Simple Provisions

Food does not need to be fancy to be celebrated

Summer Pasta From The Pantry

The key to simple, quick and delicious meals is a well-stocked pantry. If you’ve got the basics of a meal already in the cupboard, you can spend less time running up and down the supermarket aisles and more time picking the best of the fresh ingredients on offer.

Many of my favourite cookbooks start with a chapter on what to store in the larder. Mark Bittman advises that “cooking at home becomes exponentially easier, faster, and more spontaneous when you have basic foods at arm’s reach.”

However there’s a fine balance between stocking up on essentials and hoarding little bits in bags. I try to keep my pantry stocked with my most used ingredients, though a jar of exotic spice or a specialist Asian sauce has been known to sneak in.

Nigel Slater has a cramped London kitchen (I empathise) and notes that “cupboard space is at a premium. My store cupboard is lean and restricted to essentials rather than groaning with all manner of ‘things that may just come in useful’.”

Nigel notes that if he had to whittle down his pantry to three ingredients to take on a desert island, he’d choose lemons, olive oil and Parmesan cheese. If he and I wash up on the same island, he’d have my dried pasta, capers and parsley and we’d be able to make a version of this dish (with the tuna we catch from the sea).

Many of the ingredients required for this recipe are already in your pantry, or they should be.

Summer Pasta From The Pantry

Summer Pasta From The Pantry

Salted capers are handy whenever fish and white wine are on the menu, as is parsley. I always have garlic and mustard on hand for salad dressings and my Tins-of-Things shelf usually has either tuna or salmon in stock alongside white beans and chickpeas.

Do you hate anchovies? I used to, but I’ve come around to their salty ways, and they now live in my fridge ready for pasta or just as they are on a cracker. When choosing your tinned tuna get it tinned in olive oil. It may be a bit more expensive but you’ll be using the oil in this dish, so it’s worth making sure it’s good.

Are these ingredients already in your store cupboard? What would your three desert island ingredients be?

Summer Pasta From The Pantry (Tuna and Lemon Orecchiette) 

Serves 4

Prep the sauce while you boil your water and cook your pasta, and you’ll be done in 30 minutes.


  • 1 1/2 tbs salted capers, rinsed, drained
  • 1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1 cup basil leaves
  • 1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
  • 2 anchovy fillets in oil, drained
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon (reserve some for presentation)
  • 425g can tuna in oil, drained, oil reserved


Cook the pasta according to packet directions.

Place herbs, garlic, anchovies, Dijon, lemon zest and juice, and 2 tsp capers in a processor and whiz until roughly chopped. With the motor running, drizzle in tuna oil until a coarse paste forms, like pesto.

Stir the paste through the pasta. Flake the tuna, then add to the pasta with the remaining capers and toss to combine. Load it all up onto a big plate and serve family-style with lemon zest and parsley leaves sprinkled over the top.

(Recipe from Delicious magazine, May 2011) 

Cook books

Check the often-skipped-over front of your favourite cookbooks for advice on what to stock in your pantry.

16 thoughts on “Summer Pasta From the Pantry

  1. Yum. My favorite of Bittman’s books is his Kitchen Express — written around what you have in your cupboard or fridge seasonally. (delighted to have found your blog!)

    1. Amelia says:

      Me too! How To Cook Everything is great when I come home from the market with a weird vegetable I have no idea what to do with, but Kitchen Express is a great Tuesday night cookbook. Thanks so much for stopping by.

  2. Emily says:

    I really like this recipe, it looks so light and perfect on a warm summer day… however I’m little scared of the anchovies, I’ve never been able to get on board with them. I might try something else in their place.

    1. Amelia says:

      Yes, they are a polarising fish! You either love them or hate them. They get mushed up good and proper in this recipe, just adding the salty fish flavour to the sauce. But I hear you – not everyone likes them. You could leave them out and just add salt to the sauce.

  3. sybaritica says:

    I love how the Orecchiette holds the sauce. I’ve never used it before.

    1. Amelia says:

      Yes, it’s really good for holding pesto-like sauces. I found it in a box in the supermarket next to other ‘normal’ dried pastas, so maybe us non-Italians are catching on to this great shape.

  4. Leah says:

    great flavours together, nice and fresh.

  5. Louisa says:

    Just found your blog and I reckon it’s good. I’ve never had mustard in pasta before! Sounds interesting. In response to the the desert island question, I’d have to say lemons, nuts(all of them!) and olive oil. I’m not sure what I could make with just these, I’d have to get creative!

    1. Amelia says:

      Could you bring some of the cultured butter from your blog too please? Looks delicious.

  6. Your eye for styling is marvelous.

    1. Amelia says:

      Thanks Valerie, that’s very nice of you to say.

  7. simplesustenance says:

    This pasta looks very flavorful and delicious. Pictures are gorgeous too.

  8. thelifeofjodielouise says:

    I love that you hold the same view as me and my mum about a well-stocked pantry! Nothing better than feeling the need to cook and being able to whip up almost anything in an instant…..gorgeous pasta too!

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