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The 5 Versatile Pantry Items a Home Cook Keeps Stocked for Flavor-Packed Dinners

published May 21, 2020
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Credit: Ali Rosen

Ali Rosen is not judging your pantry: The host of the Emmy-nominated show Potluck with Ali and author of the potluck cookbook Bring It!, Ali helps folks gather around delicious flavor-packed recipes that don’t take all day. She and her four-year-old son, Guy, even make 15-minute meals on Instagram! (Hello, Gorgonzola Radicchio Pasta.) Even though we’re only gathering at home right now, we couldn’t wait to find out the secret-weapon ingredients behind all of Ali’s delicious meals. Here are the five things she always has on her grocery list.

Credit: Ali Rosen

1. Miso Paste

“When someone asks me why whatever I have cooked is so flavorful, nine times out of 10 it is because of miso paste,” Ali says. Exhibit A: Her show’s Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Red Miso and Broccoli Rabe. “Miso is technically a fermented soybean paste, but in essence, it is umami in a jar. It can be added to everything from marinades to salad dressing to take the flavor up another level without any additional work.”

Credit: Ali Rosen

2. V8® Vegetable Juice

Ali broke our brains when she said that she uses V8® Vegetable Juice instead of veggie stock in everything from soups to grain dishes to smoothies. “I love making stock but sometimes you just have to reach for something in the cupboard,” she says. “Instead of veggie stock, I use V8® Vegetable Juice because it has more flavor and gets a lot more nutrients and veggies into a dish.” The original plant-powered drink, it packs one serving of veggies into each 5.5-ounce can.

Credit: Ali Rosen

3. Coconut Milk

From curries to sweet treats like Ali’s Sugar-Free Strawberry Popsicles, coconut milk is a real team player. “It’s so much more versatile than it gets credit for,” Ali says. “Any item that calls for a bit of creaminess and more flavor — but needs to stay on the healthier side — has me reaching for a can of coconut milk. Use it anywhere you would add broth and give another layer to your meal.”

Credit: Ali Rosen

4. Frozen Peas

Consider these Ali’s freezer MVPs: “There are so few ways to make dinner healthier with no work and no complaints from the peanut gallery. Somehow, frozen peas accomplish both. From soups to stir-fries to frittatas, almost anything cooked can always use a bit of peas.”

Credit: Ali Rosen

5. Chili Powder

Whenever a recipe needs a little oomph, Ali reaches for this hot, smoky ingredient. “After salt and pepper, chili powder is the next spice I’ll add to almost any dish.” And she means any dish: “It’s one of the few spices that you can add to both avocado toast and cookies, but it somehow finds a way to meld into anything.”