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My Five Inexpensive Kitchen Essentials

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Five Inexpensive Kitchen Essentials

I have a lot of tools and gadgets in the kitchen that I use a lot and feel like I can't do without.  I couldn't give up my KitchenAid mixer or my MagiMix food processor. You need good quality pots and pans, of course.  A few good sharp knives are essential.   These are all fantastic items but are pricey.  What about the tools in the kitchen that make my life easier but are not expensive?  These are my top five that I would be lost without when I'm cooking!


Rimmed Sheet Pans

Rimmed Sheet pans - My workhorses in the kitchen.  I have many of these sheet pans and sometimes I use almost every single one, if I'm cooking for a crowd.  I do food prep on them all the time. I use them when I am going to grill meat - I lay the meat out on a sheet pan and season it on both sides and sometimes add a little marinade.  It makes it so easy to take out to the grill and the rimmed sides prevent any marinade from spilling.  This pan is also perfect for assembling and laying out kabobs.  I also like to line the pans with foil and roast vegetables on them in the oven.  The pans are also terrific for cooling food. When I cook a meat mixture or a risotto and need to cool it quickly for a recipe, these are perfect because you can spread the food out on them and let it cool.  These are about $15 per pan.



Metal Strainer 

A metal handled spider, or strainer  - This is such an inexpensive item to have, but so worth it.  I hang this from my pot rack above my island and I use it all the time.   Instead of pouring out my pasta into a colander in the sink, I just take my handle strainer and lift the pasta out.  Why? Because most of the time, I want to keep my pasta water for my sauce and I have my sauce sitting in a pot on the stove right beside my boiling pasta.  I just lift it out and place it right in the sauce and finish it that way.  It is also terrific for when you fry foods or want to lift out vegetables that you've boiled.  It has so little surface area because of the wires, it strains really well.  This one is about $12. 




Parchment Sheets 

Parchment Paper Sheets - Lots of people use Silpats and love them for baking, but I got real tired of washing them. I now buy parchment baking sheets - precut - and I love them.  I actually buy a whole case at a time of them from Amazon and keep them in my garage. I use "If You Care" brand and they are very good quality, with no sticking at all of food.  I use them a ton.  I use them for cooking pizzas in the oven, baking bread, baking cookies and anything involving puff pastry.  I also make parchment paper circles out of them and line my cake pans for baking so that the cakes come right out. There is nothing to wash - not even the pan. You just throw them away.  If you are not cooking something that involves butter or oil, like bread, I can keep them and reuse them several times.  There are twelve boxes to a case and they end up being about $3.50 per box.



 Coarse Microplane Grater

Coarse microplane grater - Love this thing for grating garlic.  I just hate garlic presses and I don't like mincing garlic by hand.  This particular microplane grater is the perfect size for grating garlic right into your recipe.  I use it constantly just for that.  It's about $13.




Kitchen Scale 

Kitchen Scale - What would I do without my kitchen scale?  After you start using one, you just can't do without it.  One of the best uses of this scale is to measure pasta.  How do you measure out how much pasta to cook? Just eyeball it?  Bad idea.  If you measure the amount, there is no waste.  I also buy meat or shrimp sometimes in bulk, come home and divide up the packages and vacuum seal them.  Then I weigh the portions and mark them and put them in the freezer.  If I'm trying a new recipe and it calls for 2 ounces of something I can actually weigh it and not have to guess about the amount.  My kitchen scale is just essential. This one is about $15.


What are the things you can't do without in your kitchen?

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Reader Comments (14)

Great post. I can't live without my microplaner, either!

July 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEmma

Please, can you tell us about your vacuum sealer, too? Sounds like it's another essential.

July 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth DiPalma

I have 3 sets of stainless measuring cups and measuring spoons. When I am doing marathon cooking or baking, I like the ability to use these items without having to wash them out every few minutes. A simple luxury.

July 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSusanamantha

At 71years of age, I have had almost every kitchen tool imaginable and I also have each of your inexpensive essential kitchen items and would also list those as most used and appreciated in my kitchen.
One comment asked about your food saver. I am assuming you group that as one of your favorite more costly essentials or would you include that in with mixer etc.
I LOVE RECEIVING THE ITALIAN DISH. It is a treat to see it in my email. Thanks for bringing joy to many of your loyal followers.

July 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGeorgia

I gave up my garlic press awhile ago. I, too, love using microplane grater to mince garlic. Fast and easy!

From The Italian Dish:

Elizabeth: I have a Food Saver Vacuum Sealer and I have had it for years! I absolutely love it. It removes so much air from the food that meats keep for a couple of years in the freezer. It's amazing. I vacuum seal so much stuff with it. I added a link in the post to the brand that I have.

July 1, 2014 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

Metal Tongs: I stir with them, especially pasta. I use them to turn things over in the pan, and pull rolls out of the oven when I am heating them up.
I use them to serve. And I only own two of them, one with short handles and one longer.
Both are form William Sonoma, more money than most but they last forever. They are my go to tool for just about anything.

Viva the microplane grater!!! When it comes to mincing garlic I never peel the bud, I just start grating with the skin on which separates easily from the pulp and is easily disposed of. A prayer answered for all cooks!!!

July 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGian Banchero

These are all great tools and suggestions. I have them all and use them constantly. The microplane also works great with hard cheese, ginger and lemon zest.

July 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLynn

Great advice.

July 31, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTrasloco Lugano

do try this new way to measure dry spaghetti portions and cook just the amount you want, and don't find you're throwing away the extra you put in 'just in case'! Check the demo video and buy it online at ....enjoy ...:-)

August 20, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGraham Stevenson

I can't live without my pressure cooker. You can cook fresh beets in 15 minutes retaining all the flavor. Green beans and carrots in 1 minute, Stuffed Artichokes in 15 minutes. Soups in 30 minutes.. Beans are great too! Saves so much time!
Another tool I can't cook without is a fresh lemon & lime squeezer I got at Williams Sonoma, but now they are available everywhere.

June 25, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDiane Monteiro

I made a list to put in a Newlywed cookbook I compiled. "If I were a Newlywed stocking a kitchen."

heavy bottomed quality saucepans – over 25 years later, my pans look almost new. I am so grateful my mother in law bought me nice pans. Food is less likely to burn in quality pans. Many quality stainless steel pans have a layer of copper or aluminum sandwiched in the bottom of the pan that you can’t see. I have 3 sizes of saucepans and a large frying pan with sides. I have friends who think glass lids are the only way to go. I am happy with my regular lids.

1 very large pot. There may only be 2 of you now, but it is so nice to have a pot for making soup, chili, or boiling a large quantity of noodles. Mine is from the same set as my saucepans. I can boil 3 pounds of pasta in my pot. If you get one with a thick bottom, things won’t burn as easily.

1 or two large non-stick frying pans. I like the ones with tall sides and lids. I use mine almost every day for sautéing food with minimal fat or combining recipes such as fried rice.

a hand blender. (emersion blender) The ones that look like a wand and have one blade on the end. I use mine a lot for making smooth gravy, pureeing soups, and whipping scrambled eggs.

a hand mixer. You don’t need one very often, but if you’re ever going to make 7 minute frosting, you better get one! If you can’t afford a mixer yet, a hand mixer will work for most recipes.

a jelly roll pan. 15 x 10 1/2 My favorite is actually the stoneware Pampered Chef pan. It is the perfect size for a lot of recipes I make.

3 large baking sheets with sides. 18 x 13 These are perfect for 1 and ?ing a recipe for the jelly roll pan. They used to sell them in 3 packs at Costco, but I haven’t seen them there for a while. They also hold one more row of cookies both directions than a traditional cookie sheet. You need one for the oven, one to be cooking down and one for placing you next batch of cookies on. If you use a little elbow grease cleaning them, they will still look almost brand new when they are 20 years old. Restaurant supply houses probably have the best price.

silpats -(non-stick baking mats) I have 3 18x13 for my baking sheets. I have only had these about 5 years and can't believe I ever lived without them.

a quality vegetable peeler. One that easily takes off the peel but doesn’t take half of your vegetable with it. I love the Pampered Chef peeler.

A couple of casserole dishes from Goodwill or a garage sale. It’s great to be able to make a meal for another family and not have to worry about whether they’ll break your favorite dish or never give it back to you.

(2) 9x13 pans with lids. I have some that are aluminum and some that are glass. I love them both. You can buy a glass 9x13 pan with a insulated zippered cover that has a hot and cold pack in it to take to potlucks.

flat bottomed wooden spoons, heat resistant rubber scrapers and a large surface plastic pancake turner. You don’t want to scratch your nice non-stick pans.

2 or three of those inexpensive thin plastic flexible cutting boards. Mine are all white, but my friend has colored ones and always uses one particular color for meat and another for vegetables. They just slip easily into the dishwasher.

an electric knife. I only use mine about 4 times a year, but I am so glad I have one. If you don’t have a good bread knife, it works great for cutting soft homemade bread without squishing it. It also works well for cutting partially frozen meat.

Clear containers for leftovers. You will be less likely to throw out food if you can see what is in the containers without taking off the lids.

Air popcorn popper - I think microwave popcorn is gross and cooking it in oil adds a lot of fat.

fine mesh strainer. - Sometimes you want to drain things that have particles smaller than a colander. We also like to use it to take the Spatzela out of the boiling water

A Sp?tzela maker. WE LOVE SPATZELA!!

a quality mixer and blender. If I were rich, I’d buy every new bride a Bosch Universal mixer. It can knead huge amounts of bread dough, mix large batches of cookie dough, and whip mashed potatoes. I can’t live without mine. It also has a powerful blender attachment. It crushes the ice to make very smooth Orange Julius or smoothies. Before you buy a blender and a mixer, see how much more it would be to just buy a Bosch. You won’t regret it. My Bosch has been used almost daily for 25 years.
Even people who use theirs frequently say that they last for 30-40 years. It seems like a lot of money to spend, but you end up with an excellent mixer that also kneads bread dough, and a blender. If you plan on baking bread frequently, I think it is a must-have.

If you have a good blender and don’t ever plan on kneading large amounts of bread dough, then a Kitchen Aid mixer would be my second choice.

If you’re never going to make bread and you’re just looking for an extremely good blender, I love the Blendtec my cousin purchased at Costco! It totally pulverizes anything you put in it to a smooth texture.

April 9, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJamieLJ

I have seen almost all of your posts and had a question what equipment do you use? According to this post you use usual equipment that everybody has at kitchen and it means that you have a talent.

February 14, 2019 | Unregistered Commenteryour academic

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