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Food & Drink

8 cheap and easy pasta recipes

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

Colourful pasta

Credit: virtu studioE – Shutterstock

We've put together some cheap and 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, 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


Serves: 4 | Costs: £4.10* (£1.03 per serving) | Time taken: 25 mins

  • 500g beef mince (£2.49)
  • 2 carrots (£0.16)
  • 2 onions (£0.24)
  • 1 cube of beef stock (£0.08)
  • 250g passata (£0.28)
  • 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar (£0.13)
  • 400g chopped tomatoes (£0.35)
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato puree (£0.10)
  • 2 garlic cloves (£0.05)
  • 400g spaghetti (£0.22)
  • Splash of wine (optional)
  • Additional herbs (optional).


  1. Chop up the onion, garlic and carrots.
  2. Fry the onion and garlic for two 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

If you're wondering what to make with pasta, spaghetti bolognese is a great option! A true classic.

It may look like a long list of ingredients, but it's actually a super cheap meal to make, working out at £1.03 per potion.

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

If you're keen to add some wine to the dish but don't want to spend a fortune, check out the best bottles under £5.

Bacon and egg penne

Penne pasta with mushroom and bacon

Credit: HrystynaM – Shutterstock


Serves: 4 | Costs: £2.60* (£0.65 per serving) | Time taken: 25 mins

  • 4 eggs (£0.60)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil (£0.17)
  • 190g mushrooms (£0.56)
  • 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise (£0.07)
  • 100g spring onions (£0.50)
  • 250g of bacon (£0.45)
  • 300g penne pasta (£0.25).


  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 eight 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.

These recipes are part of our student meal plan, which could save you up to £200/year.

Chicken, spinach and sundried tomato pasta

Sundried tomatoes with pasta on a plate


Serves: 4 | Costs: £4.64* (£1.16 per serving) | Time taken: 25 mins

  • 2 chicken breasts (£2.35)
  • 125g spinach (£0.22)
  • 10 sundried tomatoes (£1.40)
  • 20g parmesan (£0.34)
  • 400g penne pasta (£0.33).


  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 2 until the spinach starts to wilt, and add some black pepper.
  5. Dish up and grate over some parmesan to finish.

About this dish

There are tons of easy chicken pasta recipes, but this one is our favourite. 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 jar of sundried tomatoes (that should last you a while) rather than any deli-counter options, as these tend to be way more expensive.

Salmon spaghetti with lemon

salmon spaghetti on plate

Credit: DronG – Shutterstock


Serves: 4 | Costs: £2.81* (£0.70 per serving) | Time taken: 20 mins

  • 212g wild Pacific pink salmon (£1.70)
  • 3 tablespoons of crème fraîche (£0.15)
  • 20g parmesan (£0.34)
  • 5g chopped chives (£0.25)
  • ½ lemon (£0.15)
  • 400g spaghetti (£0.22).


  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, 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 pasta recipe is really easy to make, our main tip is to not overdo it with 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 can or 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


Serves: 4 | Costs: £2.18* (£0.55 per serving) | Time taken: 20 mins

  • ½ chorizo ring, sliced (£1.10)
  • 125g spinach (£0.22)
  • 3 tablespoons of crème fraîche (£0.15)
  • 20g parmesan (£0.34)
  • Sprinkling of parsley (£0.04)
  • 400g penne pasta (£0.33).


  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. And the best thing about it is the mix of the spices with the crème fraîche.

If you're in the mood for even more 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.

Spinach gnocchi

gnocchi and spinach in a bowl


Serves: 4 | Costs: £1.86* (£0.47 per serving) | Time taken: 15 mins

  • 125g spinach (£0.22)
  • Splash of oil (£0.04)
  • 2 cloves of chopped garlic (£0.05)
  • ½ lemon (£0.15)
  • 400g gnocchi (£1.40).


  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 three to five minutes).
  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 two 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 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.

If you love pasta, you might want to check out our list of the best recipe boxes – there's one that delivers pasta to your front door every week...

Pea and mint spaghetti

mint and pea spaghetti

Credit: ziashusha – Shutterstock


Serves: 4 | Costs: £2.77* (£0.69 per serving) | Time taken: 15 mins

  • 200g frozen peas (£0.29)
  • 175g grana padano (£1.79)
  • 2 garlic cloves (£0.05)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil (£0.17)
  • 20g fresh mint (£0.35)
  • 400g spaghetti (£0.22).


  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 to 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 may struggle to find grana padano. You can also use parmesan or no cheese at all.

Overall, it's one of the healthiest and cheapest pasta dishes on our list – ideal for a post-library dinner or a pre-night-out meal (or both).

Pasta carbonara with a twist

bowl of carbonara outside


Serves: 4 | Costs: £2.02* (£0.51 per serving) | Time taken: 20 mins

  • 4 slices of bacon cut into small pieces (£0.58)
  • 200g of frozen peas (£0.29)
  • 2 egg yolks (£0.30)
  • 3 tablespoons of double cream (£0.17)
  • 20g fresh mint (£0.35)
  • 400g penne pasta (£0.33).


  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.

The version pictured uses farfalle pasta which is slightly more expensive, so we listed penne for the ingredients as it comes in a bit cheaper.

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.

Find out how to keep your food fresh for longer.

* Prices are correct at the time of writing (using, and prices as guidelines).

Katie Paterson

WRITTEN BY Katie Paterson

Katie Paterson is an accomplished writer from Glasgow. She studied English Literature at the University of Strathclyde, then went on to do a Research Masters in Literature at the University of Amsterdam. As Lead Editor for Save the Student, Katie has covered topics from career tips to ways to make money go further as a student.
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