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Have you ever noticed how one simple ingredient — even something as common as black pepper or lemon juice — can totally transform a dish, taking it from just so-so to sensational?
To help expand your repertoire of pantry perker-uppers, TODAY Food recently caught up with Food Network star Giada De Laurentiis. She revealed three of her favorite ingredients she always keeps stocked in her kitchen — and we can't wait to spice up some of our favorite foods!
Calabrian crushed hot chilies
"This little jar packs a punch when I need that little something extra in a recipe," says De Laurentiis of this paste made from spicy chopped chilies in oil. "Fruity, spicy and delicious, there is always a jar in my fridge. It’s the secret to my one-pan Calabrian Chili Pasta."
You can find the paste at Italian markets, some supermarkets and even online stores, including Amazon. De Laurentiis isn't the only chef who swears by Calabrian chili paste. Curtis Stone uses it in pasta, Garrison Price adds it to his topping for steaks and Missy Robbins uses it to spice up tomato sauce for her meatball subs.
Parmesan cheese rinds
"So overlooked, these little end pieces of cheese carry a lot of flavor!!" De Laurentiis told TODAY about the hard little bits you might normally toss after grating a block of Parmesan cheese.
"I add them to soups, sauces and braises for a surprising umami undertone."
Next time you get to the end of a block of Parm, instead of tossing it in the trash, save it for a batch of De Laurentiis' Basic Parmesan Pomodoro, or to use in soup or a broth to serve with chicken. If you're not planning to use the rinds right away, store them in the freezer in an air-tight container and you'll be ready to add some cheesy goodness at a moment's notice.
While not true peppercorns, pink peppercorns are actually berries from a tree related to the cashew plant tree, according to Penzeys Spices. Note that because the fruit comes from a tree in the cashew family, people with tree nut allergies may experience adverse reactions to them and should use caution or avoid them in recipes.
These little berries are "floral, warm and pretty all at the same time," says De Laurentiis. They can be found at specialty supermarkets and on Amazon. "I love to add these to a creamy pasta dish like my Lemon and Pea Alfredo for and added level sophistication." Try pink peppercorns alone or mixed with true pepper on steak, chicken or seafood dishes. They also make a pretty colorful addition to this Beet Fettuccine Alfredo recipe.
We are so ready to stock up on some Giada's favorites to make our favorite Italian meals even more flavorful!
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