Thursday, October 24, 2013

Pantry Essentials and a Recipe (Day 24)

#31days of Missional Meals

For most of my life I lived in two separate worlds: private and public. As a child, family came and went in a nearly constant slamming of screen doors, but outsiders rarely knocked.  My first years on my own were spent working like a dog and filling my spare hours with textbooks not dinner parties. Even when I finally had the perfect nuclear family I rarely threw open the shudders and invited the world in. I spent the first 25 years of my life telling myself this was normal. I was just a private person, an introvert. I didn’t need to throw open the screen door and let the world into my safe place. 

And then, after divorce and other failures blew a huge hole in my carefully constructed fortress, I started to figure out what you might already know if you’ve been following Joy’s advice all month long: a good meal with someone who cares can heal an awful lot of wounds.

The first few years after my divorce, I spent many nights sitting around the dinner tables of caring friends: A middle-aged couple whose cupboards are always stocked with nice wine and strong cheese; my best friend’s loud Italian family where at least 20 varieties of pasta could always be found in the pantry; and saddled up to a barstool with an aging bachelor buddy who could always be counted on for a drawer full of good beer and an evening of even better conversation. All these varying personalities have one thing in common: their pantries are prepared for conversation.

These days, after learning from my more open friends, my kitchen is always ready. Every Sunday evening neighbors, friends, and family wander onto our back porch and join in our culinary adventures.  Sometimes we are few and sometimes many. I rarely know which in advance. With a stocked pantry and a little imagination I can feed 12 as easily as 2.

The key to a memorable meal is planned spontaneity. This is only possible when you’re pantry is always stocked with staples. A great meal can always be made from a few of the ingredients on this Pantry Essentials Checklist. Most are probably already in your cupboards, but if not, add two or three to your grocery list each week until your pantry is full. Then throw open your screen door and whip up this simple recipe for a crowd-pleasing pasta dish. 

Tuna  Puttanesca Pasta

All of the ingredients for this pleasing pasta are kitchen staples that you should always keep on hand. Double or even triple the recipe to feed a crowd. Now you’ll never be unprepared for company again!


1 lb Penne Pasta
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cans tuna in olive oil, drained well
6-8 cloves garlic, chopped
½ to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ cup Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
1 Tablespoon capers
½ cup white wine (or chicken stock if you don’t want to use alcohol)
1 28-ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes
Salt and fresh black pepper, to taste

1. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Salt the water and add pasta. Cook until al dente.
2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes.    
    Cook until fragrant (about a minute).
3. Add the tuna, olives, and capers. Cook two minutes more.
4. Add the wine. Stir and cook until reduced a bit.
5. Add the tomatoes and cook until heated through.
6. Add ¼ cup of the pasta water to your sauce. Drain the pasta.
7. Mix pasta with the sauce. Serve with crusty bread and a salad for a complete meal.

Serves 4-6

Cook Time 12 minutes

Renia Carsillo shares her recipes for life, love, and dinner at Renia is currently working on her 2nd book. Read all about it on Kickstarter. In all she does, Renia is working to help women find their most delicious selves. When not cooking or writing, she can be found at the park in her pink laces, running off all that olive oil and good wine!

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