Your canny ideas bump this shelf-filler into hero-ingredient status.
Tinned tomatoes, whether whole or chopped, are my winter go-to ingredient; a saviour when the vibrant fresh vegetables of summer and early autumn are past their best. Now that it's mid-October, the likes of parsnips, onions and carrots are king, and combining them with the bright sweetness of tomatoes from a can makes for the ultimate comfort food.
It might have a long fridge-life, but Lucy Parr's spicy fridge salsa was wolfed down with a few tortilla chips in minutes. It was a doddle to make, as was Marmaduke Scarlet's Middle Eastern-style salad, championing the classic combo of aubergine and tomato. On the heartier side, two one-pot dishes won out: bron99's cosy pasta bake and MizPepperpot's Lebanese baked beans, which breathed new life into a standby meal.
This week's overall winner is a true celebration of the store cupboard; tinned tomatoes, spices, walnuts, a jar of sun-dried tomatoes, with only some leeks and herbs needed fresh: Ofer Guez's soup was a hit with everyone who tried it, and something I'll look forward to eating again as winter draws in.
The winning recipe: Spicy tomato soup with leeks and walnuts
To make this into a meal by itself, you can replace the garnish with 100g short pasta, and cook it in the soup. You can also substitute the leeks with shallots or even onions.
Ofer Guez, London
3 tbsp oil from a jar of sun-dried tomatoes
1 tbsp yellow mustard seeds
1 tbsp black mustard seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
3 medium leeks (or 2 big ones), sliced
100ml white wine
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
½ tbsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp sugar
500ml water or vegetable stock
8-10 sun-dried tomatoes, plus extra to serve
75g walnuts, chopped, plus extra to serve
A sprig of thyme or basil, leaves picked and chopped
1 Fry the spices in the oil over low heat, just until fragrant, then add the sliced leeks and salt to taste. Add the wine and simmer until it is absorbed in the leeks. Cook over a low-medium heat, partly covered, until the leeks are soft but still have some bite.
2 Add the tinned tomatoes, cayenne and sugar. Cook for about 30 minutes, breaking the tomato chunks with a masher or fork. Add the stock or water, cook for few more minutes, then add the sun-dried tomatoes and walnuts and blend with a stick blender. Adjust the seasoning with a little more sugar or salt, if needed.
3 To serve, spoon into bowls and top with a few sun-dried tomatoes, a scattering of walnuts and some chopped herbs.
Fiery chilli and tomato 'fridge' salsa
¼ white onion, chopped
½ garlic clove, minced
½ tbsp fresh dried oregano
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
½ tsp salt
3-4 fresh chillies to taste (adjust heat to suit you, go as fiery as you dare)
1 tin whole or chopped tomatoes
A big squeeze of lemon juice
A big handful of coriander/parsley, to serve
1 In a blender, whizz up the chopped onion, garlic, oregano, vinegar and salt, until well blended.
2 Add the chillies (deseeded if you like it less spicy) and pulse until well chopped up. Add the tinned tomatoes and pulse.
3 Pour into a serving bowl and taste, then season with salt. Add lemon juice and sprinkle on the freshly chopped parsley or coriander.
Penne baked with tomatoes and mozzarella
The interesting thing about this recipe is that the pasta is cooked in the tomato sauce without first cooking it in water. The pasta plumps up with the velvety richness of the tomatoes - a revelation the first time I tried it.
bron99, via GuardianWitness
2 tsp olive oil
6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
½ tsp chilli flakes
2 x 400g tins chopped or whole tomatoes
350g penne pasta
125ml double cream
2 tbsp grated parmesan
A generous handful of chopped basil leaves
1 ball mozzarella
Salt and black pepper
1 In a large ovenproof casserole dish, heat the oil over a medium heat and add the garlic and chilli flakes. Stir for about 30 seconds then add the tomatoes and stir. If you're using whole tomatoes, break them down with a few serious jabs with your wooden spoon. Simmer for about 15 minutes till the liquid starts to reduce.
2 Add the pasta, along with ½ tbsp salt - you need it to prevent the pasta being bland - and the water and mix well. Bring the sauce back to a simmer, then turn the heat down and cook till the penne is al dente - about 10 minutes. Be sure to stir often to prevent the pasta sticking to the bottom of the pan.
3 Heat the oven to 375F/190C/gas mark 5. Stir in the cream, parmesan, basil leaves and a good grinding of black pepper. Tear the mozzarella into little gobbets and dot them across the top of the casserole. Bake for 15-20 minutes till the sauce is bubbling and the mozzarella is soft and golden. When it's done, take it out of the oven and let it sit for a couple of minutes before serving.
Lebanese inspired 'baked beans'
The inspiration for these beans came from a delicious Lebanese fava-bean dish. I like to cook mine in the oven to produce lovely sticky bits around the edge of the pot.
MizPepperpot, via GuardianWitness
A large glug of olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cayenne
2 cardamom pods, crushed
1 x 400g tin cannellini beans, drained
1 x 290g tin borlotti beans, drained
400g tin plum tomatoes, chopped
Salt and black pepper
Chopped coriander, to garnish
1 Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Heat the oil and fry the onion until almost cooked and translucent. Stir in the crushed garlic and spices and cook for a further 2 minutes. Add the beans and tinned tomatoes, juice included, and season with salt and pepper. Place in a lidded casserole dish and bake for about 30 minutes. Remove the lid for the last 10 minutes.
2 To serve, sprinkle with coriander, drizzle with olive oil, and eat with good-quality, crusty bread.
Zaalouk: Moroccan cooked aubergine and tomato salad
This looks less like a salad and more like a mush, but it is incredibly moreish. Fantastic as a dip with flatbreads, as a sandwich filling with sausages or with roast meat (particularly lamb).
MarmadukeScarlet, via GuardianWitness
2 medium aubergines
1x400g tin of plum tomatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
A pinch of sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp paprika (smoked or sweet)
1 tsp red wine vinegar or pomegranate molasses
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp fresh coriander, roughly chopped
2 tbsp fresh parsley, roughly chopped
1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Flatbreads or pitta, to serve
1 Preheat the grill to high. Prick the aubergines and grill until the skin has blackened, turning occasionally. Once the aubergines are blackened and soft, which takes ½-1 hour, set aside to cool.
2 Drain the plum tomatoes in a sieve over a bowl, reserving the juices. Squish them until broken up.
3 Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large heavy-based saucepan. Gently fry the garlic for 1 minute. Add the cinnamon stick and chilli flakes. Stir, then add the tomatoes. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Add a pinch of sugar if the tomatoes taste very acidic. Add the reserved tomato juices if the mixture seems too dry. (Add it anyway if you like a wetter salad!) The resulting mixture should be slightly thick. Season to taste.
4 Peel the charred skin from the aubergine. Roughly chop the aubergine flesh and set over a sieve to allow any liquid to drain away. Combine the chopped aubergine with the tomato mixture, together with spices, herbs, red wine vinegar (or pomegranate molasses) and lemon juice. Refrigerate for a day to allow the flavours to develop. Before serving, bring back to room temperature and drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil. Serve with warmed flatbreads or pitta.
This week's overall winner is a true celebration of the store cupboard. Photograph: Jill Mead/Guardian