8 ingredients to always have on hand

Joanna Goddard of “A Cup of Jo” shares the 8 ingredients you’ll always find in her kitchen.

What ingredients can you always find in your kitchen? My family members aren’t great cooks, and more often than not we’ll race home just in time for family dinner. But over the years, I’ve found that these eight staples are lifesavers, again and again. 

1. Mozzarella cheese

I’ve never met a cheese I didn’t love, but fresh mozzarella might be at the top of the list. We always have a hunk in the fridge, and it can so easily become a quick snack (just add tomatoes) or dinner (melted on toast, chopped into scrambled eggs, sliced atop mixed greens). It always tastes like a burst of milky goodness. And for an especially fun night, we’ll buy fresh dough for $5 from the local pizzeria and make our own pies.

2. Pesto

Store-bought pestos are better than ever these days, and we always have a container on hand. When we’re home late from work or everyone’s too tired to think straight, we just boil some pasta and pour on the pesto. It’s fresh, delicious and green, and feels like you’ve been whisked to Venice, Italy—in less than 10 minutes. Another option: rotisserie chicken, avocado and pesto all mixed together and popped into pita bread.

3. Frozen peas

Whenever my kids go through a phase where all vegetables are mortal enemies, the one thing I can count on is frozen peas. I don’t even heat them up: We just put them in a bowl and let the kids have at ’em. They’re sweet, cold and somehow always disappear. Magic!

4. Fig jam

The fastest way to make a peanut butter sandwich taste like it was invented for grown ups. So, so good.

5. Tortillas

You know those days when you look in your fridge and there’s a spoonful of sour cream, half a zucchini, one egg and a few pieces of leftover chicken? Whatever you have, toss it into a tortilla and microwave it for a minute. We call them “kitchen sink quesadillas,” and they’re beyond simple but magically delicious every time.

6. Chocolate chips

Winter in New York City can last from November to April, which means there are approximately 26 weekends with kids going stir crazy. One way to save the day? Baking chocolate chip cookies. Measuring, stirring and licking the bowl are almost as good as the cookies themselves.

7. Water crackers

Our gourmet grocery has fancy boxes of crackers for more than $10 (crackers! $10!), but I still go for the basic water crackers. Here’s why: when you eat something on a cracker, you want to taste THAT thing (stinky cheese, salty tuna, mashed avocado), not the cracker itself. A water cracker is a perfect, mild, crunchy holder for whatever it is you really want to eat—a great addition without stealing the show.

8. Cavatappi pasta

Most pasta tastes kind of the same, right? Fettuccine, penne, angel hair, rotini—they all mix and match in my mind. But I recently stumbled upon cavatappi pasta (think thick, hollow corkscrews) at the supermarket and when I made a bowl at home, I couldn’t believe how next-level delicious and chewy it was. (And when I mentioned it on Instagram, I got a flood of messages from people who have made the same discovery.) Who knew?

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