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May 14, 2013

Tomato sauce (Recipe: one-one-one spaghetti sauce) {gluten-free}

First published in February 2008, this updated pantry ingredient post features new photos, links, and an important change to the recipe. I've been making a version of this sauce since my college days. Recently, I began adding one more "one" ingredient to make it even better, and eliminating one ingredient: the olive oil, which really isn't needed at all.

Spaghetti sauce made with one of everything, on The Perfect Pantry.

On the list of things without which my pantry feels incomplete, tomato sauce is somewhere in the middle.

I always have it, I always need it, I always use it. And yet, I'm not entirely sure what it is, and how it differs from the other canned, tubed, bottled, and boxed tomato products I always have, need, and use.

Right about now, you're probably adding up the number of tomato variations in your own pantry. Tomato paste? Chopped or diced tomatoes? Canned whole tomatoes? Maybe a jar or two of "emergency" prepared marinara sauce? Slow-roasted tomatoes in the freezer?

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February 19, 2013

Recipe for slow cooker chai-spiced pear sauce {vegan}

Slow cooker chai spiced pear sauce. Top it with ice cream for a fab dessert.

When I was a little girl, my maternal grandparents, the ones who owned a wholesale toy business (lucky me!), lived in a small brick rowhouse in Brooklyn. I loved two things about that house: the garage where my grandfather would park his car, leaving the trunk unlocked so we could paw through the toy samples on our Sunday visits; and the pear tree in the tiny back yard. I'm still partial to the pear sauce my grandmother used to make, with a just hint of cinnamon. Had she owned a slow cooker, I think Grandma might have liked this chai-spiced pear sauce, too. The warm spices (cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and cloves) transform pears, which are often a bit bland unless they are perfectly ripe, into a sophisticated version of the ultimate comfort food. On its own or topped with vanilla ice cream, this pear sauce makes a classy dessert or afterschool snack.

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October 2, 2012

Sake (Recipe: spicy pesto soba with chicken and snow peas)

First published in August 2007, this updated pantry ingredient post features new photos, links, and a few tweaks to the recipe. The spicy pesto in this dish calls for equal amounts of basil and mint, and it's a pesto you can use in many different ways, from scrambled eggs to tomato salad.

Spicy pesto soba, from The Perfect Pantry.

Accidents happen.

Blue cheese, vinegar, wine, yogurt, fish sauce, yeast breads, sake.

If modern government-regulated food storage requirements of today had been in place hundreds of years ago, we'd have none of these products, because all are the result of storage mishaps.

Thank goodness for accidents, for food left out of refrigeration too long, left in a barrel for too many months, left out in the sun or in a dark cellar, or carried through the desert in hot saddle bags on a camel's back.

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July 29, 2012

Tomato paste (Recipe: my own meat sauce)

First published in September 2006, this updated pantry ingredient post features new photos, links, and a few tweaks to the recipe. Please enjoy some fun facts about cooking with tomato paste, and the recipe for my "house special" meat sauce. In Rhode Island, we call it gravy, and we make it all year round.


My mother, like many "let's have TV dinners" cooks in the 1960s, made spaghetti sauce with Spatini, which I think was mostly a packet of salt mixed with a few flavor enhancers.

I don't blame her. After all, it was the Age of Convenience Foods, and my mother worked and didn't have a lot of time to cook. Her mother never cooked pasta, or made sauce, either, so my mother really didn't have a role model.

My own spaghetti role model was Patty, my freshman-year Italian-American roommate, who taught me to make her grandmother's sauce with canned tomatoes, onions, peppers, oregano and tomato paste. It was the perfect college meal; pasta was cheap, and the ingredients for sauce were cheap, too. And it was so easy to make the real thing.

Bye bye, Spatini.

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May 31, 2012

Recipe for kale pesto, tomato and fontina sandwich {vegetarian}

Kale pesto, tomato and fontina sandwich.

Uh-oh. I'd just planted seven basil plants in my herb garden, when my husband Ted, upon tasting this sandwich, proclaimed, "I like this pesto even better than basil pesto." What's a girl to do? Make an extra batch of kale pesto and stash it in the freezer, of course. Not only is it the flavor punch in this kale pesto, tomato and fontina sandwich, but also you'll love it as a topping for pasta, a filling for lasagne, or a slather for grilled chicken or beef. You'll probably think of 1,001 uses for kale pesto once you try it.

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Welcome to The Perfect Pantry®

  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my tiny kitchen in Boston's South End, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives. Thanks so much for visiting.

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