3 Ways to Improve your Pantry Pasta

A pantry pasta is always there for you. Even if you don’t particularly feel like cooking, you can make a satisfying dinner with a few basic ingredients on hand.

The formula is simple. Our favorite pantry pastas start with noodles, whatever alliums you have around (garlic, onions, and shallots are all invited to the party), and pretty much any green vegetable. Start with a little olive oil, salt, and red pepper flakes, and you’ve got an easy dinner ready to go. 

When we feel like transforming this dish into something special, we like to add a fun topping. These toppings bring in more texture and flavor. They can turn a humble weeknight dinner into a rustic main that could happily grace the table at a dinner party. 

pantry pasta with breadcrumbs
A simple pasta topped with breadcrumbs

The best part is, the fun doesn’t stop there. Once you’ve learned how to make these toppings you can use them to add flavor and oomph to salads, steaks, and roasted vegetables. Watch the video to see chef Lili Dagan demonstrate how it’s done, and find the topping recipes below. 

Three ways to take your pantry pasta to the next level 

Toasted breadcrumbs 

Garlicky breadcrumbs will add a spicy crunch to pasta, roasted cauliflower, or salads. Follow step three in the recipe above to learn how to make this simple topping at home. You can make this at home with flaky Panko breadcrumbs, or make your own bread crumbs by throwing some stale bread in the food processor. 

Fried herbs 

Fried herbs, nuts, and brown butter instantly bring rich fall flavors and a pleasant crunch to any dish. These topping pairs beautifully with pasta, but would also turn roasted squash into a stunning side. Our recipe starts with fried sage, but you could substitute sage for another hearty herb, like rosemary or thyme. 

Lemon caper compound butter

Compound butter can be made ahead of time and stored in the freezer. If you already have a batch chilled, adding it to pasta is as simple as slicing off a piece, melting it in a pan, and then tossing noodles to coat. If you don’t, you can mix up a batch as you’re making dinner, and then save the rest for your next steak dinner. Adding this lemon caper butter to noodles adds a silky text and a bright pop of lemon caper flavor. 

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