The Ingredients That Will Elevate Your Dishes At Home, According To Alex Guarnaschelli - Exclusive

Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli is a master of elevating the familiar. Go to her Butter in Midtown restaurant in New York City to alleviate all life's worries with gnocchi mac and cheese, braised boneless beef short ribs, grilled cauliflower, and smashed potatoes. On the Food Network, the legend will teach you to perfect the food that you crave with abandon — red onion rings, teriyaki chicken, and sweet potato and turkey shepherd's pie, for example. And if Julia Child made French cuisine fun, Guarnaschelli has us all riveted with old-school comfort foods; it's even the title of one of her books.

Guarnaschelli's magic is surely singular — the celeb chef knows how to take simple, everyday meals and raise them to the sublime. Who better, then, to ask for ingredients to up our at-home cooking game? Tasting Corner did just that when we talked to Guarnaschelli for the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. She came up with three that, at the risk of sounding cliché, might just change the way you cook forever: red wine vinegar, anchovies, and grainy mustard.

They're underrated but a great way to add something special to meals

These are not ingredients that you'll have to order from Amazon, import from Europe, or grow in your backyard. It's likely you have at least two of Alex Guarnaschelli's three ingredient suggestions already stored in your kitchen cupboard. The first thing you should be using more of — per the comfort food connoisseur — is red wine vinegar. "A bottle of red wine vinegar is cheap," Guarnaschelli told Tasting Corner, "and a splash of it anywhere, like a gravy, sauce, or even apple pie filling, can really perk up other flavors and bring them to life," the chef explained.

As for number two? Get yourself a tin of anchovies, but toss out the fish if you prefer. "You may not love anchovies, but the oil in the tin can of anchovies is priceless and the foundation of delicious things like Caesar salad dressing," Guarnaschelli revealed. "Buy a small tin of anchovies and drizzle a little bit of the oil anywhere you put Parmesan cheese." 

Her last tip will be music to the ears of vegans. "Grainy mustard is also underrated," she advised. "You get great texture from the mustard seeds, and a fabulous mix of acidity and creaminess comes from this nondairy source. I absolutely love it." 

Want more Alex Guarnaschelli? Check out her new show, "Ciao House," on Food Network, premiering on April 16 at 8 p.m., or check out some of her recipes on FoodNetwork.com or AlexGuarnaschelli.com. Learn more about the South Beach Wine & Food Festival at sobewff.org.