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Meals from nothing: recipes for when the pantry is (nearly) empty

Updated on January 3, 2016

Healthy meals with few ingredients

Have no ingredients to cook with? Think again. It is possible to make easy, healthy and enjoyable meals with just a few standby items. These meal options provide a healthier alternative to many expensive takeaway meals. The ingredients used in these simple recipes can all be easily stored long-term in your kitchen or a likely to found in most people's fridges.

Pasta with herbs and cheese

Pasta of choice: Pasta is easy to prepare and generally found in most people’s pantry cupboards.

Bacon, ham or other cold meat: Diced bacon can be frozen and kept in the freezer. If you don’t have bacon you can try cold meats from the fridge, such as chopped ham or salami.

Herbs: Herbs are a great standby to add nutritional content and flavour to meals. The dried variety can be purchased in bottles from the supermarket and stored in your pantry. Alternatively you can try growing some in pots or in your garden. Good herbs to try with this dish are sage, or parsley.

Cheese: Parmesan, cheddar or fetta cheese works well with this recipe.

Cook your pasta of choice in a large saucepan of boiling water until cooked to the desired level of softness. To improve the nutritional offering of this meal you can add frozen peas to the pan towards the end of the cooking process. Drain.

While the pasta is cooking, take a pan, and melt 2 tablespoons of butter or margarine in it. Add 3 tablespoons of bacon or the chopped meats and gently fry.

Take pan off the heat. Add in a sprinkling of chopped herbs of choice. Stir. Pour the sauce over pasta and sprinkle with cheese. This dish can also be served along with olives, sun dried tomatoes or with a green side salad.

Easy egg and bacon tarts

Shortcrust pastry from the freezer. Half a sheet should make one individual tart

Eggs - 1 egg per tart


Chopped bacon as desired. Ham can be used if you don’t have bacon.


Defrost pastry by putting in the microwave for approximately 20 seconds.

Use individual pie/pudding dishes or large muffin pans. Grease dishes or pans and line with the pastry. The pastry should line both the base and the sides. Break an egg over the pastry so it goes into each of the pastry cases. Add a sprinkling of herbs. Parsley works particularly well with this dish. Add chopped bacon and season well. Add approximately 1 tablespoon of milk. Mix gently, taking care not to damage the pastry. Trim the edges of the pastry so they are flush with the top of the pan. The pastry does not cover the top of the tart.

Bake in a fan forced oven at 180C or 350F for approximately 20 minutes, or until egg mixture has set. Remove from oven, cool slightly and turn out tarts on to serving plates. They can be served with chutney, a side salad or vegetables.

Herbed tomatoes with corn mash

Tin of creamed corn

Self raising flour

1 egg

tin of chopped tomatoes or 5 chopped fresh tomatoes

herbs of choice

handful of chopped bacon

1 Onion and 2 garlic cloves (optional)

Melt a tablespoon of oil or butter in a non stick frying pan. Gently fry chopped bacon and onion until soft. Add garlic and stir. Add tomatoes and stir. At this stage you can also add in any suitable leftovers from previous meals, such as cooked vegetables or meats. Stir until heated through.

In a bowl pour in the creamed corn. Add in the egg, and about two tablespoons of flour. Season as desired with pepper, salt or your favourite seasoning. Mix until combined. The mixture should be gluggy, rather than runny. You can add more flour if you prefer a thicker consistency. You can use plain flour rather than self raising if you like. However, self raising flour is recommended as it gives the finished product a lighter consistency.

Scrape corn mixture into a pan and cook until heated through. Keep stirring to avoid the corn mixture sticking or burning. When cooked the corn has a similar consistency to mashed potatoes.

Once corn is heated through, spoon on to plates and top with tomato mixture.

Gourmet baked beans

This is a quick and easy recipe for when you are really hungry.

Chopped onion

1 clove garlic crushed

Chopped capsicum (optional)

Can of baked beans

2 tablesoons of chopped salami

Any vegetable leftovers you may have in the fridge


Add some oil or butter to a pan. Fry onion and garlic until soft. Add chopped capsicum and stir for about half a minute. Add baked beans, chopped salami and any vegetable leftovers. Stir until mixture is heated through. If you don’t have any vegetable leftover you could add frozen vegetables such as peas, beans or carrots.

Serve on hot buttered toast.

Tomato and pesto pasta

Tablesoon of olive oil

4 fresh tomatoes or a tin of chopped tomatoes

Handful of herbs, such as rosemary, parsley, sage or basil


pesto sauce: if you don’t have any pesto on hand, you can try chopping up fresh basil leaves instead.

Parmesan or cheese of choice


Prepare pasta according to instructions on the packet.

While pasta is cooking prepare sauce. First, heat oil in a pan and add tomatoes. Add chopped herbs and olives. Add seasoning as desired. Some people prefer to add a spoonful of sugar at this stage to increase the natural sweetness of the sauce. Stir until heated through. Remove from heat. For a thinner sauce, blend or serve as is on top of warmed pasta. Top with parmesan or grated cheese of choice.


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    • premsingh profile image

      premsingh 6 years ago

      interesting and easy to make recipes. Keep it up.