Meal on a Budget: Pasta

Pasta

The typical college experience will not be complete unless one has undergone a budget meal phase. And if you ask former co-eds, they shall agree that there certainly are foods that are considered as college budget meal staples. And we’re not talking about mac and cheese out of the box here. And we’re not talking about some pricey Italian concoction. Here’s why you can enjoy pasta even on a budget.

Unless you’re into some fad diet where it states as a rule that carbs are evil, pasta is one food item that can be counted on as reliable in both nutrition and budget.

Aside from being a source of complex carbohydrates which provides time-released energy for the active co-ed, pasta is also abundant in folic acids. Nutritionists would say that this is something good for the nervous system.

Budget wise, pasta is relatively low in price. It is also quite versatile as pasta comes in many shapes, forms, and ingredients. There are the ever-popular spaghetti, fettuccini, lasagne, macaroni, and linguini to name a few. There is pasta that is made with milled potato, and some added with vegetables such as spinach.

Preparation is easy as long as you follow the directions on the package religiously. Mostly, all it takes is to boil about 6 quarts of water (for one pound of dry pasta). Throw in the pasta when water boils, stirring it occasionally during cooking. Test the pasta. Take one piece and bite at the end. It should be “al dente,” which makes it firm yet cooked through. One unorthodox way of testing its doneness is to fling a piece of pasta to a wall. If it sticks, it’s cooked. If it bounces off, it still has a few more minutes to cook. Drain the pasta and halt the cooking process by plunging it in an ice bath (bowl of water filled with ice).

If you need to cook it with its sauce, skip the ice bath and you have the option to undercook it by 1/3 of the cooking time stated in the package directions.

Sauces can be as easy as heating canned sauce. You can experiment with whatever is in your refrigerator. I, for one, used to sauté garlic and onion in a little oil to which I add a can of tuna and a can of tomato sauce. I throw in salt, pepper, and dried herbs and voila!

As for storage, just store uncooked dry pasta in your cupboard. It can last to a year as long as cupboard is cool and dry. If you have some extra cooked pasta, drizzle it with a little oil (to avoid sticking) and place the leftovers in an airtight container. This can last 3 to 5 days. If you want to freeze pasta, the best pasta to do so with are jumbo shells, ziti, and manicotti.