Rocco DiSpirito Just Shared 10 Ingredients He Always Has on Hand—Plus an Easy 20-Minute Dinner to Make on Repeat

There’s one ingredient he’s always running out of, and he calls it “the cure-all” for home cooking.

a photo of Rocco DiSpirito

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For much of his career as a chef, Rocco DiSpirito didn’t cook much in his own kitchen. He was a busy bee with restaurants, TV appearances and recipe development on the brain. It wasn’t until March 2020 that he found himself in his home cooking everyday food with everyday ingredients—and that is what inspired DiSpirito to write his newest cookbook, Everyday Delicious, which is available for purchase starting today.

Ahead of the release, we got the chance to talk with DiSpirito about what type of recipes will appear in the cookbook, including this stunning, 20-minute Penne with Zucchini & Sun-Dried Tomatoes. Plus, he gave us tips and tricks for quicker and easier everyday cooking in this interview, from the "cure-all" ingredient he says is underrated to the best way to make fettuccine alfredo.

EatingWell: What sets this new cookbook apart from your others?

DiSpirito: I think the other books are very-much written from a chef’s perspective on cooking, diet or health and wellness. For me, this cookbook comes from a home cook’s point of view, but still with the expertise that comes from being a chef. If you’re a person who cooks at home regularly and wants to make something on a restaurant level in half an hour or less, then this book is for you. Going from the release of my last book in March 2020 and its whirlwind book tour to cooking at home every day from cans and bags of beans, it turns out there’s a lot you can do from a few simple ingredients. I’m not saying these recipes are that simple, but it’s definitely simpler than whatever gets worked on in restaurant kitchens.

EatingWell: Do you have any tips for people who want to reduce their cooking time?

DiSpirito: What people usually call processed foods, I think of as compound ingredients. I think I have about 20 of them in the beginning of my book. A lot of those are condiments. A condiment is typically onions, garlic, tomatoes and vinegar sautéed together and then put in a jar as sauce. Those condiments will save you 10 to 20 steps, like with sambal oelek, which is basically a garlic-chili sauce. That, plus one protein, is a dish! Miso soup powder that’s obviously great for making soup is also great for seasoning a stew or sauce for a piece of fish. Tricks like that are very helpful.

I also take advantage of all the precut stuff. A lot of people don’t like to cut vegetables, proteins and aromatics at home anymore, so can buy items like chopped semi-hydrated herbs. They’re fantastic and come in little tiny cups. I’ve got cilantro and basil in my fridge right now. I’ve seen chopped onions, peppers and cocktail cucumbers that don’t need cutting or peeling. You know, bagged lettuces, spinach, kale, shredded Brussel sprouts … all of those will save a ton of time. 

EatingWell: What are the top pantry staples you always have on hand?

DiSpirito: I’m looking through my fridge … have I talked about Parmigiano Reggiano too much? That’s definitely one of them. Fresh mozzarella like the Belgioioso made in the States is relatively affordable and it’s delicious on everything. It melts easily, but it's not too watery. It's not sitting in a gallon of buffalo milk remnants. Peeled garlic is a very important pantry staple because you don't want to have to peel garlic when you cook. I feel like peeling garlic is cookus interruptus, you know? You're feeling good about cooking and then all of a sudden you have to slow down and peel garlic. It’s a whole different kind of mindset. Dijon mustard is one of the unsung heroes of the kitchen. I think in France they really still appreciate it, but in America we forget about it occasionally. Worcestershire sauce is another great flavor detonator. One that I got from some of my new friends from TikTok is chicken bullion powder. It’s not something I ever saw myself using, but I cannot deny how much deliciousness it adds to food and how quickly it does. Don't make stock with it. Just use it like salt and pepper as a seasoning.

EatingWell: What’s an underrated ingredient you wish people would cook with more often?

DiSpirito: I think yuzu-flavored soy or lemon-flavored soy is the cure-all. You can put that on anything, and it's delicious. I'm always running out of it. 

EatingWell: What’s your favorite comfort meal?

DiSpirito: The best comfort meal ever invented is pasta with Parmesan and butter. That's still my favorite. There's a recipe in the book for fettuccine alfredo. I don’t think it gets much more comforting or delicious than that, but I think you’ve got to do it the way I describe in the book. You have to put a bunch of butter on a tray or platter and throw the hot fettuccine on top. Then, pile the fresh Parmigiano Reggiano on top of that and mix until it's melted. That's like one of the best feelings a person can feel on planet Earth. In the book, I add chicken to it because it's a super Italian-American dish that I think gets a lot of crap, but it's just delicious. You can't argue with how good it is.

EatingWell: What does “eating well” mean to you?

DiSpirito: Eating well means striking the balance between doing what you know is good for you and doing what you know will make you happy. It’s finding the right path that you stray from occasionally, but you always end up back on that path. That's like the ultimate version of eating well, when you can do that over and over. If you're being too strict, you're going to be a neurotic mess. You really have to find that middle ground—the fine balance. It is a difficult one to find, and it can take years.

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