure pantry meals listed above. The additional ingredient is listed after each name.
Book of Yum: All Purpose Pasta Sauce
Cooking Light: Cumin Curried Hummus
Needs lemon juice.
82 calories and 2.6 g fat per serving
Food Network: Pasta e Fagioli
Needs carrots and celery.
259 calories and 11.2 g fat per serving
Recipe Zaar: Quick and Easy Garbanzo Bean and Tomato Pasta
Needs sugar and parmesan.
393 calories and 3.9 g fat per serving
Sara Moulton: Orecchiette (er, Macaroni) with Broccoli and Chickpeas
324 calories and 7.8 g fat per serving
Serious Eats: Swiss Chard with Tomatoes and Chickpeas
Needs Swiss chard. Also, lots of leafy greens can be sauteed with olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes for a quick and nutritious bargain meal. This is just one suggestion.
276 calories and 13.1 g fat per serving
Simply Recipes: Easy Black Beans and Rice
Needs bell peppers.
249 calories and 3.1 g fat per serving
Smitten Kitchen: Stewed Tomatoes and Lentils
Needs lentils and carrots.
And that just about wraps it up. Readers, if you have any suggestions for easy, healthy pantry meals, I'd love to hear 'em. Thanks!
(Photo courtesy of Closets Plus Metro.)