7 easy store cupboard Italian classics

7 easy store cupboard Italian classics

by Giulia Scarpaleggia 1 February 2017

Giulia Scarpaleggia shows us seven simple Italian recipes that can be whipped up in no time at all with ingredients we all have sitting in our pantry.

Giulia is a Tuscan food blogger who has turned her passion into a job and is now a freelance food writer, developing recipes for magazines and food companies.

Giulia is a Tuscan food blogger who started her blog in February 2009. In January 2012 she turned her passion into a job and is now a freelance food writer, developing recipes for magazines & food companies. She's also a Tuscan cooking class instructor for tourists in Tuscany. Her book, I love Toscana, was published in November 2012. Her second book, just in Italian, was published in 2014. She was nominated best Italian food blogger in 2013.

A good home cook is able to create a meal in no time with a bunch of ingredients they can easily find in the pantry. The secret is, of course, a well stocked store cupboard. With these at your disposal, improvised dinners and lazy lunches become something authentic and full of flavour.

Keep a few jars of already cooked legumes on your cupboard. You can either buy the best quality you can afford or dedicate a Sunday to some preserving. When we use our wood burning oven to bake bread or pizza, at the end we put a few pots of legumes to slowly cook overnight into creamy beans or chickpeas. The day after we spoon them into sterilized jars, boil them for about twenty minutes and then we stock the jars in the pantry for future uses. A good supply of salted anchovies, capers, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic and dried chillies will also add a kick to any quick recipe that comes to your mind, giving it a southern Italian allure.

Keep a box of potatoes in a dark spot, a few packs of dried pasta (both short and long shapes), canned tuna and mackerel which can be turned into recipes far more interesting than a cold salad. And don’t forget breadcrumbs: I collect all my stale bread and once in a while prepare a large batch of breadcrumbs. Making it at home allows you to choose the coarseness of your crumbs: use fine breadcrumbs for coating meat and fish and dusting, and coarse breadcrumbs for stuffings and pasta.

A basket of organic lemons will decorate your kitchen and lend a fresh, zesty touch to many recipes. Nuts and dried fruit can be a snack on their own, or will add richness and depth of flavour to salads, pasta, meat, stuffing and desserts.

Recipes made with a few ingredients from the pantry are a standard staple in our diet. Learn how to cook tasty weekday meals with an Italian twist, with just a few ingredients that you can find in your store cupboard.

1. Spaghetti with fried breadcrumbs


Fried breadcrumbs have always been considered the cheese of those who could not afford Parmesan. Quickly fried in a glug of good olive oil and tossed through a bowl of spaghetti, they add a nice crunchy texture. A grating of lemon zest, an anchovy fillet melted in olive oil or a tablespoon of tiny capers are a great addition.

2. Spaghetti aglio, olio e pepperoncino

Spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino, a simple dish of spaghetti tossed with garlic, extra virgin olive oil and chilli pepper, is a recipe you are supposed to master even if your knowledge of Italian cuisine is non-existent. It can be cooked at any time with whatever you have in the pantry, something to prepare late at night when friends show up unexpected at home, a bowl of pasta for the small hours and large portions.

It is the poorest dish you can imagine: just extra virgin olive oil, garlic, chili pepper and a package of dried spaghetti, something which every Italian is supposed to store in their pantry. If it is done by the book, though, it reaches levels of absolute perfection: the pasta is soaked by the taste of garlic-infused olive oil and the chili pepper tickles your taste buds without covering the other flavours. Then comes the parsley, fresh and finely sliced, the green touch that the pasta was missing. The spaghetti with garlic, olive oil and chili peppers are suitable as a base to add other ingredients at the very last minute: cherry tomatoes, mussels or clams (never cheese, though).

3. Pasta e patate


Pasta e patate, pasta with potatoes, is a traditional dish, belonging to the inventive food traditions of southern Italy, one of the most comforting dishes you can think of on a cold winter day. As befits the traditional Italian peasant cooking, few ingredients are used in an inventive way to produce a rich taste and a creamy texture, made even more enticing by the perfect marriage of potatoes, pasta and cubes of chewy Parmesan crust. A hint of freshly ground black pepper or a pinch of crushedred hot chili pepper will add the right amount of fire to warm you up, from inside out.

4. Tagliolini al limone


Simple, lemony, fresh and quick, thin tagliolini can be dressed in a sauce made with a knob of butter and the zest and juice of a lemon. Melt the butter over low flame with the juice and the grated peel, then toss the tagliolini in the sauce and a tablespoon of cooking water, which will make everything creamy.

Add the grated Parmesan cheese, the freshly ground black pepper and some fresh thyme. Toss the tagliolini for a minute or two, allowing the cheese to melt with the butter and lemon juice into a creamy and zesty dressing.

5. Passato di fagioli

Passato di fagioli

Tuscan people really love beans: you’ll find white beans as a side dish, served with a drizzle of good Tuscan extra virgin olive oil in almost every restaurant or trattoria. Beans, and pulses in general, are easy to recycle in other dishes.

A bean or chickpea soup is good on its own, but can be enriched with croutons of toasted bread, rice, spelt, barley or pasta (my favourite is a short shaped spelt pasta), grilled cod or, on a more refined evening, stir-fried prawns with garlic and parsley.

Purée the cooked beans or chickpeas, then heat a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a saucepan with some sage leaves or rosemary sprigs and a clove of garlic. When the garlic is golden and has given its flavour to the olive oil, pour the pureed beans or chickpeas into the saucepan. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for a few minutes then serve with a drizzling of olive oil.

Did you know?

Did you know that 69% of Great British Chefs readers, prefer to devise a recipe from ingredients in their store cupboard, whilst 3% choose a take-away and 6% would rather prepare a ready-made meal.

6. Farinata


This is a typical street food of Livorno and Pisa in Tuscany, though you can find similar recipes in Liguria, Nice, Lebanon and throughout the Mediterranean. It is a thin savoury cake, crisp on the outside and creamy inside, made just with chickpea flour and water, baked in a very hot oven until golden. Add sliced onions, courgettes, peppers, sun-dried tomatoes and fresh herbs and you’ll have a hearty, vegan and gluten-free dish.

7. Composta saporita


This spiced dried fruit compote from Siena is made with nuts and dried fruit such as prunes, apricots, apples and figs. I strongly recommend you stock up on ingredients like these because you can whip up a memorable dessert within minutes: a handful of nuts, a pinch of spice, some leftover white wine and a tablespoon of sugar is all you need. It is easy as that: cook for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquid becomes a sticky and dense amber golden syrup, glazing every piece of fruit.