I have a roster of pasta dishes that like to call on when I’m facing the perfect storm of culinary crises: I’m hungry, it’s late, and the refrigerator looks bare. For these occasions, I’ve developed a little system. I always make sure to have a few staples on hand in the pantry, refrigerator, and freezer—things that will stay good almost indefinitely, are intensely flavorful, and quick to cook. I’ve found that by tossing a few of these ingredients together, I can get a wonderful pasta dinner on the table in little more than the time it takes to boil water.
This approach does involve planning ahead. I use each visit to the market as an opportunity to prepare for the unexpected, stocking up on some of my favorite canned and jarred ingredients as well as some pasta, of course. Items like capers, olives, roasted red peppers, wedges of good aged cheese, and slices of bacon or pancetta will all hold in the pantry or refrigerator for several weeks.
When you’ve strategically stocked your kitchen with staples like canned beans, chicken broth, olives and cheeses, a pasta dinner is never further away.