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Food & Drink

8 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 four people, and we've tried to keep the number of ingredients to a minimum. 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?

Spaghetti bolognese

Spaghetti bolognese

Credit: artem evdokimov – Shutterstock

Ingredients

Serves: 4 | Costs: £3.01* (£0.75 per serving) | Time taken: 25 mins

  • 500g beef mince (£1.49)
  • 2 carrots (£0.12)
  • 2 onions (£0.42)
  • 1 cube of beef stock (£0.10)
  • 250g passata (£0.16)
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (£0.10)
  • 400g chopped tomatoes (£0.28)
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree (£0.10)
  • 2 garlic cloves (£0.04)
  • 400g spaghetti (£0.20)
  • Splash of wine (optional)
  • Additional herbs (optional)

Method

  1. Chop up the onion, garlic and carrots
  2. Fry the onion and garlic for 2 minutes, then add carrots and fry for a further 4 minutes
  3. Turn up the heat and quickly cook the mince, breaking it up with a spatula – fry until browned
  4. Add the tinned tomatoes, passata, balsamic vinegar, tomato puree and the crumbled beef stock cube
  5. This is optional, but if you have any wine or herbs you'd like to use, add them now
  6. Boil down for at least 10 minutes on a low heat until you reach the desired consistency
  7. Cook the spaghetti per pack instructions
  8. Drain the spaghetti, season the bolognese and serve.

About this dish

Spaghetti bolognese is a classic.

It may look like a long list of ingredients, but it's actually a super cheap meal to make, working out at around £0.75 per potion.

Whether you're making it in bulk to last you a few days, or you're sharing with friends, it's an ideal meal after a long day of study – tasty, filling and super comforting.

Bacon and egg penne

Penne pasta with mushroom and bacon

Credit: HrystynaM – Shutterstock

Ingredients

Serves: 4 | Costs: £2.72* (£0.68 per serving) | Time taken: 25 mins

  • 4 eggs (£0.40)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (£0.05)
  • 190g mushrooms (£0.40)
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise (£0.40)
  • Salt and pepper (£0.01)
  • 100g spring onions (£0.56)
  • 8 rashers of bacon (£0.72)
  • 300g penne pasta (£0.18)

Method

  1. Boil a pan of water – cook the pasta for as long as the instructions on the pack say, and boil the eggs in the same pan for 8 minutes
  2. Fry the bacon in a pan until crisp
  3. When the bacon's cooked, remove it from the pan and add sliced mushrooms
  4. While the mushrooms fry, cut the bacon into pieces
  5. Mix the oil and mayonnaise together
  6. Drain the pasta and eggs, then peel the eggs and cut them into quarters
  7. Mix everything together and serve.

About this dish

Bacon and egg is always a winning combination, and the added pasta, mushrooms and seasoning make this dish pretty hard to beat.

It's already a low-cost dish, but you might even find you've got some of the ingredients in your fridge and cupboard already, like salt and pepper, pasta, eggs, mayonnaise and oil, making it even cheaper to make.

Chicken, spinach and sundried tomato pasta

Sundried tomatoes with pasta on a plate

Ingredients

Serves: 4 | Costs: £4.75* (£1.19 per serving) | Time taken: 25 mins

  • 2 chicken breasts (£1.60)
  • 125g spinach (£0.95)
  • 10 sundried tomatoes (£1.25)
  • Parmesan (£0.72)
  • 400g penne pasta (£0.23)

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

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

Serves: 4 | Costs: £3.85* (£0.96 per serving) | Time taken: 20 mins

  • 100g smoked salmon trimmings (£1.90)
  • 3 tbsps crème fraîche (£0.50)
  • Parmesan (£0.72)
  • Small bunch of chopped chives (£0.23)
  • ½ lemon (£0.30)
  • 400g spaghetti (£0.20)

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

While this meal is really easy to make, 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.

To cut down on your food bill for this (and every) dish, supermarket downshifting is always worth a try.

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

Serves: 4 | Costs: £3* (£0.75 per serving) | Time taken: 20 mins

  • 1 chorizo sausage, sliced (£0.34)
  • 125g spinach (£0.95)
  • 3 tbsps crème fraîche (£0.50)
  • Parmesan (£0.72)
  • Sprinkling of parsley (£0.26)
  • 400g penne pasta (£0.23)

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

Creamy chorizo penne is such a warming dish – the best thing about it 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

Serves: 4 | Costs: £1.98* (£0.50 per serving) | Time taken: 15 mins

  • 125g spinach (£0.95)
  • splash of oil (£0.07)
  • 2 clove chopped garlic (£0.06)
  • ½ lemon (£0.30)
  • 400g gnocchi (£0.60)

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

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.

Pea and mint spaghetti

mint and pea spaghetti

Credit: ziashusha – Shutterstock

Ingredients

Serves: 4 | Costs: £3.07* (£0.78 per serving) | Time taken: 15 mins

  • 200g frozen peas (£0.33)
  • 200g grana padano (£1.89)
  • 2 garlic cloves (£0.04)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (£0.10)
  • 20g fresh mint (£0.70)
  • 400g spaghetti (£0.14)

Method

  1. Cook the spaghetti, following the pack's instructions
  2. While the spaghetti cooks, chop the garlic and grate the grana padano
  3. Heat some oil in a pan and add the garlic and peas – fry for 2–3 minutes
  4. Drain the pasta and mix with the peas and garlic
  5. Sprinkle mint and grana padano over the top, mix and serve.

About this dish

Most of the ingredients should be easy to buy, but if you're struggling to find grana padano, the meal would also work well with parmesan, or without cheese altogether.

Overall, it's a healthy, cheap and fast dish to make – ideal for a post-library dinner or a pre-night-out meal (or both).

Easy carbonara with a twist

bowl of carbonara outside

Ingredients

Serves: 4 | Costs: £2.35* (£0.59 per serving) | Time taken: 20 mins

  • 4 slices of bacon cut into small pieces (£1)
  • 200g of frozen peas (£0.14)
  • 2 egg yolks (£0.28)
  • 3 tbsps double cream (£0.18)
  • A handful of chopped mint (£0.23)
  • 400g farfalle (£0.52)

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

You might think carbonara's way out of your cooking comfort zone, but it’s actually super easy to make. Try this recipe for an easy and quick version of the creamy pasta dish.

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

 

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

* Prices are correct as of October 2019 (using Tesco.com and Sainsburys.co.uk prices as guidelines).