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8 Pantry Pastas Our Staff Makes When There's Nothing in the Fridge

Epicurious logo Epicurious 11/13/2017 Emily Johnson

We all have those nights when we come home, starving, only to find that the only foods in our fridge are a wilted carrot, a half-empty bottle of Sriracha, and a jar of pickles. The solution? Pantry pasta. Toss whichever flavorful, shelf-stable ingredients you have on hand with a steamy, comforting bowl of carbs for an emergency dinner that always manages to feel indulgent.

In general, a great formula for pantry pasta is: hearty ingredient (like beans) + cured, salty food (like capers or olives) + crunchy ingredient (like nuts or breadcrumbs) + saucey ingredient (like oil or tomatoes). Here are a few of the #pantrypasta combinations that Epi staffers swear by:

1. Spaghetti with Harissa and White Beans

My boss David likes to toss spaghetti with olive oil, white beans (either cooked or canned will work, but if you're going to use canned you might try this trick to improve their flavor), and harrisa, a fiery, smoky chile paste. Boom, a creamy, slightly spicy, satisfying dinner is on the table in about 10 minutes.

2. Pasta with Anchovies and Breadcrumbs

A pantry combo that's pretty much universally beloved by all of our staff members goes like this: pasta + a good tin of anchovies + plenty of olive oil + breadcrumbs. I also sometimes like to add a couple tablespoons of tomato paste simmered with water to make a sauce. You might be surprised to find that even if you don't like anchovies, they add a powerful pop of umami to nearly any pasta dish, and the carbs and oil balance out the pungency and mellow any fishiness. Toast your breadcrumbs in a little oil for texture and a delicious carb-on-carb alternative to Parmesan.

Recipe: Pasta with 15-Minute Garlic, Oil, and Anchovy Sauce

a plate of food © Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Food Styling by Mindy Fox

David also likes to use canned tuna (buy the good stuff, though, please! You deserve it.), spaghetti, a jar of pesto, and white beans for an herby, creamy pasta with a good amount of protein from the fish. Again, this comes together in mere minutes—and it's also a great idea for a quick lunch that you can take to work (provided you don't sit next to a tuna-averse coworker).

4. Antipasto Pasta

Food Director Rhoda Boone developed this quick, delicious pasta that features lots of antipasto ingredients—pine nuts, dry-cured sausage, pepperoncini, sun-dried tomatoes, and marinated artichoke hearts.

Recipe: "Antipasto" Pasta with Sausage, Artichoke Hearts, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

a bowl of food on a plate © Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Prop Styling by Beatrice Chastka, Food Styling by Olivia Mack Anderson

My coworker Becky likes to toss rice noodles with a nutty sauce made of peanut butter, rice vinegar, tamari or soy sauce, and sesame oil. It's not a bad idea to add some spice in there in the form of Sriracha—or whatever your favorite hot sauce is.

Recipe: Kid-Friendly Peanut Sauce

a plate of food © Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Food Styling by Olivia Mack Anderson

5. Chickpea Pasta

One of my personal favorite pantry pastas, or just meals in general, is chickpea pasta. (You may have heard it marveled ataround the internet.) This recipe may seem too simple to be anything extraordinary, but it's magic. All you need are canned chickpeas, tomato paste, olive oil, garlic, and chile flakes. First, fry two cloves of garlic and the chile flakes in plenty of olive oil, then add three tablespoons of tomato paste and let it fry in the oil so it browns and develops a nice savory, umami kick. Then add a can of chickpeas, dried pasta, and boiling water. The whole thing cooks together in one pot—no need to boil the pasta separately. See: magic, right?

6. Pasta with Canned Tomatoes and Tuna

Make a simple tomato sauce using canned tomatoes. Then, toss the cooked pasta shape of your choice in the sauce, along with some good canned tuna and some capers for a salty, umami kick. Don't forget the chile flakes for spice. (This is another David favorite. Can you tell he loves canned fish?)

7. Crispy Chickpea Pasta

While the tomatoey chickpea pasta is a go-to for me, my coworker Anna likes the simple combination of chickpeas, capers, and garlic with pasta. She fries the chickpeas in olive oil until they're nice and crunchy, adding an appealing textural element to this dish.

8. Porcini and White Wine Pasta

Dried mushrooms are a very powerful savory ingredient that you should always keep on hand. Cooking them in white wine and a little bit of boxed broth or water will rehydrate them and make for a flavorful sauce. Add sliced garlic sautéed in olive oil, toss with fettucine, and top with toasted breadcrumbs.

Related video: Pasta with 15-Minute Garlic, Oil, and Anchovy Sauce

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