Garlic: If I run out of garlic I feel naked in the kitchen. We use garlic in almost everything. Yes, in a pinch, you can use garlic powder but fresh garlic is preferable.
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper: I know it’s actually two things but I feel they go hand in hand.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil: This is another thing we can’t live without. We cook everything with olive oil. We use it to sauté, make sauces, dressings, and well pretty much everything in our kitchen gets touched with EVOO.
Onion: Ok, I am not a fresh cut onion gal. I am even shocked that I am at the point of including it on this list. If you feel as opposed to onions as I did, really give them a try. When an onion is cooked down in a dish it adds such depth of flavor. I think you can almost do an injustice to some sauces without it.
Broth: Go for the low sodium Chicken or Beef broth. I have substituted one for the other in a pinch. If you were to have just one, go for the chicken broth. If you feel like you have extra time (hahaha) and want to make your own, go right ahead. If I do happen to save chicken stock it gets shoved to the back of the fridge never to be seen or heard from again.
Lemon and lime: Yes, I did it again with two things. I’ll just call this the citrus category. I learned something recently about lemons and through practice have found it to be true. Don’t forget about the zest of the lemon. There is more flavor in that zest than the juice. The zest can really enhance your dish.
Tomatoes: Personally, I love tomatoes. I could eat them like a piece of fruit. There is nothing like a real garden tomato. Tomatoes are great to cook down for spaghetti sauce and stew. I usually have fresh and the no sodium, whole, canned Roma tomatoes.
Wine Ok, maybe this should have been at the top of the list, haha. Red and white go well in quite a few dishes. Anytime I make stews or braised meat I always include red. Sometimes I even throw it into spaghetti sauce. White wine can be used in chicken dishes and some fish dishes as well. Let’s be real, the best part is you get to drink it while you are cooking. Can’t beat that.
Fresh herbs: I was going to put specific ones but I know everyone has their favorite. My three are fresh basil, thyme, and oregano. I can’t live without basil in the summer. I use Oregano in spaghetti sauce and even to sprinkle on a sandwich. Thyme is great with chicken. One thing I did discover about Rosemary recently is that I only prefer it roasted in the oven or sautéed in oil so it gets crunchy. Try this if you think plain rosemary is to overwhelming. Have your favorite on hand.
Cheese: Not the shredded cheese but actual blocks of good cheese. Our new favorite is Parmesagn/Reggiano