These Are the 3 Key Ingredients Alex Guarnaschelli Says Will Elevate Any Dish — And They May Already Be in Your Pantry

published Mar 20, 2023
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Alex Guarnaschelli attends the 2018 Hearst MagFront on October 17, 2018 in New York City.
Credit: Bryan Bedder / Stringer / Getty Images

Cooking can sometimes fall into a monotonous routine, as the same dishes enter the menu rotation week after week. We’re always eager to make these dishes more delicious and add extra flavor and excitement, but it’s hard to know where to start. It seems, though, that the answer may be all about stocking up on a few key ingredients.

In a recent interview with Tasting Table, celebrity chef Alex Guarnaschelli dished on the ingredients she feels can instantly elevate cooking at home. And while we may expect such a high-level chef to answer a question like this with ingredients that are expensive or hard to come by, Guarnaschelli’s response included simple and accessible ingredients found in many home pantries.

According to the Alex vs. America star, the must-have ingredients to elevate home cooking are

red wine vinegar

grainy mustard. Red wine vinegar may be something we immediately think of to make a simple vinaigrette for our salads, but it’s actually a workhorse full of possibility. It “is cheap,” Guarnaschelli said in the interview, “and a splash of it anywhere, like a gravy, sauce, or even apple pie filling, can really perk up other flavors and bring them to life.”

Guarnaschelli also noted that anchovies are another incredibly helpful and versatile ingredient, and the chef — who recently was honored with a tribute dinner at South Beach Food & Wine — said that to get its benefits, you don’t even have to eat the fish. “The oil in the tin can of anchovies is priceless and the foundation of delicious things like Caesar salad dressing.” 

Finally, Guarnaschelli recommends buying a jar of grainy mustard, which she finds to be underrated and not just for a topping on a hot dog. “You get great texture from the mustard seeds, and a fabulous mix of acidity and creaminess.” This is great for everything from sauces to marinades and dressings.

Armed with this professional advice, we all now know just what items to stock up on during our next pantry refresh. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to pick up the cheese that Giada De Laurentiis notes to be the best for making pasta.