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Student Budget-Friendly Meals: Cooking with pasta

By Halls 14 Nov 2023

Cheap and easy meals with pasta as the main ingredient.

Welcome to our 'Cooking with the Basics' series! Each article in this series will cover a bunch of simple recipes you can follow, all based on a common ingredient you can find in your cupboard. In third place we have pasta! Very versatile and lots of different pasta shapes out there to throw into the mix.

The recipes below will all cost £15.00 or lower and should produce enough for multiple portions for your week! All you have to do is meal prep to get the most for your money (this estimate is based on the average price gained from Sainsbury’s, Tesco and M&S in January 2024. This is subject to change).

How to properly cook pasta differs from shape to shape, so always check the packaging but here is a basic guide:

Spaghetti aglio e olio (£)

a dish is filled with food


  • 200g spaghetti

  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • Red pepper flakes (to taste)

  • Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

  • Chopped fresh parsley (optional)


  1. Cook spaghetti according to package instructions.
  2. In a pan, sauté the sliced garlic in olive oil until it's fragrant and slightly golden. Add red pepper flakes for a bit of heat.
  3. Toss the cooked and drained spaghetti in the garlic and oil mixture.
  4. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley, if desired.

Pasta carbonara (££)

a plate of pasta with sauce and cheese


  • 200g spaghetti or fettuccine

  • 100g pancetta or bacon, diced

  • 2 large eggs

  • 50g grated Parmesan cheese

  • Salt and black pepper, to taste

  • Chopped fresh parsley (optional)


  1. Cook pasta according to package instructions.
  2. In a separate pan, cook the diced pancetta or bacon until crispy.
  3. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and grated Parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Drain the cooked pasta and immediately toss it with the egg and cheese mixture. The heat from the pasta will cook the eggs and create a creamy sauce.
  5. Top with crispy pancetta (or bacon) and chopped parsley, if desired.

Pasta bake (£££)

a slice of pizza


  • 250g pasta (e.g., penne or rigatoni)
  • 450g minced beef or turkey (optional, for a meaty version)
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 400g canned crushed tomatoes or pasta sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs (or a blend of dried oregano, basil, and thyme)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 150g shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 50g grated Parmesan cheese
  • Chopped fresh basil or parsley for garnish (optional)


  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F).
  2. Boil a large pot of salted water. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions until it's slightly undercooked (al dente), typically a few minutes less than recommended.
  3. Drain the pasta and set it aside.
  4. In a large frying pan over medium heat, cook the minced beef or chicken until it's browned and no longer pink. (Skip this step if you're not using meat).
  5. Add the chopped onion and minced garlic to the pan and sauté for a few minutes until they're softened.
  6. Stir in the crushed tomatoes or pasta sauce and the mixed herbs.
  7. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Simmer the sauce for about 5-10 minutes to allow the flavours to meld. Ensure the meat is fully cooked.
  9. In a large ovenproof dish, combine the cooked pasta and the meat sauce (if using). Toss to coat the pasta evenly with the sauce.
  10. Sprinkle the shredded mozzarella cheese and grated Parmesan cheese over the top.
  11. Cover the dish with foil and place it in the preheated oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
  12. Finish under the grill (optional): For a golden, crispy top, remove the foil and grill the pasta bake for an additional 2-3 minutes, or until the cheese is lightly browned.
  13. Remove the pasta bake from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes. Garnish with chopped fresh basil or parsley, if desired. Serve hot and enjoy your delicious pasta bake!

All these recipes are quick, easy, and can be customised to your taste preferences. The ingredients can all also be used for other recipes on Halls Life so keep a look out for more recipes coming soon!