Global Pantry: Everyday Exotic Essentials

Here are a handful of pantry essentials for Italian, Spanish, Mediterranean, Indian, Asian and good-ole Southwestern cooking.
By:
Related To:

Stock the pantry with a few simple ingredients, and you can add "international chef" to your list of achievements.

The Italian Pantry

Throw together a simple yet effective Italian dinner with the following ingredients:

  • Parmigiano-Reggiano

  • Anchovies

  • Fresh basil

  • Canned whole San Marzano tomatoes

  • Pine nuts

  • Fresh mozzarella

  • Balsamic vinegar (aged)

  • Pasta (penne, spaghetti)

Quick Fix: Arrange a piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano on a cheese board, drizzle with balsamic vinegar as a starter and then serve a simple tomato sauce made with San Marzano tomatoes over pasta. Scoop gelato for dessert. Yes, it's that easy.

The Spanish Pantry

Spanish tapas (little plates that make up a meal) are the ideal party food, allowing guests to sample lots of dishes without overindulging. What to pour: Try Amontillado, Oloroso or another sherry; Rioja wine is also great with tapas.

  • Pimentón de la Vera (Spanish smoked paprika)

  • Spicy chorizo or serrano ham

  • Manchego cheese

  • Marcona almonds (great with a little quince paste too)

  • Piquillo peppers

The Mediterranean Pantry

Many countries surround the Mediterranean Sea, including France, Italy, Portugal and Greece. Each of these regions has a distinct flavor profile that uses the same (or similar) ingredients in a unique way. Here are a few:

  • Flavorful extra-virgin olive oil

  • Fresh oregano

  • Roasted red peppers

  • Canned chickpeas

  • Fresh parsley

Quick Fix: With extra-virgin olive oil you can make a French vinaigrette, an Italian pasta dish, a simple Portuguese grilled langoustine (or shrimp) drizzled with olive oil and lemon or Greek-style hummus, made with olive oil, chickpeas and parsley. Oregano brings an edge to chicken and lamb dishes.

The Indian Pantry

Indian food has lots of different flavor profiles, depending on the subcontinent. For basic dishes, the following ingredients are good to have on hand:

  • Onions, garlic and fresh ginger

  • Mustard seeds

  • Garam masala

  • Turmeric

Quick Fix: Indian cooking features onions, garlic and fresh ginger, ground together to make a paste, then sautéed to release the aromas. Garam masala (literally "hot spices") is a common Indian blend; it's actually the authentic version of curry powder (which Indians don't use). Try frozen samosas for a short-order snack; buy them in specialty supermarkets and fry them straight out of the freezer.

The Southeast Asian Pantry

Cooking in this region (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, etc.) involves lots of fresh vegetables, rice and of course fish sauce. For some, it's a bright and energetic alternative to Chinese and Japanese.

  • Fish sauce

  • Lemongrass

  • Ginger

  • Chili sauce (like Sriracha)

  • Coconut milk

  • Black (sweet) soy sauce

  • Jasmine rice

The Southwestern Pantry

American cuisine has many flavor profiles — California, Deep South, Mid-Atlantic — but Southwestern is the one that gets everybody all excited.

  • Cumin

  • Canned chipotles in adobo

  • Red onion

  • Fresh cilantro and dried coriander

  • Canned black beans

Stock the pantry with a few simple ingredients, and you can add "international chef" to your list of achievements. Essentials for Italian, Spanish, Mediterranean, Indian, Asian and good-ole Southwestern cooking include:

The Italian Pantry

Throw together a simple yet effective Italian dinner with the following ingredients:

  • Parmigiano-Reggiano

  • Anchovies

  • Fresh basil

  • Canned whole San Marzano tomatoes

  • Pine nuts

  • Fresh mozzarella

  • Balsamic vinegar (aged)

  • Pasta (penne, spaghetti)

Quick Fix: Arrange a piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano on a cheese board, drizzle with balsamic vinegar as a starter and then serve a simple tomato sauce made with San Marzano tomatoes over pasta. Scoop gelato for dessert. Yes, it's that easy.

The Spanish Pantry

Spanish tapas (little plates that make up a meal) are the ideal party food, allowing guests to sample lots of dishes without overindulging. What to pour: Try Amontillado, Oloroso or another sherry; Rioja wine is also great with tapas.

  • Pimentón de la Vera (Spanish smoked paprika)

  • Spicy chorizo or serrano ham

  • Manchego cheese

  • Marcona almonds (great with a little quince paste too)

  • Piquillo peppers

The Mediterranean Pantry

Many countries surround the Mediterranean Sea, including France, Italy, Portugal and Greece. Each of these regions has a distinct flavor profile that uses the same (or similar) ingredients in a unique way. Here are a few:

  • Flavorful extra-virgin olive oil

  • Fresh oregano

  • Roasted red peppers

  • Canned chickpeas

  • Fresh parsley

Quick Fix: With extra-virgin olive oil you can make a French vinaigrette, an Italian pasta dish, a simple Portuguese grilled langoustine (or shrimp) drizzled with olive oil and lemon or Greek-style hummus, made with olive oil, chickpeas and parsley. Oregano brings an edge to chicken and lamb dishes.

The Indian Pantry

Indian food has lots of different flavor profiles, depending on the subcontinent. For basic dishes, the following ingredients are good to have on hand:

  • Onions, garlic and fresh ginger

  • Mustard seeds

  • Garam masala

  • Turmeric

Quick Fix: Indian cooking features onions, garlic and fresh ginger, ground together to make a paste, then sautéed to release the aromas. Garam masala (literally "hot spices") is a common Indian blend; it's actually the authentic version of curry powder (which Indians don't use). Try frozen samosas for a short-order snack; buy them in specialty supermarkets and fry them straight out of the freezer.

The Southeast Asian Pantry

Cooking in this region (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, etc.) involves lots of fresh vegetables, rice and of course fish sauce. For some, it's a bright and energetic alternative to Chinese and Japanese.

  • Fish sauce

  • Lemongrass

  • Ginger

  • Chili sauce (like Sriracha)

  • Coconut milk

  • Black (sweet) soy sauce

  • Jasmine rice

The Southwestern Pantry

American cuisine has many flavor profiles — California, Deep South, Mid-Atlantic — but Southwestern is the one that gets everybody all excited.

  • Cumin

  • Canned chipotles in adobo

  • Red onion

  • Fresh cilantro and dried coriander

  • Canned black beans 
Keep Reading

Next Up

Pantry: Italian Essentials

A well-stocked pantry makes whipping up delicious Italian meals a snap. Countless dishes can be made from ingredients on hand, but with a quick dash through the express line for perishables, the options are limitless.

Pantry: French Essentials

Find the most important ingredients for French cooking.

Pantry: Indian Essentials

For easy Indian cooking at home start with these basic pantry ingredients.

10 Essential Chinese Cooking Ingredients

Soy sauce is a must (both light and dark), but you’ll need these other sauces and spices to get your wok on, anytime.

Essentials: Herb Guide

Herbs can elevate a dish from simple to sublime. For the best flavor and refreshing lightness try using fresh herbs instead of dried.

Ching-He Huang Bio

Learn more about Cooking Channels Ching-He Huang host of Chinese Food Made Easy and Easy Chinese: San Francisco and see how she makes simple fresh recipes at home.

Jamie's Slang Dictionary

Learn the meanings of Jamie's favorite words.

How to Cook With a Wok

Find out how to choose the wok that's right for you, then learn how to season it to create optimally flavored dishes.

On TV

Cake Hunters

10am | 9c

Cake Hunters

10:30am | 9:30c

Cake Hunters

11am | 10c

Cake Hunters

11:30am | 10:30c

Food: Fact or Fiction?

12:30pm | 11:30c

Food: Fact or Fiction?

1:30pm | 12:30c

Good Eats

2pm | 1c

Good Eats

2:30pm | 1:30c

Burgers, Brew & 'Que

3:30pm | 2:30c

Burgers, Brew & 'Que

4:30pm | 3:30c

Man Fire Food

5:30pm | 4:30c

Man Fire Food

6:30pm | 5:30c

Man Fire Food

7:30pm | 6:30c
On Tonight
On Tonight

Man Fire Food

8pm | 7c

Man Fire Food

8:30pm | 7:30c

Man Fire Food

9:30pm | 8:30c

Cheap Eats

10pm | 9c

Cheap Eats

10:30pm | 9:30c

Good Eats

11pm | 10c

Good Eats

11:30pm | 10:30c

Man Fire Food

12am | 11c

Man Fire Food

12:30am | 11:30c

Man Fire Food

1am | 12c

Man Fire Food

1:30am | 12:30c

Cheap Eats

2am | 1c

Cheap Eats

2:30am | 1:30c

Good Eats

3am | 2c

Good Eats

3:30am | 2:30c
What's Hot
What's Hot

Cheap Eats

New Episodes Wednesdays 10|9c

So Much Pretty Food Here