A few years ago, I moved to Italy to study gastronomy, and it was there that I confronted my food-hoarding habit. I lived in a charming Parma flat with a former advertising executive from Australia by way of Singapore, and, on weekends, her Columbian fiancée. Collectively, we had a problem. We were powerless as consumers when faced with such novel delights as savory Sicilian sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil-packed sardines, and gem-colored jars of jam and honey.
As our time there dwindled, it became clear we needed to stop saving and start eating. We called our endeavor the “Parma Pantry Project.” The results were meals that were creative and ambitious. Even now, when winter drags on, I challenge myself to use my precious ingredients.
Each of these recipes features pantry staples with a few fresh ingredients. The crostata makes use of jam, almonds and flour; canned tomato and olive oil soften stale bread into the Tuscan pappa al pomodoro; and the Sicilian bucatini con le Sarde pulls punch from canned sardines, breadcrumbs, saffron, raisins and pine nuts.