Rice, potatoes, and pasta. Rice and pasta keep pretty much indefinitely in your pantry. The bonus of all three is that they are cheap and easy to prepare as the base for a meal. They are also easy to screw up.
Rice you boil/steam. If you are going to use your stove top add a cup of white rice and two cups of water into your pot, bring to a boil, cover with the lid and lower temperature to simmer. Set a timer for 20 minutes, and presto you have white rice. After 20 minutes, remove from heat, open the lid, and drizzle a little white vinegar (or rice wine vinegar) and salt on the rise, fluff with a spoon or fork to distribute the salt and vinegar. Later on I’ll cover basic stir fry as a technique for a quick meal and the white rice will really come in handy.
Potatoes either boil, roast, or pan fry. Since I didn’t include a potato masher in the essentials, the fanciest way (visually) to prepare a potato is to “tourne” them. If you want to get fancy with the prep, by all means google the technique and have at it. But since I prefer my potatoes a bit more “rustic” I simply scrub them clean with a brillo pad under running water. I recommend cutting into rough squares, seasoning with salt, pepper, rosemary, and a lightly covering with olive oil, then baking in the oven at 425 for 40 minutes or so.
Pasta you boil, or you bake in a casserole. Since I’m talking mainly about long shelf life pasta this ignores stuffed pasta like ravioli or tortellini, and focuses on spaghetti, fettuccine, and other dried pasta (angel hair, penne, butterfly, rice noodle, etc). Use a lot of water, salt it generously, and once done strain the pasta and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking action. It’s nice to serve the pasta separate from the sauce so you guests can assemble their own. If you want a “no boil” baked spaghetti recipe, take a 24 ounce jar of pasta sauce, 24 ounces water, put a 16 ounce package of spaghetti noodles into a 13×9 inch baking dish, and pour the sauce and water over top. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake at 425 for 30 minutes. Remove foil, stir the dish well, add cheese and bake for another 10 minutes to get a good crust.
Comments are open for suggestions.