The Pantry Ingredients Chef Nancy Silverton Can't Go Without

The work of being a chef depends on much more than one's skills in the kitchen. There is an aspect to cooking — whether at home or in a professional setting — that also relies on one's ability to stock a pantry well, so that an excellent meal can be pulled together with just a handful of ingredients on short notice. For Nancy Silverton, owner and founder of several of the most famous restaurants and bakeries in Los Angeles, there are five key ingredients that should be kept in the pantry at all times: "Anchovies, extra virgin olive oil, olives, and capers. Absolutely flaky sea salt — that is a must" (per the Michelin Guide).

Browse through the menus at any of Silverton's restaurants, and you will find these ingredients sprinkled throughout each of the courses — from antipasti to salads (like her famous Nancy's Caesar) to pasta, pizzas, and even desserts. The many Mediterranean ingredients that characterize Silverton's list are inspired by her time spent in Italy — where quality matters more than quantity when it comes to what's in the pantry.

How to choose and use your pantry essentials

When deciding which pantry items you can't live without, feel free to take inspiration from Nancy Silverton's essentials and adjust to your own tastes. Each of the five ingredients on Silverton's list offers an intense flavor of its own (anchovies, olives, and capers) or serves to unify or enhance the flavors of other ingredients (olive oil and salt). Since the first three bring bold saltiness and a unique umami taste, they can make a dish feel fully flavorful and complete with just one or two other ingredients. Try mixing and matching these with milder ingredients, like cheese and crackers for a snack, or pasta for something more substantial.

If you are looking to make something less salty and savory, consider the different types of salt that might best suit your cooking or baking. The beauty of Silverton's pantry items is that they are extremely versatile and capable of making a memorable meal or sizable spread for solo or group dining with very little else in the way of time or ingredients.

Why to store these ingredients in the pantry (and when to relocate them)

There is a reason every kitchen has a pantry — it is the ideal location for storing plenty of dried and canned foods to maximize shelf life and ensure that you're ready for anything — whether that's weathering a string of stormy days or hosting a group at a last-minute gathering. The main factors that contribute to food spoilage are temperature, humidity, oxygen, and light. A pantry provides a cool, dry, dark, and relatively stable space to store food. Nancy Silverton's perfect pantry is filled with ingredients that are best kept under these conditions.

That being said, of the five ingredients that are essentials in Silverton's pantry, only two can remain in the pantry after the container has been opened: extra virgin olive oil and salt. Whether stored in an olive oil cruet and a salt cellar or their original packaging, both are best at room temperature, but anchovies, olives, and capers must be moved to the refrigerator once their containers have been unsealed.