Cooking In Quarantine: 3 Simple Lunch And Dinner Recipes Straight From The Pantry

Cassandra Wardrope is STYLE Canada‘s resident recipe developer and micro-blogger over @tomato__tomatoe. She’s passionate about storytelling through globally inspired cooking and travel, and on, she helps guide you through a wealth of food knowledge, how-tos, and last minute meals, as well as quick and easy weeknight recipes (like the incredible Baked Shrimp with Feta and Jammy Tomatoes below!). Cassandra has a special talent for making even the most decadent recipes taste just as good with healthier ingredients, and her real-life food photography will have you drooling over every. single. dish. Bon appétit!

If we’re talking kitchen essentials, it’s important to have a well stocked pantry because you never know when you’ll be in a pinch and need to whip up a quick and easy recipe – especially during an unpredicted pandemic. For some, ‘pantry staples’ means a box of Kraft Dinner and a can of baked beans, but pantry cooking with select items can also force you to get creative with things you should always have on hand. Below you’ll find a list of my favourite pantry staples that will keep you prepared and well fed:

  • Canned beans: cannellinis, chick peas, and black beans
  • Canned crushed tomatoes and cherry tomatoes
  • Pasta noodles
  • Canned tuna
  • Chicken, veggie or beef stock and bullion cubes 
  • Grains and legumes: rice, farro, lentils, and quinoa
  • Pickled and preserved vegetables: beets, sundried tomatoes, olives, and capers

In a time where it can be difficult to be allowed into grocery stores, quality fresh produce is hard to come by. Though buying a mix of fresh and frozen is a good idea when heading into the long lines at markets, the following three recipes are versatile enough to use up what you have in your pantry and freezer alone.

1. Cacio e Pepe With Chopped Kale

Photo: Cassandra Wardrope

This is a twist on classic cacio e pepe. I like to sneak greens in wherever I can!


Dried linguine (if you have spaghetti or another long pasta in your pantry, that works too_

1 tsp freshly crack black pepper

3 tbsp butter

3 tbsp olive oil

1 cup of grated parmesan

1 cup of finely chopped kale or spinach


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Make sure you season the water liberally so that it tastes like salt water.
  2. Add the pasta and cook until 2 minutes before al dente. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water and set aside.
  3. Drain your pasta.
  4. Heat a large pan over medium heat and melt 2 tbsp of butter and olive oil.
  5. Add the pepper and toast until it becomes aromatic.
  6. Add the kale to the pan.
  7. Add in half the pasta water and swirl the pan until the butter, oil, and water emulsify.
  8. Add the pasta and remaining butter and cook for a few minutes. If the pasta isn’t creamy, add more pasta water. Once the consistency is creamy and saucy, turn the heat off and add in your cheese. Stir until each noodle is coated.
  9. Plate and sprinkle some more part on top!

Roasted Vegetable and Shrimp Paella

Photo: Cassandra Wardrope

This paella is so flavourful. If you’re vegetarian, omit the shrimp. Chicken would also work well in this one pot wonder.


3 red bell peppers

1 fennel bulb

1 large red onion (or white, if that’s what you have)

Olive oil

2 cups of yellow onion

6 cloves of minced garlic

2 tbsp tomato paste

1 tsp saffron

1 ½ cups of long grain rice

1 tsp smoked paprika

5-6 cups of chicken or vegetable stock

1 eggplant

1 pack of frozen, raw shrimp thawed (or fresh, if you prefer)

Salt and pepper to season


  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Slice the eggplant into circles and cut the peppers into large, bite-sized pieces. Slice the onion and the fennel.
  3. Divide all the vegetables on two baking sheets, drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss the vegetables with your hands until they are coated in the olive oil. Roast for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. While the vegetables roast, heat a large dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot with olive oil to medium-high heat. Add in your sliced red onion and sauté for 8 minutes until translucent.
  5. Add the tomato paste, garlic, saffron, and smoked paprika. Cook for 2 minutes until fragrant.
  6. Add your rice and cook for a few minutes, stirring frequently until it becomes nicely toasted. Add 1 cup of stock and a dash of salt and pepper. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the remainder of the stock and cook for 20 minutes or until the liquid has absorbed into the rice.
  7. Remove the vegetables from the oven and the skin from the eggplant. Add all of the vegetables to the rice and stir to combine. If the paella is dry, add more stock.

Italian ‘Chilli’ With Cannellini Beans

This one pan meal is so easy to put together and more importantly, its delicious! Perfect for a cold night when you need something toasty.


3 cloves of garlic

1 small Spanish onion, diced

2 tbsp tomato paste

¼ cup of red or white wine

1 pinch of chilli flakes

2 tomatoes chopped

6 fresh basil leaves (or 1 tsp of dried basil)

2 zucchinis, chopped

1 can of drained and rinsed cannellini beans

1 cup of vegetable stock or chicken

1 tbsp of butter


  1. Heat a large skillet or pan to medium-high heat and add olive oil.
  2. Add the onions and sauté until tender for about 5-6 minutes.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes, garlic, and chill flakes. Cook for about 10 minutes until everything is soft and the tomatoes have broken down.
  4. Add the butter, tomato paste, and beans. Then add-in the wine and cook for 5 minutes until it has evaporated.
  5. Add the stock and basil. Cook on low with the skillet or pan uncovered for 20-25 minutes until the beans break down and the sauce becomes thick.
  6. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil, a shaving of parmesan, and garlic toast.
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