Eating for £2 a day, part three: simple pasta

3 Jul

Pasta with green beans in tomato sauce

Third in a series of posts on cheap eating in which I feed two adults (one of which is me) a selection of meals that taste good, on a budget of around £2 each per day.

Ever had a conversation about which carbohydrate you’d choose to live off, if you were only allowed one? It’s a tough call, but I always get a nagging feeling that pasta would be the safest bet – even if you’ve got next to nothing to put it with, you can fix up an ace, frugal meal.

The recipe below is as simple as it gets, but punches a long way above its low cost – to the point where a contented ex-housemate named it Alex’s Pasta and continues cooking it (as far as I know) to this day. Sadly I didn’t invent it – its origins are lost in the sleepless mists of my early twenties – but for two people it will set you back well under £1.50.

Other basic winners I cook every month include amatriciana (which I’ll also be eating as part of my £2 a day shop) and pasta alla Genovese (it’s illegal to still be hungry after taking down linguine and potatoes in the same dish). Also strong is a variation of the one below in which an onion is gently fried at the start, the chilli is omitted and a red pepper – grilled black, skinned and chopped – is added near the end in place of the beans.

Pasta with green beans in tomato sauce

You will need:

  • 1tbsp oil
  • 1 large or 2 small cloves garlic
  • 1-2 chillies, fresh or dried
  • 1 can tomatoes
  • 100g green beans
  • 200g pasta – if your beans are long and thin, spaghetti or linguine are best, if they’re fatter dwarf beans then shells are ideal
  • Cheese to top

To prepare:

  • Heat the oil very gently, slice the garlic and chilli finely, add to the pan and soften (but do not burn!).
  • Add the tomatoes, bang up the heat, break up the tomatoes and bring to the boil.
  • Simmer over a medium heat for around 20 mins until a thick spicy sauce has formed.
  • Meanwhile bring a pan of water (or kettle) to the boil, pop it on the stove and lightly salt.
  • Top and tail your green beans, leaving them whole if thin or cutting into halves/thirds if thick. Pop them into a sieve and set them to boil/steam until tender over the boiling water.
  • Lift out the beans, add a dash of oil to the water and get your pasta on. When it’s nearly ready add the tender beans to the tomato sauce.
  • Drain the pasta, reserving a few teaspoons cooking water. Toss it in this, then mix up with the tomato and green bean mixture.
  • Top with grated cheese and get it down your neck.
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