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Food & Drink

5 amazingly easy pasta recipes

There's a reason why pasta is the go-to student dinner - it’s filling, versatile, super cheap, and most important of all - it's bloody tasty!
cheap and easy pasta recipesThe best thing about pasta is that often the more simple you make it, the better it tastes! Just ask any Italian person you know.

To prove it, we’ve collected together our favourite super simple pasta recipes with only five or less ingredients in each dish (not including the pasta itself). Olive oil and salt and pepper will be needed for each dish, but you’re likely to have these in your kitchen cupboard at all times!

All the recipe quantities below are to serve two, but you can half the ingredients if you’re eating solo, or double for four portions etc.

And remember you can always eat the leftovers the next day, and as weird as this might sound - you can even freeze your pasta dishes in single portions and eat at a later date (although we wouldn't recommend doing this for the creamier dishes).

We all tend to go a bit overboard with the pasta portions too - 100g per person should suffice!

Whilst we're on the topic of fine dining with cheap ingredients, did you know you can make all of these delicious meals with baked beans?

Chicken, spinach and sundried tomato pasta

chicken pastaThis dish packs a nice 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, simple and nutritious dinner you just need to follow our instructions below.


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


  1. Cut your chicken breast into bite sized pieces, season with salt and pepper and fry in a frying pan with some olive oil for around 10 mins, turning often to make sure there’s no pink.
  2. Meanwhile, cook your pasta according to the time mentioned on the packet in a pot of boiling water with a big pinch of salt in it.
  3. Once the chicken has been frying for around 5 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 then 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!

Lemony salmon spaghetti

lemon salmon spaghettiYou might think smoked salmon is strictly off the menu when you’re on a student budget, but going for a pack of trimmings (which are essentially just the smaller off cuts that they don’t include in fancy packets) can work out pretty cheap (around £2.50-£3 a pack).

This one’s a good option to go for if you’re cooking for a friend and want to impress, or just crave some healthy fish in your life! Be careful with adding the lemon at the end as it can get a bit overwhelming if you use too much. As your granny always said - you can add but you can’t take out!


  • 100g smoked salmon trimmings
  • 3 tbsps creme fraiche
  • Parmesan
  • Small bunch of chopped chives
  • 1/2 lemon
  • Recommended pasta type: Spaghetti/linguine


  1. Put your hot salted water on to boil, and cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet.
  2. Once the pasta is cooked, drain and throw in the salmon pieces, chives and creme fraiche.
  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.

Creamy chorizo penne

chorizo penne The best thing about this recipe is the mix of the spices with the creamy creme fraiche.

If you’re feeling spicy, you can also add some dried chilli to give it a bit of a kick, and if you want to bulk it out a little, some button mushrooms go nicely with it too!


  • ½ chorizo sausage, sliced
  • ½ bag of spinach
  • Creme fraiche
  • Parmesan
  • Parsley
  • Recommended pasta type: penne


  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 creme fraiche and season with a little salt and black pepper.
  5. Serve with some chopped parsley and a parmesan on top.

Comforting squash gnocchi

gnocchi recipe
Gnocchi is half way between a mini potato dumpling and a ball of pasta - aka the best of both worlds! Like 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 way to cook these little balls of perfection (and the better IMO) is to fry 'em up.

Sage butter is the easiest but tastiest option to accompany gnocchi too. If you try this dish and love it as much as we do, a tip for preserving your sage is to fry it all up in butter to create your sauce in bulk, then pour into an ice tray that you can then pop out to fry when you're in the mood!


  • Bunch of sage leaves
  • 2 tbsps of butter
  • 1 clove chopped garlic
  • 1/2 lemon
  • Recommended pasta type: gnocchi


  1. Melt your butter in a large frying pan then add the sage and garlic. Fry for around 2 mins until the leaves start to darken and go crispy.
  2. Throw in your gnocchi and stir around lots to coat with the sage butter.
  3. Continue to fry until the sage leaves have crispened up and the gnocchi has started to turn a gold colour (around 3-5 mins).
  4. Serve up with some parmesan and black pepper!

Easy carbonara with a twist

easy to make carbonaraYou might freak at the idea of making a carbonara yourself at home, but the good news is it’s actually one of the easiest pasta dishes to make EVER.

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 (sounds weird, but trust us on this one!).


  • 4 slices of bacon cut into small pieces (or a small pack of bacon lardons)
  • A cup of frozen peas
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tbsps Double cream
  • Handful of chopped mint
  • Parmesan
  • Recommended pasta type: Farafalle (or pasta bows to me and you)
  1. Put your hot salted water on to boil, and cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet.
  2. Fry your chopped up your bacon slices or lardons in a small non-stick frying pan. You won’t need any oil to do this as bacon is already pretty fatty.
  3. In a bowl, mix 2 eggs with your double cream and add some parmesan and black pepper
  4. When the pasta has about 2 mins left on the clock, throw in your frozen peas with the pasta
  5. Drain the pasta and peas mix 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 with the chopped mint and parmesan.

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

Did we miss out your favourite? Got any other insider tips for making a banging pasta dish? Let us know in the comments.