5 Weeknight Dinners Featuring Dry Pantry Ingredients

(Image credit: Melissa Ryan)

I recently moved into a new house, and with it came an amazing floor-to-ceiling pantry. Unlike my last apartment — where I ended up squirreling away extra Costco purchases in the coat closet — everything is all neatly in one place, and my organization-loving brain is at ease. Seeing everything together keeps me on my toes and reminds me of ingredients that should be used up. This week, we are using the ingredients lurking in your cabinet and transforming them into meals you won’t believe came from the depths of the pantry.

(Image credit: Melissa Ryan)

The Glories of the Dry Pantry

You’ve probably heard it time and time again that a well-stocked pantry is a lifesaver. No disagreement from me, although my problem is that I sometimes have too many things in there. There’s probably a half-empty box of lasagna noodles, cans of tomatoes from the last supermarket sale, and spices. Oh, so many spices!

Winter is the perfect time to take stock of what you have in your dry pantry and start using things up, since the selection of fresh fruits and vegetables dwindles so much that cooking inspiration needs to come from elsewhere. Time to put the dry pantry to use and get dinner on the table.

This Week’s Dry Pantry Recipes

Pantry ingredients, while certainly convenient, still rely on some fresh food to round things out, so this week’s meal plan requires a few vegetables, some meat, and some cheese. Pasta is used in a comforting tuna-orzo one-pot meal, a skillet lasagna that uses only six ingredients, and a no-bake casserole with canned tomatoes and chicken. A big head of cauliflower is the base for a vegan soup flavored with coconut milk, and a tube of cooked polenta is turned into melty gluten-free grilled cheese sandwiches.

A lot of these recipes also yield plenty of leftovers, hopefully solving any work-lunch dilemmas. Time to break out the can opener!

(Image credit: Melissa Ryan)

5 Weeknight Dinners from the Dry Pantry






The Recipes

Your Meal Plan

Things to Prep on Sunday

  • Cut the onion and broccoli for the orzo casserole.
  • Toast the cashews for the cauliflower soup.
  • Cook the chicken for the pasta bake.


  • Make the orzo casserole.


  • Make the skillet lasagna.
  • Make the slaw while the lasagna is cooking.


  • Make the soup.
  • Warm the pita bread while the soup is simmering.


  • Get the pasta into the oven.
  • Make the topping while the pasta is baking.


  • Start baking the polenta rounds. Heat up the marinara sauce.
  • While the polenta is baking, prepare the salad.
  • Toss the salad while the grilled cheeses are cooling off.
(Image credit: Melissa Ryan)

Your Shopping List

This list of ingredients does not include the optional side dishes. To find those ingredients, click through to the recipe.

To buy at the store:

  • Fresh Mexican chorizo (8 ounces)
  • Chicken breast, cooked or uncooked (8 ounces)
  • Broccoli crown (12 ounces)
  • Cauliflower (1 large head, about 2 pounds)
  • Fresh parsley (1/4 cup, optional for the soup)
  • Fresh cilantro (optional, for garnishing the lasagna)
  • Fresh herbs, such as basil, thyme, and sage (1/2 cup)
  • Fresh salsa (3 cups or 24 ounces)
  • Sharp cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese (4 ounces)
  • Shredded Monterey Jack or Mexican blend cheese (1 1/2 cups)
  • Mozzarella, or a mix of mozzarella and provolone cheese (2 cups shredded)
  • Parmesan cheese, grated (1/4 cup)
  • Parmesan cheese, shredded (1 cup)
  • Cooked polenta (24-ounce tube)
  • Dried breadcrumbs (1/2 cup)
  • Marinara sauce (1 cup)
  • Diced tomatoes (1 28-ounce can)
  • Dry lasagna noodles (8 ounces)
  • Dried orzo pasta (1 1/2 cups)
  • Dried rigatoni pasta (8 ounces)
  • Tuna, canned or jarred (5 to 7 ounces)
  • Black beans (1 15-ounce can)
  • Coconut milk (1 cup)
  • Cashew halves (1/4 cup, optional for the soup)

From your pantry (check to make sure you have enough):

  • Butter (2 tablespoons)
  • Milk, not nonfat (4 cups)
  • Chicken broth (1 1/2 cups)
  • Vegetable broth (4 1/2 cups, water can be used instead)
  • Onions (3)
  • Garlic cloves (4)
  • Olive oil (2/3 cup)
  • Red pepper flakes (1/4 teaspoon, plus more for garnishing the soup)
  • Dried thyme (1/2 teaspoon)
  • Ground cumin (1 1/4 teaspoons)
  • Ground coriander (1/2 teaspoon)
  • Ground turmeric (1/2 teaspoon)
  • Salt
  • Black pepper