In the introduction to her second cookbook, The Art of the Pantry: Save Time and Money with 150 Delicious Meals Using Everyday Ingredients, Claire Thomson writes: “A well-stocked kitchen needn’t mean piles of expensive and esoteric ingredients (here lies waste and all sorts of culinary trouble), but crucial, necessary items that will make day-to-day cooking easier. Know what you have on your shelves and use any dried pasta and noodle packets within one month of opening, as they can become brittle, cooking unevenly, if stored for too long.
If cooking well is about fostering a balance between making fast food from scratch and crafting dishes of subtlety and sustenance, pasta and noodles support a kitchen and its cooks in a way that very few other ingredients are capable of.”
It’s almost love at first sight when you find a cookbook whose author is nudging, or rather, applauding when you reach for a box of dry pasta. And so, it’s a joyous moment when you get to her minimalist pantry basics list, which includes dried pasta e.g. spaghetti or linguine (long and thin), tagliatelle, fettuccine or pappardelle (long and flat), penne, conchiglie or orecchiette (short and shapely), orzo, and ditalini or tripolini (tiny), and noodles e.g. rice noodles, wheat noodles, mung or starch noodles, and buckwheat/soba noodles.
The photography and drawings are beautiful and serene. The recipes well laid out, and easy to follow. And what follows are some of the most basic, and yet, necessary recipes like spaghetti with pecorino and black pepper. This isn’t just dorm food. The pecorino cheese elevates this super quick dish into a crowd pleaser. There’s a leek vinaigrette because everyone needs to have, at minimum, one go-to exceptional vinaigrette. And for those of us who may want to tiptoe towards extravagant treats, there’s a blackberry, rose water and pistachio freezer cake to aspire to!
If you know someone who is living away from home for the first time, or someone who’s intimidated in the kitchen, or you yourself are looking for some simple, new-to-you recipes, The Art of the Pantry, is a book you’ll get a lot of joy from. Thomson’s ode to the marriage of simple pantry staples and simple fresh produce is a book every kitchen needs.
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Photo by fshnextension