How to make an all-pantry meal in 20 minutes

September 25, 2013

OneHungryMama pasta w tuna and chickpeas

I was going to post something else today, but I’ve shifted things around to share last night’s dinner. It’s not the prettiest meal I’ve ever made, but it is wholesome, healthy, and took 20 minutes to cook. I also used only ingredients from my pantry and freezer, and everyone like it.

Last week was crazy, then we went away for the weekend. By the time I returned home on Sunday night, I had no meal plan, no food in the house, and a busy week of work ahead. Ever been there? I’m thinking that you have, which is why I’ve interrupted our regular programming to bring you this service announcement:

A thoughtfully stocked pantry will SAVE you.

Maybe you’ve heard this message before. Maybe it doesn’t seem like much of a revelation. But I’ll tell you this: when you’re able to whip up a tasty dinner like this one with a protein-rich pasta and side veggie, you’ll feel pretty amazed.

Since I want you to be amazed by yourself and your cooking skills, let’s break down last night’s dinner, Pasta with Tuna and Chickpeas with Butter Sautéed Artichokes and Peas:

  • I started with pasta, as I always do when I need a quick-cook pantry meal.
  • Without any fresh veggies in the fridge, I struggled with how to make my pasta vegetarian without doing the same old buttered pasta with peas.
  • I put thinking about veggies on hold.
  • I moved on to chickpeas for protein. Tuna immediately came to mind. Tuna and chickpeas are often paired in rustic Italian cooking and I was making pasta, after all. I grabbed my Bumble Bee Prime Fillet Tonno in Olive Oil. I’m obsessed with it.
  • Then I found myself at a crossroad. I could go with a caper, lemon and olive oil type sauce or break out a can of diced tomatoes. Since I didn’t have any lemons, the decision was easy.
  • At first I grabbed plain diced tomatoes, but I quickly changed my mind opting for some Muir Glen Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes instead. A risk? Maybe a little, but it paid off. (And even if it didn’t, pantry meals give you good opportunity to experiment.)
  • With my pasta composed—chickpeas, oil packed tuna and diced tomatoes—I went back to thinking about veggies. More specifically, I went back to thinking about frozen peas since they were pretty much the only option.
  • I could have just thrown them in the pasta, too, but a quick scan of my pantry drew my attention to a can of artichoke bottoms. Perfect!
  • I quickly diced and sautéed the drained artichoke bottoms in butter along with the peas. Not having lemon was a bummer, but I made myself feel better with hearty sprinkles of salt and Parmesan.

And that was that. Dinner served.

Check out more specific cooking instructions for the pasta below. (The veg really was just a quick butter sauté—nothing more to it.) You can also check your pantry against my How to Stock Your Pantry checklists:

* How to Stock Your Pantry: Canned & Jarred Staples

* How to Stock Your Pantry: Rice, Grains and Pasta

My checklist for what to keep in your fridge and freezer is coming soon but, in the meantime, always have a bag of frozen peas on hand and tell me:

What’s your best quick, all-pantry meal?

Quickest Pantry Pasta with Chickpeas and Tuna
(Can be adapted for kids 6+ mos)*
Serves 4

1 lb favorite cut pasta, such as penne
1 tablespoon salt, plus more to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, such as Muir Glen Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes
1-2 5-ounce cans olive oil packed tuna, such as BumbleBee Tonno in Olive Oil

1. Bring one gallon of water seasoned with 1 tablespoon of salt to a boil. Add pasta, stir, then begin measuring cooking time; cook pasta 2-3 minutes fewer than indicated on the package. Drain pasta saving 1/2 cup of cooking water. Do not rinse the pasta; set aside.

2. In the same pot that you used to cook the pasta, heat olive oil and butter over medium flame. Add chickpeas and tomatoes, along with any juice in the can. Stir and allow to warm through, about 2 minutes. Return pasta to pot, along with reserved cooking water. Toss to coat pasta and continue cooking until tomatoes and cooking water thicken into a light sauce; it should be enough just to coat the pasta and bottom of the pot.

3. Remove pot from heat and add tuna—one can if you want the dish to be light on fish, two cans if you want more. Finish with a healthy glug of olive oil and hearty seasoning of salt. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve warm.

*Note: This is an easy dish to share with eaters as young as 6 months old. Just pull out whatever you want to share with them—chickpeas, chickpeas and tuna, pasta and tuna, everything—and pulse or chop into an age appropriate consistency.

3 Responses

  1. I love this! Your thought process is eerily like mine when I open up the panty and am unsure what to make. Pasta, rice, or tacos are the first these choices.

    I am obsessed with the Muir Glen fire roasted tomatoes. They are so tasty.

  2. Rosie says:

    I’m always stumped on the veggie side and yet never think to pull out the bag of frozen peas, a given in my freezer along with corn kernels, or look in my pantry for the always present, jar of artichoke hearts-DOH! Great idea-thank you.

  3. I know, @Rosie – it takes some getting used to since, of course, fresh veggies are always preferred. But some nights, you do what you gotta do and veggies are veggies. Prepared properly, frozen peas and corn (and some other veggies) and canned or jarred artichokes can be delicious! Glad this helped!

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