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A Pasta Feast with Bread and Wine for under $7

Updated: Feb 7

A meal at your favorite Italian restaurant is expensive, but you can enjoy classic Italian Pasta cheaply and easily at home with artisan bread and wine.

Pasta Feast with bread and wine under $6.50.
Pasta Meal with Angel Hair Pomodoro and Fettuccine Alfredo
Each of these pasta dishes costs around $1/serving, the homemade loaf is around $1, and the Aldi wine is around $3.

First, let's start with the Pasta itself. You can make either Angel Hair Pomodoro or Fettucine Alfredo for around $1 per serving in about 15 minutes. But to minimize costs, you must shop carefully. In this post, I will concentrate on buying ingredients and preparing pasta dishes so that the cost is low, but the quality and flavor are high.

Cheap Pasta Meals
Fettucine Alfredo

Tomatoes: This recipe calls for two cans of diced tomatoes. I recommend buying a case of diced tomatoes at Sam's Club or Costco. Sam's Club has an excellent Member's Mark brand for around $10 for twelve cans. In this way, you always have inexpensive diced tomatoes in your pantry. If a whole case of tomatoes is not in your budget, Walmart and Aldi also sell diced tomatoes for around $1/can. Aldi’s fire-roasted version is excellent. A dish like Pomodoro is all about the quality of tomatoes, cheese, olive oil, and basil.

Cheap Pasta Meals
Angel Hair Pomodoro

Olive Oil: Every cook should have a decent quality bottle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO). I recommend buying a 1–2-liter bottle at Costco or Sam's, where decent quality EVOO is around $7.50/liter. Buy a good bottle and keep it in a cool, dark place to preserve its freshness. You will use this amount before spoilage if you do even a modest amount of cooking with EVOO, and it is much cheaper to buy this way than to keep purchasing smaller bottles at your regular grocery.

Parmesan Cheese: Parmesan Cheese can be cheap or wildly expensive. Aldi sells excellent basic Parmesan cheese for around $4.20 per half pound (8 ounces). Trader Joe's sells a perfect domestic Parmesan for $7

Grating Parmesan Cheese
Parmesan Cheese

per pound, and it is typically my choice. Trader Joe's has an imported version for $12/pound. Sam's Club sells an excellent Parmigiana Reggiano for $12.50/pound, but you need to buy two pounds, which is a lot of Parmesan cheese. I typically spend around $7 for a wedge of Parmesan at Trader Joe's, and I've never been disappointed. The cheese you buy is entirely up to you, and your budget, but this blog and especially this post are dedicated to cooking on a budget. So, I'll use three ounces of my $7/pound cheese for around $1.31. The only kind of Parmesan you shouldn't buy for this recipe is pre-grated cheese, which comes in a bottle. The pre-grated cheese is coated so it melts badly, and the quality of bottled Parmesan is often too lacking for a recipe of this type.

Pasta: This week, an excellent Walmart brand angel hair pasta made with 100% durum semolina costs $0.92 per pound. Sam's Club sells six-pound angel hair pasta boxes for around $5.50. In your local market, you can find inexpensive store-brand pasta every day priced around $1/pound, and many are made with 100% durum semolina.

Herbs: This recipe calls for fresh basil, which can be expensive in some markets. One way around this is to use dried basil, which is fine, but I miss the fresh flavor. Another is to have an herb garden in your kitchen. I bought a lovely organic basil plant from Trader Joe's several weeks ago (along with a bunch of other herbs) for a kitchen window herb garden.

Home Herb Garden
My modest little herb garden in a sunny Florida window.

The cost of each plant was just under $2.50. If you have a sunny window, consider growing an herb garden--mine is oregano, basil, thyme, dill, sage, and rosemary. Basil keeps increasing as you snip away, so you have no cost after setting up your garden.

Fresh Herbs - Basil
Fresh Basil

I decided not to plant parsley or cilantro because these herbs are so widely available and cheap, and I wanted to use my limited window space for more expensive spices. If growing an herb garden is not for you right now, Walmart sells a generous amount of fresh basil for $2. Aldi often sells them for even less.

A word on the cost and convenience of a loaf of homemade bread: I made this loaf for $0.83, and I will be posting on this loaf and similar artisan loaves in the next week or two.

King Arthur Flour Easiest Loaf
Homemade Loaf with Dipping Sauce

I love artisan bread, but it has become so expensive that I think twice before buying it, even at discount groceries. So, consider making a loaf yourself. Many people believe they don't have the time to bake bread, but it often takes no more than 15 minutes to complete the dough and get it rising. From there, you must check in every hour or so. From start to finish, this bread is around 3 hours, and the effect of having homemade bread at the table is worth keeping one eye on the dough for a little while. This bread recipe is from King Arthur Flour, and it boasts itself as "The Easiest Loaf of Bread You'll Ever Bake." See the link below. I love this recipe.

If you decide to try out this bread recipe link, two things bring the cost down: flour in larger bags and a brick of Instant Yeast.

Instant Yeast

These bricks are sold at Sam's Club for $5 for two one-pound packs. If you are an infrequent baker, keep one and give one to your best baking bud. Otherwise, store both bricks in your freezer. And never pay for yeast at the supermarket again and never run out. If a trip to Sam's isn't possible, you can buy a one-pound brick on Amazon for a little over $6. If you cannot purchase flour in bulk, Walmart cheaply sells five-pound bags of bread flour, and even King Arthur brand Bread Flour is under $1/pound.

Serve your bread with either butter or a good olive oil dipping sauce. If you have purchased a good EVOO, making a good dipping sauce for your bread will be a cinch. Add a mix of dried herbs--basil, oregano, etc. and add onion powder, garlic powder, pepper, and good salt. You can elaborate more with a little balsamic vinegar or finely minced garlic. You can even add fresh herbs. I like good olive oil with fresh basil and oregano.

Finally, add a bottle of excellent wine. You can find a Whispering Owl Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio bottle at Aldi for around $3 per bottle. Trader Joe's has some Charles Shaw options in that range as well. This is not fine wine, but it is good wine. If you are on a budget, you can enjoy a bottle at dinner without concern over cost.

Angel Hair Pomodoro and Fettucine Alfredo

Cheap Pasta Meals for 2
Pasta Date Night for under $7.

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