Deliciously Easy Pantry Meals for Surviving Quarantine

Deliciously Easy Pantry Meals for Surviving Quarantine

pantry meals
Pantry food to whip up appealing nutritious meals during a pandemic lockdown. © Molly Pisula

How many of you are going through the experience of walking into a grocery store and drawing a complete blank on what to buy? You hear incessantly, “Stock up on non-perishable items for the quarantine!” “Buy enough staples for two weeks.” And then you freeze and walk out of the store with 5 boxes of pasta, a can of beans, and a jar of Nutella? Anyone? I am here for you, because in fact, I am you.

I got home from my first “stock-up” run with a completely random set of ingredients that I set on the counter and then thought, what the heck am I going to do with that? I mean, we weren’t going to starve, but we were going to have some weird meals (canned fish + beans)!

© Maddi Bazzocco

So, I took a breath and planned out a set of meals featuring shelf-stable ingredients, made a list, and headed back to the store. It’s that kind of planning that is critical to surviving the lock-down. And not just for yourselves but for your neighbors and fellow Parisians. Yes, you can still visit the grocery store with your attestation in hand, but limiting your trips to once or twice a week rather than four or five times a week is one of the best things you can do to #flattenthecurve.

Food lover and blogger Molly Pisula exploring French cuisine. Photo courtesy of author.

Where to begin in the kitchen?

Alors, what to make? Start with planning some easy meals that don’t require much of a recipe at all:

– pasta + tomato sauce
– easy fried rice: sauté garlic/ginger in oil, add whatever veggies and/or cooked proteins you have on hand, add cooked (cold) rice, add eggs, and season with soy sauce
– easy curry: make a sauce of coconut milk with curry paste and lime juice, add protein (chicken, salmon, shrimp, tofu) and cook
– lentils + rice + hard-boiled eggs
– canned/bottled soup + roasted veggies (whatever you have)
– sauté canned tomatoes + garlic + olives + anchovies, and serve with fried egg and toast/crackers/polenta
– tuna melts: canned tuna + mayo/mustard on bread topped with thinly sliced cheese and toasted under the broiler

Charles Deluvio/Unsplash

How long can your stock last?

For produce, look for items that will last a while, like potatoes, carrots, beets, and apples. A lemon or lime is great for seasoning dishes or for making a vinaigrette.

Now, how about considering this quarantine as an opportunity to get more creative in the kitchen? I don’t know about you, but sharing a delicious meal at the end of the day (and okay, wine too) is what’s getting me through this. So with that in mind, here are four recipe ideas that are easy to put together, use pantry staples, but are delicious enough to forget that you’d rather be sitting in a restaurant somewhere. And, they are packed with good-for-you ingredients and nutrients to keep your bodies healthy.

Four easy pantry recipes to inspire and nourish you:

Creamy artichoke pasta. © Molly Pisula

Creamy Artichoke Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Spinach, and White Beans

This Creamy Artichoke Pasta dish features a sauce that tastes like your favorite spinach-artichoke dip. Once you learn how to make it, you can toss it with pasta and then change up the other ingredients. Use fresh cherry tomatoes instead of sun-dried. Add artichoke hearts and double down on that artichoke flavor. Substitute chickpeas for the white beans. Get creative, and you can make this dish again and again.

Ingredients to serve 4

  • 45g pine nuts
  • 200g sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 can (400g) artichoke bottoms
  • 400 ml heavy cream (crème entière)
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 200g frozen spinach, thawed
  • 250g pasta (dried, not fresh)
  • 1 can (400g) white beans


– Begin by toasting pine nuts over medium heat in a small skillet, until lightly browned. This should take about 3 minutes – watch carefully because pine nuts go quickly from pale to burned.
– Drain sun-dried tomatoes and chop into 1/2-inch pieces.
– Next, drain artichoke bottoms and add to a small saucepan along with the heavy cream. Bring just to a boil over medium-high heat, then turn down the heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes. The cream will thicken and artichoke bottoms will be tender.
– Turn off the heat and blend the cream sauce with an immersion blender until smooth. (If you don’t have an immersion blender, wait until cream sauce cools to just warm, then pour into a blender to blend. Careful not to fill the blender more than 2/3 full to be safe, because blending hot liquids can cause hot steam to blow off the top of your blender.) Stir in lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Then stir in spinach.
– Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add pasta, and cook for as long as your pasta package recommends. When pasta has finished cooking, drain and return to pan.
– Add half of the cream sauce, stir, and then add more sauce as you like. You may not use the whole amount, depending on how saucy you like your pasta. Save extra for another meal later in the week, or for heating up leftovers. Stir in sun-dried tomatoes and white beans. Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts to serve.

Tasty simple salmon cakes. © Molly Pisula

Salmon Cakes

Salmon Cakes are the perfect recipe for canned salmon, and canned salmon should definitely make your pantry grocery list. It lasts for years, and it’s easy to find wild rather than farmed salmon. These salmon cakes taste delicious on their own, with a squeeze of lemon, but I’ve included a sauce since it uses many of the same ingredients used to make the cakes themselves.

Ingredients to serve 4:

  • 4 cans (160g each) wild salmon
  • 1 Tbsp. mayonnaise
  • 1/2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2  tsp. lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp. herbes de Provence
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup (34g) panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • lemon wedges, to serve
  • chopped chives, for garnish, if desired

For the sauce:

  • 3 Tbsp. mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp. herbes de Provence
  • 1 1/2 tsp. drained capers

– Open cans of salmon and drain well, pressing out all the liquid.
– In a large bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, egg, herbes de Provence, lemon juice, kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper.
– Stir in salmon, and flake with a fork as you combine with the sauce. Stir in half of the panko breadcrumbs, then add the rest of the mixture ensuring it is not clumping together as you stir it.
– Form mixture into 8 patties. Put into the refrigerator.
– Make the sauce. Stir together mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, herbes de Provence, and capers in a small bowl.
– To cook the salmon cakes, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 4 salmon cakes and cook until browned on the bottom (about 3-4 minutes). Flip over and cook until the other side is browned, then remove from the pan. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil and cook the second set of salmon cakes.
– Drizzle with sauce and garnish with chives, if desired. Serve with lemon wedges.

Easy sardine toasts. © Molly Pisula

Sardines, Peppers, and Chickpeas on Toast

Need a fancy-looking appetizer to show off at your Zoom happy hour? These sardine toasts are colorful and delicious. And sardines are so good for you! Packed with nutrients and Omega-3s, and one of the most responsible protein choices you can make. If you have extra of the pepper/chickpea salad, toss it with cooked quinoa or pasta for a delicious leftovers meal.

Ingredients to serve 4:

  • 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 can (310g) chickpeas
  • 1 jar (280g) roasted peppers
  • 2 tins (140g each) sardines, boneless preferred
  • Baguette or other toasts, to serve
  • fleur de sel if desired


– Make the dressing first, by whisking together red wine vinegar and olive oil in a large bowl. Whisk in oregano, salt, and pepper.
Drain and rinse chickpeas, then pat dry.
– Drain roasted peppers, then pat dry. Slice peppers into 1/2-inch pieces.
– Add chickpeas and peppers to the bowl with the vinaigrette and toss gently.
– Drain sardines and separate each sardine into halves or smaller pieces.
– Spoon chickpea salad onto toasts and top with sardines. Garnish with fleur de sel, if desired.

Lentil Quinoa with a fresh twist. © Molly Pisula

Pesto Quinoa Lentil Salad

This recipe may not look like much, but it’s easy to put together (especially if you start with pre-cooked quinoa and lentils), is very healthy, and quite tasty. You’ll think the combination of olives with sweet potatoes may be wrong, but it’s so so right.

Ingredients to serve 4:

  • 180g quinoa
  • 100g green olives with pimentos
  • 450g sweet potatoes
  • 100g pesto
        230g cooked green or brown lentil


– Rinse quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer. Then, pour the quinoa into a small saucepan with 415 ml of water and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. When the water comes to a boil, turn down the heat to medium-low, cover pot, and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the liquid has evaporated. Let it sit for 5 minutes and then uncover and fluff with a fork.
– While quinoa is cooking, slice or roughly chop green olives. Put the sweet potato on a microwave-safe plate, and pierce all over with a fork. Microwave on high-power until tender – every three minutes, turn potato over so the bottom is on top. Depending on the size of your potato(s), this can take anywhere from 5-10 minutes, total. (You will know the potatoes are done when you can pierce them easily with a fork.)
– When sweet potatoes are cooked, let cool slightly, then peel and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Now, add quinoa to a large bowl and stir in pesto. Gently stir in lentils, then sweet potatoes and olives.

Do you have other easy pantry meals you love? Comment below and share them!

À votre santé et bon courage!

Molly Madigan Pisula is a recent French transplant, along with her husband and two daughters, after having spent the past 10 years in her home base of the Washington, D.C. suburbs. Former high-tech marketing exec turned personal chef and then food blogger, Molly hopes to inspire her readers to cook seasonal food that welcomes friends and family to the table. Currently, she is exploring French cuisine and adding a French spin to the easy and elegant recipes on her blog Vanilla Bean Cuisine.


  1. I made the salmon cakes and there were a big hit! One question Molly: how can I get the salmon to stick together a bit more so it doesn’t flak apart in the pan? A little more mayo? Less breadcrumbs?

    • Yes, the moisture of the salmon cakes really can vary based on what kind of canned salmon you use–some are much wetter than others, even with draining out the moisture. So add the breadcrumbs bit by bit–you want the mixture to pull together in the bowl so that you can form it into patties that stick together well. If it’s really dry (or if you already added all the breadcrumbs), I’d add a little more mayo and mustard. You can also try chilling the salmon cakes in the fridge for 20 min or so–that helps the mixture stay together because the liquid soaks into the breadcrumbs. Hope that’s helpful for next time!

  2. Heya. My recipe is from Russia- people used it back in the day in USSR, where they rarely had fresh fish. It’s a fish soup made of canned salmon (or similar fish). You’ll need water, 1 can of salmon, onions, potatoes, any grains (I recommend 2-3 tbsp of oats, couscous or millet), salt, black pepper.
    Cut and boil potatoes, grains and onions first, then add canned fish.
    You can make this soup as thick as you like. You can also use blender in the end, if you prefer cream soups. Season with dill/parsley/green onion/garlic before serving if you wish.

    Another famous Soviet soup was a cheese soup. For this you need water, cream cheese (the one like President brand does – a round box filled with small triangles of cream cheese). You cut your cream cheese in very small pieces and put into boiling water (for easier cutting, you may slightly freeze you cream ceeese beforehand). Stir while cream cheese dissolves. Add frozen veggies and raw potatoes and onions (cut in small pieces). Serve with fresh parsley/dill on top.


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