You can’t beat harissa paste.

By Bridget Hallinan
April 23, 2019
Joe Alfano / EyeEm/Getty Images

When Laura Vitale’s not busy filming her YouTube show Laura in the Kitchen, testing recipes, or checking in with her viewers to see what they’re craving, she’s still cooking—this time, for herself and her family. She saves leftovers from the show for post-filming meals and packs them up for lunches during the week, saying what her audience sees is “very much a normal kitchen.” She tries to upload videos based on how she cooks everyday; weekday meals are quick, like her one-pan roasted salmon fajitas, while the weekends are filled with slow cooker recipes, lasagna, and baked goods. When she’s in a pinch, she relies on a well-stocked pantry—and there are five things she always keeps on hand for a quick meal. Vitale's list includes classics like EVOO (a Merriam-Webster recognized word, in case you didn’t know) and pasta, but others, like harissa paste, may surprise you. Check out all of her recommendations below:

Harissa Paste

"Harissa paste is a North African chili paste that adds lovely heat and dimension to pretty much anything. So I love to add it to a marinade for fish, chicken, vegetables—I recently made a marinade for eggplant that I broiled and it was so delicious," she says. "Just really easy, harissa paste, olive oil, lemon, a little bit of honey, some salt. I slathered it on some eggplant, blistered it under the broiler, and I served it with some mixed mustard greens."

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

“I always keep a very good extra virgin olive oil [on hand], because it’s perfect for the base of a dressing, or a finishing touch on, say, really good grilled fish. It’s sort of like a king, it has to live in my pantry," Vitale says. "I’m a fan of Bertolli olive oil, I’ve been using it my whole life. Their extra virgin olive oil has got this perfect balance between fruity and bitter, and it’s just so good.”

Good Sea Salt

"I get my salt from a local Italian shop, this delicious Sicilian sea salt that I think makes anything better," she says. "I mean, a pinch of that on a chocolate cake or a pinch of that in some chocolate chunk cookies is really…you don’t really taste salt, but it just makes everything taste better. And I also love a pinch of that on really good salad, or some tomatoes."

Chickpeas

"I love to have chickpeas on hand. I would say that’s probably my favorite quick go-to ingredient if I want to make something that doesn’t require cooking," Vitale says. "I love to keep a couple of cans of really good organic chickpeas that I can do a salad with, or you know, smash it and make a bruschetta with it, which is my favorite. So good. Smash that up with some vinegar, and olive oil, so good on toasted bread." 

Pasta 

"Very last minute, [you can] boil some pasta, sauté some garlic, pine nuts, Calabrian chilis, and some good olive oil," she says. "[Then], drain your pasta, toss it in, a little bit of Parm, and boom, dinner’s ready. I really like the Anna brand, DeCecco, and Barilla. Those would be my three top favorites."

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