The Essential Grains and Pastas Every Home Cook Needs for 2021 and Beyond

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Credit: Courtesy of Massa Organics

Keep your pantry full with at least one bag of rice or a box of pasta and you’re never too far away from being able to pull together some sort of last-minute dinner. What should you stock up on, though? Usually, the supermarket is overflowing with grains and pasta options (early pandemic days not included!). So we set out to narrow things down to the absolute essential buys.

We tasted, tested, debated, and noodled on things. (Pun intended.) And we came up with 11 must-haves, which are all part of our 2021 version of Kitchn Essentials. What’s the can’t-miss pasta shape of the year? Keep reading to find out.

1 / 11
Best Rice
Massa Organics

When Editor-in-Chief Faith Durand says she buys rice by the 20-pound bag, we take notice. Massa Organics’ Medium-Grain Brown Rice is so soft, tender, and flavorful, it’s the only rice she'll use — morning, noon, or night. (If you're not making breakfast fried rice, you might want to start.)

2 / 11
Best Quick-Cook Rice
Maya Kaimal

This nutrient-dense rice is grown on small organic family farms in Kerala, South India. It’s firm and sweet, takes just 90 seconds to zap in the microwave, and comes plain (as in, ready for your own flair) or in Turmeric + Cumin. Add whatever veggies you have on hand to it and you've got an instant grain bowl.

3 / 11
Best Quinoa

Speaking of grain bowls, mix things up with this consistently light, fluffy, and nutty quinoa. Compared to other grains, quinoa is relatively low in calories and higher in fiber and protein. We also love to use this stuff to make salads, stuffed peppers, chili, and even oatmeal!

4 / 11
Best Soba Noodles

Nothing but (organic) wheat and buckwheat flour and water go into these tasty noodles. And they cook in only four minutes, so they're also your friend when dinner needs to happen in a hurry. Did you know? These noodles are made in Australia and there's a whole story on the Japanese soba noodles/Australian wheat connection! Read it, we'll wait!

5 / 11
Best Boxed Mac & Cheese

Truth: We never outgrow boxed mac and cheese. Kids and grown-ups alike are happy campers with this white cheddar cheese take on the classic. And it may be in a box, but we're dealing with organic pasta and real cheese here — and no artificial flavors, synthetic colors, or preservatives.

6 / 11
Best Gluten-Free Pasta
Thrive Market

Gluten-free pasta can taste more like pasta and less like gluten-free these days — especially when you're talking about the goods from Jovial Foods. Their pasta, made in Tuscany, uses 100 percent organic whole-grain rice grown in Italy. Our Copy Chief, Lauren Kodiak, is one of their biggest fans, and promises you’ll never know it’s gluten-free.

7 / 11
Best Gnocchi

Many Kitchn editors got on board the sheet pan gnocchi train this last year, and we strongly believe you should join us. To ride, you'll need a stash of shelf-stable gnocchi on hand. We suggest De Cecco for its lovely, light version that shines, while other brands can be tough and chewy. (Choo-choo chewy!) Also, Lisa Freedman, Lifestyle Director, wanted to recommend this skillet gnocchi recipe from The New York Times.


8 / 11
Best Farro
Trader Joe's

Stock up on Trader Joe’s 10-Minute Farro. Not only are the bags cute, but the nutty, yummy whole grain also cooks in — you guessed it! — 10 minutes flat. (The secret? It’s already parboiled.) Farro lends itself to salads and risottos as well as soups and grain bowls, and even breakfast!

9 / 11
Best Ramen Noodles
Sun Noodle

Whenever Amelia Rampe, Studio Food Editor, runs out of Sun Noodle Ramen, she knows it's time to go shopping. Why? These slurp-perfect chewy, fresh noodles are the ticket to everything from soup to omelets, not to mention, you know, ramen. Each bag comes with the supplies to make two servings of broth and noodles — and you can bulk them up with veggies, eggs, and more.

10 / 11
Best Tortillas

Corn tortillas are not interchangeable. It’s worth seeking out the real deal that uses fresh nixtamal (that’s dried corn that’s been cooked in slaked lime). These tortillas taste better and hold up better in any of your tortilla applications. Friend of the site, Lesley Téllez, gives her thumbs up to the heirloom corn tortillas from Masienda and Faith is so excited about them she buys them by the box. Good news: They freeze perfectly!

11 / 11
Best Pasta

A three-year quest to develop a new pasta shape, really? Really. “The more people talk about it the more I get it,” Faith says about Sfoglini Cascatelli by Sporkful, a waterfall-shaped pasta. Ridged to capture sauce in its nooks and crannies and shaped to deliver a satisfying bite from any direction, it’s no wonder there’s a 12-week waiting list to have this shipped right now.