What are some cheap recipes?
September 29, 2004 1:21 AM   Subscribe

Cheap recipes? I have about three Euros in my pocket and need to buy something for dinner. I have some old standbys for tasty cheapie meals, but I'd like to learn about your favorites and make a collection of good ones.
posted by taz to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
-- spaghetti cacio e pepe
cook spaghetti, grate strong-flavored cheese like Pecorino on them, a little olive oil, pepper to taste.

-- spaghetti alla carbonara
cook spaghetti and prepare a gravy of sauteed little pieces of bacon and (lightly whipped together) raw fresh egg and a little cream. pepper to taste
posted by matteo at 1:33 AM on September 29, 2004 [1 favorite]

Some more pasta recipes:

For a good, rich, pasta sauce, combine 2 regular-size of cans chopped plum tomatoes, an onion, chopped, and a couple of chopped celery sticks. Add 5 tbsp of good olive oil, a tsp of sugar, salt & pepper. Optionally, toss in some chopped garlic and/or chopped fresh basil. Cook on medium-high heat for 15 minutes, then put the lot into a food processer to blend it into a smooth liquid. Then, return the sauce to the pan, add 4 tbsp of red wine, and let it simmer for another half hour or so, before finishing it off with a tbsp or two of butter. Serve with penne, for example.

For a carbonara, I would fry the bacon/pancetta pieces in olive oil until just about crispy, then add half an onion, chopped finely, & fry that until softened. Meanwhile cook the spaghetti, rigatoni or whatever. In a small bowl, mix together a beaten egg, a handful of freshly-grated parmesan or pecorino and some freshly-ground black pepper. Add a glass of dryish white wine to the bacon & onion, and let that reduce by half. Drain the pasta, stir in the bacon, onion, wine mix, and pour the egg, cheese and pepper mix over the top, and stir together until the egg just begins to start to cook on the hot noodles. Serve topped with more grated cheese & pepper.

Or, sort of combine the two above for spaghetti all'amatriciana. Make the tomato sauce in advance. Fry bacon/pancetta in oil & add onion, and also some chile-pepper flakes. Add the white wine, and reduce, and then add a good amount of the tomato sauce, and let that cook together for 15 minutes or so. Unless you had the two bottles of wine open already, though, this would probably tip you over the three-euro mark.

Also, there's always spaghetti all'aglio, olio e peperoncino: add some finely-chopped garlic and chile-flakes (and, optionally, some chopped parsley) to 5 tbsps or so of extra-virgin olive oil, and saute for just a minute or so & then mix with cooked spaghetti noodles.
posted by misteraitch at 2:57 AM on September 29, 2004 [1 favorite]

posted by Dagobert at 4:04 AM on September 29, 2004

Lentil Shepherd's Pie. Green lentils sauteed with onion, mushroom & some tomato puree. In a dish with mashed potato on top & in the oven (30 mins medium high heat), then finish with grated cheese which you melt under the grill for a minute or two. Serve with green veg/salad.

Soups. Make your own stock from leftovers (store veggie trimmings in a tub in the freezer, make fish or meat stock as soon as you've got the leftover bits) and make soups from whatever you have around.

Any soup can be improved by some judicious blender action ;-) Potatoes or beans to thicken & go with whats in season & plentiful at your local shop.
posted by i_cola at 4:35 AM on September 29, 2004

When I was young, and routinely broke, I'd take 3 packs of ramen noodles, cook them in boiling water with one of the flavor packets. Then, in a bowl, I poured a tablespoon of oil and another flavor packet, and mixed it up. I drained the ramen, and put it in the bowl and stirred. Total cost, about 40 cents. Granted, it's pretty carb heavy.

These days, I occasionally make this as a side dish, but I add some vegetables to it to round it out. Here in the states, Green Giant makes a frozen Szechwan vedge mix that works pretty well.

Beans, again, are probably your most nutritious cheap eats alternative.

If your local grocery carries them, chicken necks and backs make good soup stock, and I've seen them sold from anywhere from .09 to .49 cents a pound locally. If you're really frugal, you can find tasty bits of meat to add back into the stock to stretch the soup.
posted by crunchland at 5:20 AM on September 29, 2004

I can verify that a person can survive very cheaply on the following diet.

Tools Needed: 1 can opener

Day One: Beans on Toast. If you've got some extra change, slice up some hot dogs, sausage (or other cheap grinder meats) and put in the beans. Hot sauce makes this more palatable.

Day Two: Tuna Salad. Mix tuna with mayo, slice Roma tomatoes and serve on top (you don't want rickets!). Serve on tortillas, wraps, pitas, whatever's on sale.

Day Three: Big can of Ravioli. Hot sauce helps again.

Day Four: Take out pizza.

Day Five: Pizza leftovers

Then start again from the beginning. I survived on this diet for a whole summer. At the same time, my roommate was subsisting on boxed mac and cheese. I was a gourmet by comparison.
posted by Otis at 10:34 AM on September 29, 2004

More pasta sauces:

Arrabiata: Mince a clove of garlic, sautee it over low heat in a few tablespoons of olive oil with red pepper flakes. Add crushed canned tomatoes, cook over medium to medium-high heat for about 15 minutes. I have a long-running argument with my ex-roommate about whether you now add parmesan, but I say go for it.

Sage & Egg: Add LOTS of olive oil (6-8 tablespoons) to a saute pan, turn heat to medium. Once oil is hot, fry two eggs in the oil for a few minutes -- try to keep the yolks soft. Carefully remove eggs, trying not to break yolks, and set to the side. Add fresh sage leaves (7 or 8) to the hot oil and let them get crispy. Toss the oil and sage with cooked spaghetti noodles, lay the eggs on top, and cover with parmesan.
posted by occhiblu at 10:36 AM on September 29, 2004

Oh, and beans. From a Marcella Hazan recipe, and my favorite way of dealing with slightly stale sourdough bread:

Sautee a minced clove of garlic in several tablespoons of olive oil for a few minutes over low heat. Add a drained can of cannellini beans, season with salt and pepper, and simmer, covered, for six or seven minutes. Take half the beans and run them through a food mill or food processor, then add them back into the pot with 1 cup of chicken broth. Simmer an additional five to six minutes, correct for salt and pepper, and top with fresh-chopped parsley (if you've got it -- it's great without the green, too). Slice day-old bread and lay in the bottom of a bowl and ladle the soup over it.
posted by occhiblu at 10:41 AM on September 29, 2004 [2 favorites]

(Forgot to mention, that last five-six minutes of simmering should be *un*covered so that some of the broth evaporates.)
posted by occhiblu at 10:42 AM on September 29, 2004

posted by ae4rv at 11:59 AM on September 29, 2004

Veggie curry (keeps well for days, so it's good for a few meals). Cheap and healthy. Chop an onion finely, sweat it in some olive oil until translucent. Add a few (2-7, depending on your taste) tablespoonsful of good curry paste (I like Patak's), stir for a couple of minutes until the curry paste loosens up. Add one tin of drained chick peas, one tin of drained black beans, one tin of potatoes, and one tin of lentils (pick and choose what you like), stir around, add one bottle of decent tomato spaghetti sauce (I tend to prefer the plainer ones in this), and cook over low heat for at least an hour. Serve over rice. I want this now, dammit.
posted by biscotti at 12:39 PM on September 29, 2004

I like to make curried potatoes or chickpeas, and eat them in tortillas. Start out by frying some spices in a frying pan. I like to use whole coriander, cumin, and black mustard seed, but you can get away with using curry powder or paste, too. Toss in half an onion, sliced thinly, and some chiles, if you have them. Fry until the onion is done the way you like it. Then sprinkle in some tumeric (for the yellow curry color) and cayenne powder (for spice). Add a chopped potato or two, or a can or two of chickpeas, or maybe one of each. Stir to coat everything with the spices, then fry, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes/chickpeas are done. If you're using potatoes, you may need to put in a little water to help speed things up. Once it's done, throw some of it into a tortilla, fold it up, and eat it. You can put some crunchy veggies and some sour cream or yogurt in the tortilla, too, if you have them. This recipe takes about 5 or 10 minutes, if you use canned chickpeas, or if you've got a pressure cooker to pre-cook the potatoes. It costs a couple of US$ at the most, and you'll have enough for leftovers. Tortillas are cheap here, but if they're not where you are, just eat it with rice instead.
posted by vorfeed at 1:27 PM on September 29, 2004

I'm curious, Otis, did you gain, lose, or maintain your weight that summer?
posted by crunchland at 2:04 PM on September 29, 2004

I dropped about 20 pounds on that diet. It's the new Atkins!

Actually, the weight loss was most likely due to my job at the time. I was working 12-hour days for a moving company, carting boxes up and down stairs. I would come home, eat that food, drink a couple beers and head to bed exhausted.
posted by Otis at 3:23 PM on September 29, 2004

I think that says that if you had been doing less strenuous work, you would have been the size of Michigan by the end of the summer.
posted by crunchland at 5:53 PM on September 29, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks, everybody. I made one of matteo's lovely pasta dishes and tonight I will have i_cola's Lentil Shepherd's Pie... then try one of the curries and occhiblu's bean soup for the weekend. On Monday, we're supposed to get a couple of long-awaited freelance payments. yay.

Just to add to the list for anyone else who is interested in this, my special cheap meals include a classic French onion soup; which takes a little bit of effort, a dead-easy potato soup (Thin slice a *ton* of onions and sautee in olive oil, add another ton of thin sliced potatoes, milk, salt, and pepper and simmer 'til done. Delicious and comforting.); risotto (various); Moroccan Cous-Cous (w/seasonal veggies); Briami (incredibly cheap when the veggies are in season); and a cabbage soup, which sounds horrible but tastes great: cut up a smallish head of cabbage, sautee in butter or olive oil, add pan-fried, drained smoked sausage slices and simmer in about two quarts of milk (great on a really cold day). Finally a very easy summer pasta: cook spaghetti and toss in two cans of tuna, about three large good tomatoes, chopped, a bunch of crumbled feta, and, if possible, sliced black olives. If the tuna is water-packed, add a little olive oil and toss.
posted by taz at 11:37 PM on September 29, 2004

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