Chill Thrills, Student Life

Mastering the art of the pantry meal

I’m a firm believer in keeping a well-stocked pantry. Upon hearing the word “pantry,” images of massive cold-rooms stocked wall-to-wall with cans of broth come to mindan impossible feat of space (and organization) for busy students to accomplish. A pantry, however, does not have to be so daunting. Taking the time to organize a shelf or two of non-perishable ingredients goes a long way for students: Keeping these staples cuts down on grocery shopping bills, minimizes potential food waste, and offers endless creative cooking opportunities. Pantry staples provide a solid foundation for a variety of meals and can be combined with the fresh produce in season. Further, your pantry will look different depending on what cuisines are familiar to you, so seek out culturally specific pantry lists that will keep you physically and emotionally fortified. Personally, as a second-generation Chinese-Canadian, I take a lot of inspiration from The Woks of Life

As we enter peak mid-term season, there will be more time devoted to studying and grinding out paperswhich potentially means less time spent grocery shopping or in the kitchen. Rather than relying on frozen pizzas and bags of dumplings (although absolutely delicious) for a quick fix, challenge yourself to maximize the humble staple goods that we so often turn our nose up to. Below, I’ve shared a few key areas to begin building your pantry, as well as my favourite pantry pasta, a vegetarian twist on Allison Roman’s legendary caramelized shallot pasta, created when I ran out of anchovies and also wanted to make something my vegan roommate could enjoy. 


Grains are the bones of your pantry: They have long shelf lives and typically only take a few minutes to prepare. Keep a few bags of the grains you rely on the most. My personal staples include white rice, pasta, and rice noodles.

Dried vegetables

Often passed over for fresh produce, dried vegetables offer powerful flavours in small batches, and their nutritional value is virtually unchanged from fresh produce. Dried vegetables that are reconstituted in water, such as lentils or mushrooms, are great additions to stir fries and grain bowls. 

Canned or preserved goods 

Go crazy with this one: Get your favourite cans of beans, briney pickles, sour kimchi, tinned meats and fish, and jars of saucy tomatoes. There’s really no limit to what you can find as preserves. 

Sauces and dressings

Wet food is the best food. Have a good selection of cooking oilsolive and grapeseed are reliable, but alternatives such as coconut and avocado oil are having their moments. 

For building stir fries, have staples on hand like soy sauce, sesame oil, oyster sauce, rice vinegar, and honey. 

Keep salads and sandwiches fresh with mustards, mayonnaise (or veganaise), and vinegars. 

The Classic Pantry Pasta


  • 5 oz of pasta 
  • 3 tablespoons Tomato paste 
  • Salt (to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons of pepperoncini
  • 1 chopped green olives
  • 3 Shallots or one small onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic 
  • Parmesan (optional, to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon butter or butter substitute
  • Olive oil


These instructions provide a solid base to build a delicious and simple pantry pasta, so feel free to swap out the peppers or olives for any canned or preserved vegetables of your choice. The measurements are suggestions. Canned white beans, chickpeas, pickled onions, or tinned fish such as tuna could be fantastic additions, just as long as they’re briney. 


  1. Boil a liberally salted pot of water and and cook pasta two minutes under the package instructions. Make sure to save about a cup of pasta water.
  2. In a pan, heat olive oil on medium-high, adding shallots and garlic. Cook for 15 minutes or until caramelized. 
  3. Add finely chopped olives and pepperoncini. Add a tablespoon of pepperoncini brine if you prefer spicier pasta. Cook for about two minutes.
  4. Add tomato paste and cook for five minutes or until it looks rusty. 
  5. Add strained pasta to the pan, along with about a third of a cup of pasta water and butter or butter substitute. Mix for about 2-3 minutes until glossy and emulsified. 
  6. Serve immediately with parmesan to your liking.

One Comment

  1. Elaine Wilson

    Very informative, Katia. Love it.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.


Read the latest issue