Build Comforting Meals from your Staples

Turn pasta, eggs, and frozen bread dough into savory, delicious dishes
Baked Penne alla Vodka


While we all hunker down at home, armed with staples in the pantry, fridge, and freezer, we also have more time to cook. Some ingredients you may plan to gather probably include dried pasta, canned tomatoes and sauce, and eggs as well as some onions, garlic, olive oil, and other pantry staples. From these you can make a number of meals including this Baked Penne alla Vodka and Shakshuka with Eggs and Feta. Plus, frozen bread or roll dough is a secret weapon to have on hand so you can build your own pizza and Stromboli.

If these recipes, which appeared in Real Food, include an ingredient you don’t have on hand, they have easy substitutions. For instance, for the prosciutto in the baked penne dish, you can substitute ham or Italian sausage or whatever sounds good—or go vegetarian. The grocery stores are remaining there for us, however, and are doing their best to stock their shelves. As you shop, please buy responsibly as even with a stay-in-place order, grocery stores will still have operating hours

Is there a favorite recipe you have made recently from staples you had on hand? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below. Take care and happy cooking!


If you have the beloved pasta staple on hand, you can make many dishes including this pasta bake, which elevates the usual casserole in rich flavor with a splash of vodka.

Baked Penne alla Vodka

Makes 6 Servings

This pasta bake has everything you want: creamy red sauce (left a little chunky for a satisfyingly meaty tomato texture), al dente penne (it cooks right in the oven, in its sauce), and a crispy, delicate layer of prosciutto hovering on top for an impressive finish, says Faith Durand, the author of this recipe, cookbook author, and executive editor of TheKitchn.

16 ounces uncooked penne pasta
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 garlic cloves, roughly minced
2 (28-ounce) cans of diced tomatoes with their juices
½ cup vodka
2 cups cream
2 teaspoons salt
freshly ground black pepper
1¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
4 ounces prosciutto, cut with scissors into rough pieces or strips
olive oil
finely chopped Italian parsley, to garnish

  1. Heat the oven to 400°F and grease a 9×13-inch baking dish with baking spray or olive oil. Spread the penne in the dish.
  2. Melt the butter in a deep sauté pan or 4-quart pot and cook the garlic over low heat until fragrant and soft, about 3 minutes. Pour in the tomatoes with their juices and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the vodka and cook for another 2 minutes.
  3. Whisk in the cream and bring back to a simmer. Cook for 1 minute then remove from the heat. Whisk in the salt and a generous quantity of black pepper, along with 1 cup of Parmesan cheese.
  4. Pour the sauce over the penne and stir. Cover the baking dish tightly with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and turn the oven to broil. Cover the top of the pasta dish with the cut strips of prosciutto and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Broil for 5 minutes or until the prosciutto is crisp.
  5. Top with the remaining ¼ cup Parmesan and Italian parsley to garnish. Serve immediately.

Plus, check out these pasta recipes I have highlighted here:


If you have eggs on hand, you have a multitude of things you can make, from a simple hard boiled egg to egg salad, omelets, and of course, baked treats. Plus, a great way to shake up your dinner routine is to transform traditional breakfast dishes into surprising and delicious evening meals.

Shakshuka with Eggs and Feta


Shakshuka with Eggs and Feta

Makes 4 Servings

Shakshuka is a vibrant stew of sweet peppers and tomatoes with eggs poached directly on top, and it makes a soulful and filling one-pot supper. This version includes a bit of melted feta for creamy richness, too, says cookbook author and instructor Molly Stevens, who created this recipe. Be sure to serve good bread or toast for mopping up the flavorful juices. A salad of mixed greens also makes a refreshing complement.

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 pinches kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste
2 large bell peppers, preferably one red and one orange or yellow, cored, seeded, and cut into ¼-inch thick strips
3 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 teaspoons sweet or smoked paprika
¼ to ½ teaspoon hot pepper flakes, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 (28-ounce) can diced or crushed tomatoes, with their liquid
4 ounces feta, crumbled
4 to 8 eggs (see Cook’s Notes)
toast or crusty bread, to serve

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet with a lid over medium-high heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt, and sauté, stirring frequently, until softened and golden, about 6 minutes. Add bell peppers and another pinch of salt, and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the peppers are well collapsed, another 6 minutes or so. Stir in the garlic, tomato paste, paprika, pepper flakes, and several grinds of black pepper, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, and stir to combine. Adjust the heat to a gentle simmer, and cook until the sauce is thickened, about 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning.
  2. Set the skillet over medium-low heat. Using the back of a spoon, make little depressions in the surface of the sauce to accommodate as many eggs as you’re cooking. One by one, crack the eggs directly into the indentations. With the tines of a fork, drag some of the egg whites into the surrounding sauce, without breaking the yolks (this helps the whites cook through before the yolks set (see Cook’s Notes). Season each egg with salt and pepper, and scatter the feta over top. Cover the skillet and simmer very gently until the whites are set and the yolks remain soft, 8 to 10 minutes. If the whites don’t appear to be cooking, spoon some of the sauce over top.
  3. Remove the skillet from the heat, and let sit, covered, for 2 to 3 minutes. Use a large serving spoon or spatula to scoop the sauce and eggs onto individual plates. Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over top, and serve hot with toast or crusty bread.

Cook’s Notes:

  • Figure the number of eggs according to the appetites around your table, counting 1 or 2 eggs per person accordingly. Traditionally, the eggs are cooked until the whites are just set and the yolks left runny. If you prefer a longer-cooked egg, simply break the yolks in Step 2 when directed to drag some of the white through the sauce, and mingle the whole egg with the simmering sauce. This will ensure fully cooked whites and yolks.
  • For a meatier version, start by pan-frying ½ pound of spicy sausage (preferably lamb, casings removed) in the skillet until cooked through. Set aside on paper towels to drain, and proceed with the recipe as directed, leaving the sausage drippings in the skillet. Just before poaching the eggs, stir the cooked sausage into the sauce.

Plus, try more recipes with eggs:

Frozen Dough

With ready-made dough, you can easily get a jump on making pizza and more at home. The fastest pizza dough at your fingertips is in the form of frozen roll dough, says Twin Cities chef and cookbook author Robin Asbell. The dough comes in two sizes, dinner roll (1¼ ounces each) or Texas roll (2 ounces each), which you can press together to make any size pizza or calzone. This makes it easy to count out as much dough as you need, and the small pieces thaw in the refrigerator within eight hours or in less than an hour at room temperature. Check out these recipes:

Deep Dish Sausage and Mushroom Pie: This recipe is a stuffed-crust, deep-dish pie, the kind New Yorkers may refuse to call “pizza.” With a dense mushroom and sausage filling and a top crust crowned with pizza sauce and cheese, this is almost a double-decker pizza, says Asbell. Your frozen dough will make quick work of it, and the buns will thaw in the time it takes to make the filling and open a bottle of red wine.

Sausage and Asiago Stromboli: Stromboli is cheeses piled on a square of pizza dough and rolled up, and with frozen dough, this impressive treat becomes easy. In this variation, just thaw a loaf of frozen bread dough in the refrigerator, and then pat it out and cover with sautéed mushrooms, sausage, Asiago cheese, and parsley.

Nutrition info (per serving):

  • Shakshuka: Calories 342 (198 From Fat); Fat 22g (Sat. 7g); Chol 212mg; Sodium 767mg; Carb 23g; Fiber 7g; Protein 15g
  • Baked Penne Alla Vodka: Calories 820 (380 From Fat); Fat 43g (Sat. 25g); Chol 135mg; Sodium 1701mg; Carb 78g; Fiber 9g; Protein 28g

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Mary Subialka is the editor of Real Food and Drinks magazines, covering the flavorful world of food, wine and spirits. She rarely meets a chicken she doesn’t like, and hopes that her school-age son, who used to eat beets and Indian food, will one day again think of real food as more than a means to a treat—and later share this with his younger brother.