Want to know how to instantly add flavor to any dish? Or make a last-minute meal without going to the grocery store? Real Simple’s food editor shares some essentials that are just as important as olive oil.
Jarred Marinara Sauce
Sure, it’s great for pasta. I also like to pour it into a small pan, and top with eggs and cheese for breakfast or dinner. If you add kale to that mixture, you have shakshuka. If you’re like me and keep frozen pizza dough on hand at all times, just add cheese.
To buy: Rao’s homemade marinara sauce ($12, jet.com).
Last-minute pasta dinners feel far more gourmet when they involve, say, Cavatelli, Reginetti, or Rigatoni—rather than spaghetti or Penne. Toss in butter and lemon juice, and then shave some Parmesan on top for a quick meal that feels restaurant-quality.
To buy: Sfoglini organic reginetti ($16 for two bags, food52.com).
Old Fashioned Rolled Oats
A container of these makes a quick, hearty breakfast. I love a savory oatmeal bowl topped with cheddar and scallions or a fried egg and avocado. Also a healthy alternative to breadcrumbs, old fashioned rolled oats are a delicious way to crust fish or chicken cutlets.
To buy: Bob’s Red Mill old fashioned whole grains rolled oats ($3 for a 16 ounce package, iherb.com).
Tuna Fillets Packed in Olive Oil
The best supermarket tuna comes in glass jars, not cans. The long, juicy filets packed in oil are delicious flaked on top of salads, pastas, or opened faced sandwiches (no mayo necessary).
To buy: Tonnino tuna filets with oregano in olive oil ($7.50, soap.com).
Chipotles in Adobo
Dried jalapeÃ±os that are rehydrated in a sweet-tangy puree of tomato, vinegar, garlic, and spices, make for the ultimate flavor bomb. Perfect for bolstering flavor in soups, stews, sauces, braises, and glazes.
To buy: Goya chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (available at grocery stores and amazon.com).
Tabasco and Frank’s Red Hot sauce both deliver heat and salty-vinegar flavor—ideal for drizzling on eggs and sandwiches, or mixing into salad dressing and BBQ sauce. The possibilities are endless.
To buy: Frank’s RedHot original red hot sauce ($3, target.com).
A dash of this sauce adds salty umami flavor to any food. My favorite thing to do is toss ½ teaspoon of it with kale or chard, then sautÃ© the greens on the stove quickly, and finish them off with toasted sesame seeds. It’s delicious sprinkled over any roasted vegetable, and can even be used as a glaze for meat (last Thanksgiving, I made this soy sauce glazed turkey).
To buy: Kikkoman naturally brewed less sodium soy sauce ($3, webstaurantstore.com and amazon.com).
Jarred Marinated Artichokes
Sometimes it’s a pain to cook and cut up a whole artichoke, not to mention that they have an incredibly short season.
To buy: Roland premium artichoke hearts in water (available in grocery stores).
Organic Popcorn Kernels
Large Bittersweet Chocolate Chips
Useful in most baked goods, chocolate chips can also be blended into smoothies or melted and smeared on a buttered, salted baguette. I prefer using chocolate chips shaped like discs (sometimes called fÃ©ves). They provide more chocolate per bite in baked goods. Plus, unlike other chocolate chips, they’re not waxy—and melt into a silky-smooth consistency.
To buy: Guittard Chocolate Company organic bittersweet chocolate baking wafers ($12, surlatable.com).