Cheap Meals For Empty Pockets
Updated: Jan 15
The first period since my move was not at all a walk in the park, I was without a job and consequently tried to save as much money as possible.
But considering that human beings cannot live without nourishment, I had to find solutions that would meet my need to save money and at the same time my human need not to die of hardship. So I took a little inspiration from the culinary culture of the Belpaese (which, especially in the south, manages to create works of art out of nothing) and a little creativity by exploiting what was cheap in the supermarket.
Let's start by pointing out that in my experience the cheapest food purchases I make are at Lidl, but if you find better offers you are free to take advantage of them.
Second clarification: for your wellbeing and my sanity, you are kindly requested to buy pasta of a decent quality, which does not mean spending €2 on a packet of Rummo (which is still very good pasta) but at least try as much as possible to go for pasta that has been bronze drawn, otherwise recipes that include it will not have the same result due to the lack of starch needed for preparation in lower quality pasta.
Pasta and potatoes.
Comfort food par excellence, ridiculously cheap, easy and vegetarian/vegan if necessary.
Cut the potatoes as small as possible so they cook quickly, put them in a pan of hot oil with some browned garlic and cook for a while, pour in some water and wait for it to boil, salt and add the pasta.
From this moment on it is crucial, you must never stop stirring because the water must completely evaporate, the potatoes must crumble and everything must become a delicious cream. At the end of cooking, stir in some oil (possibly extra virgin olive oil) and if you want to be traditional, some provola cheese or any kind of stringy semi-matured cheese. The result is guaranteed. Personally, I like to add some crispy bacon because it just gives a touch of crunch that goes very well with it.
It's a bit tricky at first to get the amount of water right, so if you notice that there is too much while cooking the pasta, simply reduce it ladle by ladle as much as necessary.
False chily (vegan).
Discovering that peppers and onions in this country are super cheap was revolutionary, so I took them, cut them into strips and put them in hot oil, salted them and let the water dry. After that a nice load of beans and tomato puree until it reduces and becomes nice and thick. Best served with tortillas, which are also extremely cheap.
Eggs in purgatory.
A really stupid dish but one that tastes just like home.
In the usual way, a nice, lightly salted onion bed and as soon as it becomes translucent we pour in the tomato sauce, season to taste and wait for it to thicken. Once thickened we make a small hollow with a ladle, it will be the space to lay the egg that will cook to our liking in the sauce, on toasted bread it really makes a nice figure.
Pasta and beans.
The procedure is the same as for pasta with potatoes but with beans replacing them, it is a little more complicated to manage the water because the potatoes, by breaking up, contribute to the creation of the cream, in this case you just need to put less water. Always cook the pasta for its cooking time, preferably a little less, NEVER more.
In this short guide I have avoided including dishes with or containing meat because it is REALLY expensive and because, as you have seen, it can absolutely be replaced with eggs and beans. But in these cases as they always say the only limit is the imagination, don't be afraid to try new things, try new preparations and add them to dishes you already know how to make, to enrich the flavour.