If You Have This, Make That: Pantry Edition

October  1, 2014

Cooking on the cheap shouldn't mean minute rice and buttered pasta every night. With a little creativity and a little planning, Gabriella Paiella shows us how to make the most of a tight budget -- without sacrificing flavor or variety. 

Today: Forgot to plan ahead? Here's how make something out of nothing using a few pantry staples. 

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Sometimes you remember to go grocery shopping, to stock up on seconds at the farmers market, to cook meals on Sunday night so you can have lunches and dinners all week long.

Other times you open up your pantry wanting to make pasta and find that all you have is a half bottle of tequila, and a 3-year-old can of pumpkin purée. Oh wait. That's me.

You're much more prepared than I am, I'm sure, so here are some impromptu cheap dinners you can make if you have a few key ingredients in your pantry. 

If you have...

Penne + tuna: Make Zuni's Pasta with Preserved Tuna.


Bread + olives: Make Viana La Place's Umbrian Black Olive Panino.


Spaghetti, eggs, and bacon: Make Spaghetti Carbonara


Flour, anchovies, and olives: Make a Pantry Pissaladière.


Lentils and coconut milk: Make a Simple, Homey, Coconut-y Red Lentil Dal


A can of tomatoes and an onion: Make Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce. Eat it with anything.


What's your go-to pantry dinner? Tell us in the comments!

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • lnross
  • anniette
  • The Junk Drunk
    The Junk Drunk
Yes, my name rhymes.


lnross March 10, 2017
Spaghetti with white or red clam sauce...canned clams, garlic, oil, white wine, lemon or tomato sauce, canned clams, garlic, oil, red wine.
anniette March 8, 2017
Quesadillas: tortillas, cheese, + anything else (onion, olives, tomato, any veg, or any scrap of any meat, or nothing added).

Frittata: potatoes and/or any veg sauteed in generous amount of olive oil, add beaten eggs, any cheese, herbs, any meat or none.

The J. October 1, 2014
You should also add "onion, greek yogurt, and parm" for the caramelized onions and yogurt pasta. I always add baby greens too - kale or arugula - since it's so rich.