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Food & Drink

5 cheap and easy pasta recipes

Fancy pasta for dinner? Of course you do. Pasta's the go-to student meal for many reasons – and these cheap, easy and (most importantly) tasty recipes are ideal, whatever the occasion.

Colourful pasta

Credit: virtu studioE – Shutterstock

We've put together some tasty and super easy pasta recipes for you to try.

All of these dishes serve two people and have five ingredients or less (excluding the pasta). Oil and salt and pepper will be needed for each dish, but you’ll probably have these in your kitchen cupboard anyway. If not, ask a housemate to use some of theirs.

We all tend to go a bit overboard with the pasta portions too, but 100g per person should do it.

Talking of good food with cheap ingredients, did you know you can make all these delicious meals with baked beans?

Chicken, spinach and sundried tomato pasta

Sundried tomatoes with pasta on a plate

Ingredients

  • 1 x chicken breast
  • ½ bag of spinach
  • 10 x sundried tomatoes
  • Parmesan
  • Recommended pasta type: penne

Method

  1. Cut your chicken breast into bite-sized pieces, season with salt and pepper and fry in a pan with some olive oil for around 10 minutes, turning often to make sure there’s no pink
  2. Meanwhile, cook your pasta as advised on the packet in a pot of boiling water with a big pinch of salt in it
  3. Once the chicken's been frying for about five mins, add the sundried tomatoes and stir around so the tomato oil coats the chicken. Continue to fry until the 10 mins are up
  4. Drain the pasta, add the chicken and tomato mix to the pasta, then add your spinach leaves. Give it a good stir for a minute or two until the spinach starts to wilt, and add some black pepper
  5. Dish up and grate over some parmesan to finish.

About this dish

If you shop around at different supermarkets for these ingredients, we found that you can make at least two portions of this for just £4.94. This works out at about £2.50 per portion.

This dish packs a salty punch thanks to the sundried tomatoes and parmesan, and the chicken and spinach are a nice dose of protein.

Make sure you go for a glass jar of sundried tomatoes (that should last you a while) rather than any deli-counter options as these tend to be way more expensive.

For this tasty and nutritious dinner, you just need to follow our simple instructions.

Salmon spaghetti with lemon

salmon spaghetti on plate

Credit: DronG – Shutterstock

Ingredients

  • 100g smoked salmon trimmings
  • 3 tbsps crème fraîche
  • Parmesan
  • Small bunch of chopped chives
  • ½ lemon
  • Recommended pasta type: spaghetti/linguine

Method

  1. Put some hot, salted water on to boil, and cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet
  2. Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and add the salmon pieces, chives and crème fraîche
  3. Add a squeeze of lemon, some parmesan and black pepper, mix and have a taste
  4. Serve with some chopped chives and more parmesan to garnish.

About this dish

The cheapest ingredients we could find for this dish added up to £5.35. There would be some left over after one serving, but not enough to make another portion (the packet of salmon trimmings from ASDA was 120g).

This meal is really easy to make, but our main tip is to not to overdo it with the lemon.

It's a great dish to go for if you’re cooking for a friend and want to impress, or you're just craving some healthy fish in your life.

You might think smoked salmon is strictly off the menu when you’re on a student budget, but going for a pack of trimmings (essentially the smaller offcuts that aren't included in fancy packets) can work out pretty cheaply – the packet from ASDA was £1.65 for 120g.

As well as this, supermarket downshifting is also worth a try to cut down on your food bill for this (and every) dish.

If you haven't already, check out the best kitchen gadgets for students. They'll make cooking at home so much easier.

Creamy chorizo penne

chorizo pasta dish

Ingredients

  • ½ chorizo sausage, sliced
  • ½ bag of spinach
  • 3 tbsp crème fraîche
  • Parmesan
  • Sprinkling of parsley
  • Recommended pasta type: penne

Method

  1. Put your hot salted water on to boil, and cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet
  2. Meanwhile, fry your chorizo in a small amount of oil or butter for about 5 minutes, turning occasionally
  3. Add your spinach to the chorizo and keep stirring to help the spinach wilt. You might need to add the spinach a handful at a time since it takes up a lot of space at first, but you’ll be surprised how small it gets once it starts to wilt!
  4. Drain your pasta and add the chorizo and spinach mix. Mix in your crème fraîche and season with a little salt and black pepper
  5. Serve with some chopped parsley and a sprinkling of parmesan on top.

About this dish

We found ingredients for this dish for a total of £5.93. If you don't overdo it with the crème fraîche, you could make the ingredients stretch to two dishes, making it around £3 per portion.

The best thing about this recipe is the mix of the spices with the creamy crème fraîche.

If you’re in the mood for spice, you can add some dried chilli to give it a bit of a kick, and if you want to bulk it out a little, a handful of chopped button mushrooms will go really nicely with it.

Comforting spinach gnocchi

gnocchi and spinach in a bowl

Ingredients

  • Bunch of spinach leaves
  • splash of oil
  • 1 clove chopped garlic
  • 1/2 lemon
  • Recommended pasta type: gnocchi

Method

  1. Melt your butter in a large frying pan then add the gnocchi. Fry until it becomes lightly golden on each side
  2. Throw in your garlic and spinach leaves – keep moving ingredients in the pan to stop them from burning
  3. Continue to fry until the spinach leaves have wilted slightly and the gnocchi is crispy (around 3–5 mins).
  4. Serve up with some parmesan and black pepper!

About this dish

If you shop around, this dish can work out to be so low cost. We found ingredients that added up to £2.90, including oil. This could make two portions for just £1.45 per portion. What a bargain.

Gnocchi is halfway between a mini potato dumpling and a ball of pasta – a.k.a. the best of both worlds.

As with any pasta, you can boil gnocchi (it literally takes 2 minutes to cook this way – they float to the top of the water when they're ready) but the lesser known (and better, we reckon) way to cook these little balls of perfection is to fry them up.

We used spinach (spinach is a cheap way to add nutrients and flavour to any meal) but sage butter would work just as well. You can replace the spinach with sage leaves for a dish that tastes completely different.

Easy carbonara with a twist

bowl of carbonara outside

Ingredients

  • 4 slices of bacon cut into small pieces (or a small pack of bacon lardons)
  • A cup of frozen peas
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3 tbsps double cream
  • A handful of chopped mint
  • Recommended pasta type: farfalle (or pasta bows, as we like to call them)

Method

  1. Put your water on to boil, and cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet
  2. Fry your chopped-up bacon slices or lardons in a small non-stick frying pan. You shouldn't need any oil to do this if your bacon is already quite fatty
  3. In a bowl, mix two egg yolks with your double cream and add some parmesan and black pepper
  4. When the pasta has about two mins left on the clock, throw in your frozen peas with the pasta
  5. Drain the pan of pasta and peas when it’s ready. Then, on a surface away from the hob you’ve been cooking on (if it’s too hot it’ll make the egg mix scramble), add the eggy mix to your pasta and peas and give it a good mix
  6. Dish up straight away so it’s out of the hot pan, and top up with the chopped mint.

About this dish

The cheapest ingredients we could find for this carbonara added up to £4.22, and this was enough to make two portions. So, it works out at about £2.11 per portion.

You might think carbonara's way out of your cooking comfort zone, but it’s actually super easy to make.

Also, if you’re worried about this being a really rich and heavy dish, this is a light version and the fresh peas and mint absolutely make it.

If you're looking to cook more and cut down on takeouts, take inspiration from the student recreating takeaways for just £2.

For heaps more delicious budget recipes, head over to our student recipes page.