When Williams Sonoma Test Kitchen Director and Italian food lover Belle English gets ready for a pasta dinner, she approaches the task like many of you. She sees what’s in her pantry and crafts a dish from the ingredients she has on hand. Lucky for us, her pasta recipes feature many of the same items (canned chickpeas, broth, sun-dried tomatoes!) that linger on our own shelves. Consider it a spring cleaning… that tastes delicious!
Carbonara is just as much a feeling or an experience as it is an exact recipe. In the same way that sometimes you crave bacon and eggs for breakfast, sometimes you crave them for dinner, with noodles! This recipe plays with the formula in the very best way. Though it calls for butternut squash, the “whatever-ya-gotta” approach means it can include all sorts of vegetables. Consider replacing the squash with any other type of squash, 2 cups of chopped yellow onions, 3 cups of diced mushrooms, 2 cups of chopped asparagus or 3 cups of small cauliflower florets. Or you can swap in whatever else you have on hand.
Belle fondly remembers eating this comforting dish—her mother’s original invention—when she was a child. Fried chickpeas form its unctuous base. Those get a top layer of thyme, Parmesan and lemon. Pasta is folded in just before serving along with bright lemon zest. Paccheri, which comes in both smooth and ridged versions, is a large tubular pasta popular in southern Italy, but rigatoni, penne or ziti would work equally well.
Who hasn’t had greens on the verge of going bad clamoring for attention from the crisper? Pesto traditionally employs fresh basil, but nearly any tender herbs can be used, as well as any greens like spinach, arugula, baby kale or chard. Same goes for nuts: Swap out traditional pine nuts for toasted almonds, pistachios or walnuts! This is simply a great recipe for using up any leftovers that are on the verge of wilting in the fridge. Perhaps a cilantro-baby spinach-Macadamia nut pesto will be your new favorite! (If you want to make or purchase fresh pasta, substitute 1 to 1 1/4 lb. fresh pasta for the dried version.)
Repeat after us: Tell your guests there are anchovies in there after they rave about it. They dissolve in olive oil in the early stages of this super-simple pantry dish. Sun-dried tomatoes, olives and capers simmer in olive oil together, then mingle with their buddies oregano and red pepper flakes. In goes the happy pasta of choice. Prefer a tomato-based pasta sauce? No problem: Add three 14 1/2-oz (455-g) cans of canned tomatoes to the sauce after adding the oregano, red pepper flakes and drizzle of olive oil. Bring the tomato mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover and cook until reduced slightly. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then follow the rest of the recipe as written. As weeknight friendly as it gets!
When it comes to beloved pasta recipes, it’s tough to beat mac and cheese. The one Belle grew up eating always had peas in it, and it inspired this easy, kid-friendly recipe. It’s sort of a cousin to carbonara, which mean the grown-ups will love it, too. Crispy bacon makes a cameo, as do Gruyère, Parmesan, heavy cream, garlic and shallots. And it’s OK to let the kid dictate the type of noodle (as they are wont to do). This recipe works as well with fusilli as it does macaroni. , Don’t have half-and-half? No worries. Use heavy cream instead, stirring in a little of the pasta cooking water to the finished dish to thin out the sauce a little, if you like. There are many roads to pantry pasta nirvana, and we know you’re gonna be great.