I absolutely love to cook, and here are my top essentials I always keep on hand because I use them so much:
Olive Oil is my top staple that I always keep in my kitchen. I use it in so many things, that I go through a lot of it. Olive Oil gives most things a great flavor, and it is much healthier than using butter. If you are saving an expensive bottle of Olive Oil only for special occasion, but aware that once you open the bottle it only lasts several months at the most.
Chicken Broth is another essential pantry item I keep in my kitchen. I do like to make my own on occasion, but sometimes I do not have the time. Regardless of whether or not you use Beef Broth, Chicken Broth or Veggie Broth, it is nice to have around. It can be used for so many things such as soups, rice dishes, braising meat, sauces and so much more.
I keep minced garlic in a jar in my refrigerator just in case I don’t happen to have any fresh garlic in the house. Fresh garlic is always better, but minced garlic in a jar is better than not having any garlic at all. As an Italian, I tend to use garlic in just about everything, and it’s very healthy for you.
I love finding new flavored vinegar’s to keep in my pantry. I like to play around with making my own salad dressings. Vinegar can also be used in homemade marinades for meat or sauces. I use balsamic vinegar the most, but I also love the champagne vinegar from Trader Joes that I really love.
Dijon mustard can be used for so many different things such as salad dressings, marinades, dipping sauces, etc. I have used Dijon mustard on filet roasts, salmon, chicken, and pork roasts. Of course, I mix it with other things as well. I have experimented over the years, so I have learned what taste best and what does not. One that I really like is Dijon mustard and brown sugar on salmon. I am not a huge salmon fan, but I do really like it that way.
When I don’t have fresh herbs, I like to have dried herbs to flavor the foods I make. Top herbs that I find useful are: Thyme, Oregano, Cayenne Pepper, Nutmeg, Dried Mustard and Italian Seasoning.
Canned Tomatoes/Fresh Tomatoes/Tomato Puree
I cook a lot of pasta, so I always have these three things in my kitchen. Tomatoes or puree can also be used for so much more like homemade salsa, Mexican rice as well as other rice dishes, etc.
I always keep pasta and rice on hand. If I am in a hurry and don’t really have time to plan a meal, I know that I can pretty quickly make a pasta dish, rice dish or casserole.