Constantly seeking out recipe-specific ingredients that may only be used once or twice can be a burden. Instead, keep your home stocked with necessities to simplify dinner prep with dishes made using common household staples.

One perfect example: pastas. These recipes for Minestrone Pasta Saute with Ricotta and Pasta in a Pinch include easily recognizable seasonings and canned goods for simple dinner solutions.

Another way to scale back on unnecessary grocery purchases is to give yourself permission to modify. Many recipes can be tweaked for personal preferences, such as using black beans rather than kidney beans or adjusting the amount of a spice used based on your family's tastes.

Stock your pantry and refrigerator with versatile ingredients like these: canned tomatoes and beans, rice, pasta, canned stocks and broths, milk, cheese and yogurt.

For more ideas to simplify family meals, visit


8 ounces ditalini pasta

1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 carrots, finely diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 medium onion, chopped

1/2 bunch kale, thinly sliced

1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and halved

1/4 cup dry white wine

1/2 pound lean ground beef (optional)

1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1 (24-ounce jar) marinara sauce

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 cup Ricotta cheese

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package instructions. Reserve 1/4 cup pasta cooking water then drain pasta.

In large skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil. Add carrots, garlic and onion; cook 3 minutes, or until vegetables start to soften, stirring occasionally. Add kale and green beans; cook 3 minutes, or until green beans are tender-crisp, stirring occasionally.

Add wine to skillet; cook 2 minutes, or until most liquid has evaporated. Transfer vegetables to medium bowl. If including meat, return skillet to medium-high heat. Add ground beef; cook 6-8 minutes, or until meat is cooked through, breaking up with side of spoon. Spoon off excess fat.

Reduce heat to medium-low. Add kidney beans, marinara sauce, salt, pepper, pasta, reserved pasta cooking water and cooked vegetable mixture to skillet with beef, if using. Cook 2 minutes, or until warmed through, stirring occasionally. Divide pasta between four pasta bowls or plates and top with Ricotta and Parmesan cheeses.


8 ounces uncooked penne pasta

2 1/2 cups water

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 cup milk

2 cups Mozzarella cheese, grated

1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Freshly chopped herbs, for garnish (optional)

In large microwavable bowl, place uncooked penne pasta and pour water over top to cover. With food-safe plastic wrap, cover bowl, leaving small section to vent as it cooks. Cook 3 minutes longer than package directs, approximately 13 minutes.

Once pasta has cooked, drain into colander then place back in bowl. Add salt, pepper, basil, garlic powder and milk; stir to combine. Begin to stir in cheese a little at a time. Microwave 1 minute. Remove from microwave and stir again.

Add beans and tomatoes; stir. Microwave 1 minute. Remove from microwave and stir. If not hot and melted, microwave 1 to 2 minutes more. Top with Parmesan cheese and garnish with fresh herbs, if desired. Serves 6.

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