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TOP TEN MUST HAVES FOR YOUR PANTRY

  1. Premium quality tomato sauce- Although you may be tempted by sauces that contain everything from assorted vegetables to cheese, make sure you have a jar of plain sauce on hand that you can customize.
  2. A variety of salts and peppercorns- quality sea salt is worth its' weight in gold, and was treated as such in the ancient world. Less is always more, and when it comes to flavor, natural salts like Salfiore di Romagna Pope's Sea Salt (Il Sale dei Papi),  Himalayan Pink or Celtic Grey a little goes a long way.  Whole peppercorns- black, green, red, and white - should always be freshly ground.  A quality peppermill will last years, and is worth every penny.
  3. Fresh wheat flour and fresh yeast- Nothing smells like a loaf of bread, fresh out of the oven.  When you use premium flour and fresh yeast, your breads, cakes and pastas will all taste better.
  4. Fresh Eggs- Yes, they have a shelf life, and Yes!  Brown naturally feed fed cage free hens do produce tastier eggs.
  5. Quality extra virgin olive oil - Look for 100% Italian olives, which must be stated plainly on the label. The first pressing of fresh olives is always the most flavorful.  Different regions will produce diversified tasting olive oils - from pungent and peppery, to light and sweet.  Don't be afraid to experiment.  There are incredible extra virgin olives oils from incredible regions from around Europe.
  6. Aged Balsamic vinegar - the older, the better.  With this little beauty, you can dress fruits and desserts, marinade chicken and finish fish.  The blending of sweet and tart add a whole new dimension to food.  Barrel aged to perfection!
  7. Fresh garlic - although there are wonderful dried garlics available, the oil emitted from a freshly pressed clove is head and shoulders above anything dried or processed.
  8. Oregano, parsley, chili powder, basil, and dill- if you're lucky enough to live where you can grow plants all year, then there's no excuse for not using fresh.  However, for those late nights and winter meals, premium dried herbs and spices will do the trick every time.  Freshness is important.  If you haven't finished it in a year, throw it out.
  9. 3 pounds of premium pasta- try different shapes, but keep the basic spaghetti, rigatoni and bow tie shapes on hand so you can doing anything from spaghetti with frozen artichoke hearts to cold seafood pasta salads.  Fancy frozen pastas are also great to keep in the freezer for times that you want to "upscale".
  10. Authentic aged Parmigiano Reggiano - the older the cheese the less salty and more smooth it will taste. Use it in omlettes and fritattas, along with soups, and vegetable sides. Chunks of Parmigiano with crusty bread and sun dried tomatoes, along with some cured black olives, and voila! you have lunch. 

If you keep these ingredients on hand at all times, I guarantee you'll be able to eat a great home cooked meal within a half hour!