Murray’s In the Kitchen: Pantry Essentials

Spending most of your time in the kitchen these days? You’re not alone! We’re bringing you our guide to must-have recipe essentials that last a whole lot longer than that bag of spinach that’s sitting in the back of your fridge. From our favorite grating cheeses that work in just about every dish to condiments, snacks, and pasta, we’ve got the list of everything you need to stock a chef-worthy pantry and add some new texture and flavor to your everyday meals.

Cheese

When it comes to versatile cheese, we typically look for three categories: Grana, Alpine, and cheddars. Grana is the category that Parmigiano Reggiano and Pecorino fall into–those granular Italian table cheeses that you can shave over pasta or salad. Parm is a veritable “Renaissance cheese” in that it can be used in just about anything: as a garnish, baked into a crisp, cooked into a sauce, and of course, the rind can be used in a homemade stock, soup or broth. Pecorino Romano, Parm’s cousin, has a slightly more zesty essence, which is why it’s beloved in a traditional cacio e pepe sauce or over a spring salad.

Alpine cheeses like Gruyere are made for melting. Of course, they’re wonderful just for snacking, but we love these savory Swiss and French cheeses on a grilled cheese or in a homemade bowl of mac–our own original Mac & Cheese Blend combines shreds of Gruyere, Raclette, and NY State Cheddar. When it comes to cheddars, there’s a whole world of variety, so you can’t go wrong with a basic creamy yellow cheddar or something more bright and crumbly–these are also key for a classic melt or a cheesy pasta dish. While you definitely don’t need to limit yourself to these categories, when you’re looking for cheese that’s going to last a while and make a great cooking accompaniment, it’s best to stick to those on the firmer end of the spectrum.

Pastas & Grains

Pasta is the ultimate pantry essential. Grains in general are a must-have in the kitchen, especially when you’re stocking up on grocery items that last, and our selection of artisanal rice and pastas have you covered. Generally speaking, it’s a good practice to have at least one “short pasta” like penne and one “long pasta” like spaghetti on hand at all times, and it doesn’t hurt to have some orzo or brown rice available as well. These classics are all easy vehicles for cream, meat, and tomato sauces, as well as a whole lot of cheese. Perfect for making multiple meals and switching up the flavor, grains are simply the A-team when it comes to recipe favorites that won’t get you in a cooking rut. 

Nuts & Dried Fruit

Let’s talk texture. Looking to addd a little bit of excitement to a basic homemade dish? We like to stick to the basics: nuts and dried fruit. Favorites like cashews, almonds, and pistachios are often overlooked as a simple snack, but these nuts are a great way to add a crunch to a salad or a bowl of pasta, or even incorporated into a sauce or roast. Plus, when it comes to baking at home, these sweet and salty little bites are a must-have, whether they’re called for in a bread recipe or used to add a little flair to a homemade pastry.

All Things Pickled

Our selection of pickled pantry items goes way beyond the bread and butter chips you’re used to. From olives to peppadews, gherkins and more, we’ve got a whole briny bunch that certainly “pack a pickled punch” as well as provide bold, zesty flavor to sandwiches, dressing, and appetizers alike. If you’re looking to bring out the acidic flavors in anything you’re making, adding a classic pickle or cornichons can help, but they can also balance out the rich, fatty nature of classics like grilled cheese, while adding a satisfying crunch. For homemade Italian dressing, we like using diced olives to bring a little zing–perfect for creating a quick tapenade to spoon over a crostini for an easy snack. And our favorite usage? Cocktails. Dill pickles are great with a sandwich, but they also work perfectly in a Bloody Mary, or try using the pickle juice for a martini or boozy creation of your own making.

Meats & Seafood

When stocking up on meat and seafood that’s going to last, we like to stick to three categories: sausage, bacon, and tinned fish. The first is one that hits all the marks: versatile, long lasting, and comes in a huge variety of flavors (we can’t get enough of Brooklyn Cured Chicken Apple). From breakfast with eggs to baked into lasagna, to grilled and sliced, and about a hundred other variations, sausage is king. It keeps in the freezer longer than most meats, and is an easy fix when you’re looking to whip up something simple. As for bacon? It’s more than just a crispy breakfast side. Try grabbing a thick, smoky variety like Benton’s Bacon and dicing it up to use in a meat sauce or stew–think carbonara, bolognese, gravy—endless savory possibilities.

And while tinned fish might not be a crowd favorite, these briny bites are a key ingredient for a lot of dishes. Anchovies in Caesar salad are a classic, but they’re also great in a homemade aioli or stirred into pasta with a combination of tomato paste, garlic, and water for a seriously umami sauce. We also love basic tinned tuna for a lunch and dinner staple–tuna salad and sandwiches are simple, satisfying, and timeless. Plus, the “tinned” aspect of these seafood snacks guarantees that they’ll last.

Sauces & Condiments

And last, but certainly not least: sauces and condiments. While olive oil is technically neither, we couldn’t help but include it. The all-star of cooking, Extra Virgin Olive Oil is an absolute essential, and our line of premium oils is the real deal. Once you get a taste, you won’t go back to any other kind. When it comes to condiments, don’t be afraid to branch out. Classics like mayo and mustard are handy for sandwiches, sauces, dressings, and more, but don’t neglect the jams, chutneys, and honeys that deserve a spot in your pantry. From desserts to stews and snacking to cocktails, these jars are life savers with a long shelf life and a whole lot of uses.


Want more inspiration to bring some new flavor into the kitchen? Check out our collection of original recipes featuring your favorite ingredients from Murray’s.

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