Pasta is a great Friday night option when you’ve come to the end of a working week and can’t summon up much brain power to make a quick, healthy meal. Creamy Chicken and Parmesan Fettucine from Justine Pattison may look ‘naughty’, but the sauce is made from a combination of butter, plain flour and semi-skimmed milk rather than cream to keep the calories low.
While I was impressed with the calorie content (just 374 per serving), the taste was a tad bland for my liking, despite me lashing it with grinds of black pepper. Nevertheless, this is a good example of how you can make two chicken breasts comfortably stretch to feeding four people. For other budget-friendly chicken dishes, check out chicken and mushroom risotto and pollo pasta with pesto.
You might think Easy Sun-dried Tomato Pasta from Two Chubby Cubs isn’t up to much from my photo, but think again. This flavoursome, quick vege pasta recipe is one of my favourite dishes of 2021 so far. It’s so simple, yet so tasty despite requiring just seven ingredients, and costs just 40p per serving. Superb!
Who doesn’t love a pasta bake? Well, me actually, but my teenage son Will can eat pasta by the bucket load so I knew Creamy Chicken Pasta Bake from Pinch of Nom would be right up his street. Pasta bakes are a genius way of getting children to sample vegetables without them really noticing – in this case it’s sliced leeks and mushrooms, which go brilliantly with the chicken and the creamy, cheesy sauce.
The calorie count for this dish is just over 500, but you can always reduce it by having less pasta. 300g between 4 people is quite a lot and I find that 50g of pasta per person is sufficient. It’s up to you.
The Hairy Dieters include two types of Chilli Prawn Pasta recipes within their six healthy eating books. I opted to make the one from their fourth Fast Food book because you can include 50ml of vodka in it. Now, what to do with the remaining bottle? Wahahaha ;-). For reference, you’ll find the other recipe in their more recent ‘Make it Easy’ book.
The vodka is optional by the way, so don’t worry if you haven’t got any, or don’t want to go to the expense of buying in a bottle especially just for this . The meal will still taste great regardless, but the addition of the vodka will bring more depth of flavour to the sauce and balance out the sweetness of the red pepper and the passata.
I frown when I hear people say ‘they can’t afford to cook’, or worse, ‘I can’t afford to buy healthy, fresh food’. There’s a difference between being genuinely skint, as opposed to not knowing how to cook from scratch. The lines between both statements often get blurred.
Pasta Arrabbiata from Pinch of Nom is a really easy and affordable vegetarian recipe to get even the most nervous and sceptical of cooks into the kitchen. It can be rustled up for about 50p per serving in 30 minutes. Arrabbiata sauce is a traditional Italian, spicy sauce made from garlic and dried chilli peppers. This recipe requires 1 tsp of chilli flakes, but heat freaks might want to up the ante by finely dicing a normal red chilli to give it more of a kick.
Despite barely leaving the house, having no social engagements or work commute costs, January has been a tight month financially for us. Intending to finish 2020 with a bang after what had been the shitest year on record, we went overboard on buying generous family Christmas gifts and enough ‘naughty’ food and booze we could consume. I guess I’m fortunate that we were able to do so in the first place.
But this month we’ve been ‘skint’, so I’ve tried to go back to ‘basics’ by making cheap, healthy meals. Spaghetti with Broccoli & Anchovies from BBC Good Food is entirely forgettable, however at around 62p per serving it’s a wonderfully affordable option when you want a thrifty pasta dish.
I loved it, mainly because I had all of the ingredients in. My wife hated it, mainly because I burnt the breadcrumbs. I pointed out she was nitpicking and that they were merely ‘well done’. But yeah anyway…. keep an eye on the breadcrumbs and don’t burn them, ok? If you love pasta and are wondering what to do with any leftover anchovies, then pasta puttanesca is the absolute dish to go for and is also cheap to make.
As the old saying goes looks can be deceiving, and when it comes to Mushroom and Leek Pasta from Gordon Ramsay it’s definitely a case of the calories being deceiving. There is no nutritional information listed in Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course book and I made the mistake in thinking that any dish containing mushrooms and leeks must be good for you, right? Wrong.
The addition of the fresh lasagne sheets, double cream and ciabatta sent the fat content spiralling to, I estimate, approximately 839 calories per serving. Fuck me, as Gordon would say. If this recipe appeals to you but you’re worried about messing up your diet, ditch the bread and use only 4 fresh lasagne sheets between 2 people which will bring the calorie count down to about 627 per serving. Alternatively, using dried lasagne sheets will bring the calories down further if you’re willing to compromise on flavour.
This actually tastes really good but there are more diet friendly pasta recipes out there which include leeks, mushrooms and tarragon, such as smashed-up chicken, which uses low-fat crème fraiche instead of cream and only a small portion of pasta instead of lasagne sheets.
Jamie Oliver includes some excellent suggestions for how to use up leftover salmon in his Save with Jamie Book and Silky Salmon Tagliatelle is a luxurious pasta dish that can be ready in about 20 minutes.
Who has leftover salmon you might ask? Not me, so I pre-cooked some salmon fillets in the oven. But I suppose Jamie is appealing to those who cook 1.5kg (approx.) sides of salmon, so this recipe is a good option to rustle up if you have any leftovers from Christmas. The calorie count for this is quite high, but you can reduce it by only serving 50g of tagliatelle per person rather than the (excessive) 80g.
Sausage Pasta is the first recipe that I’ve tried from Jamie Oliver’s new 7 Ways book, which celebrates 18 much-loved ingredients with some new ideas for every day of the week. There’s a whole chapter devoted to sausages, but this caught my attention because it uses chipolatas which are cheap and lower in calories.
Sausage and fennel are perfect dance partners and this dish really comes together with the dried chilli flakes, plum tomatoes, tenderstem broccoli and Parmesan. Jamie suggests using dried farfalle pasta, but penne would do the job if you can’t get hold of any.
Tom Kerridge is the absolute don when it comes to flavours and his simple Pea and Ham Pasta dish totally hits the spot. This recipe will feed two very generously, and given that it’s 585 calories per portion you might want to stretch this between three servings, as I did with my wife and son who loved it.
I’m sure there’s a decent recipe within Spicy Sausage Pasta from Justine Pattison, but I royally screwed it up by not having the correct ingredients in to make it. I couldn’t get hold of any spicy pork sausages (can anyone, from supermarkets?) and used regular pork ones sprinkled with a generous helping of chilli flakes. My back bacon substitute for smoked lardons was also an epic fail, and although a tin of chopped tomatoes in preference to using 3 large ripe tomatoes was more excusable, fresh is always better than tinned equivalents.
The end result, through every fault of my own, was bland and disappointing and it tasted way too tomatoery, if that’s a ‘thing’? I tried to rescue it by dolloping parmesan on top but I wasn’t fooling anyone. Not least my teenage son who charitably said, “It’s nice Dad but I’m full, so I’ll put it in the microwave and eat it later”, where it remained untouched.
The moral of the story here is that while you can get away with some simple substitutes in many recipes, this isn’t one of them, particularly when bolder flavours such as chilli and smoked lardons are required. If you have a go at making this and it turns out well, do let me know :-).
I’d forgotten how good Spicy Bacon and Tomato Pasta is from the Hairy Dieters. It’s great hot or cold, so invariably I used to prep it the night before and take it into work for lunch the next day. Since I’ve been working from home for the last seven months some of my lunchtime meals have been more extravagant, but it’s good to go back to basics and save some time in the kitchen!
Check the packaging (or review the nutritional information online) to make sure your tomato and basil sauce has no more than 6g of fat per 100g – I buy the little stir-in pots from Dolmio (150g) which are a rip-off, but they taste good and some are low-fat. If you’re on a budget, use regular broccoli cut into small florets rather than tenderstem. This is a good meal to introduce kids to vege. My teenage son is too pre-occupied with the pasta, sauce and bacon to notice that I’ve included some diced yellow pepper in there ;-).
I’ve loved experimenting with some new turkey recipes over the last six months and Chipotle Turkey Meatballs from Pinch of Nom is right up there with the best. There’s the perfect balance of heat from the chipotle chilli flakes and the smoked paprika which go well with the rich flavour of the passata. Yuummmeeee!!
Chicken Tetrazzini from Justine Pattison is apparently an American hybrid recipe. I don’t know what that means but it tastes pretty good, though does require many ingredients and some patience when putting it together.
Creamy chicken, topped with vegetables, breadcrumbs, cheese and spaghetti seems a bit weird to me. But after shoving my lasagne dish under the grill for 5 minutes to crisp up and turn golden brown all was forgiven. I get it now, kind of. This recipe serves 6 for 339 calories per serving, but that’s stretching it somewhat. You might be better dividing this between 4 portions and factoring in the extra calories. Naughty, naughty :-).
Spaghetti with Prawns and Courgettes from the Hairy Dieters might seem like an odd combination. However, for 250 calories per portion it is packed full of bold flavours coming from the lemon zest, capers, nutmeg and basil, making it something of a surprise, and all for just 90 pence per portion!
I tend to order courgettes on autopilot in my weekly supermarket deliveries, regardless of whether I plan to use them or not, so always tend to have some hanging around in my fridge. This recipe is perfect for using them up, but if it doesn’t float your boat, then try spaghetti on fire or tagliatelle carbonara.
I was hoping that the Hairy Dieters’ ‘Go Veggie’ book would become my non-meat bible, however very few recipes caught my eye which I thought would be regulars on my meal planner. Courgette Caponata Pasta was one of them and I was pleasantly surprised by how much flavour is packed into one meal for just 133 calories, or 314 calories based on a 50g serving of pasta (per person, serving 4).
Now before I go on, I’ll say this now. Don’t make this if you hate chopping vege as dicing the onions, peppers and courgettes is time-consuming, unless you’re a proper chef and can have everything prepped in 20 minutes as the Hairy Dieters claim. It takes me 20 minutes to find all the ingredients in my kitchen! Ok, that’s bollocks too, but you get my drift.
If you are willing to persevere with prepping everything, you’ll be rewarded. With or without pasta, this is a gorgeous plate of food thanks to the addition of the cinnamon, lemon zest, chilli flakes, honey and red wine vinegar. If you’re looking for another pasta dish with a kick, check out spaghetti on fire – it is suitable for vegetarians if you omit the bacon.
Jamie Oliver’s Save with Jamie contains a really inspirational vegetarian chapter at the beginning of the book, not the back, which is where some ‘vege’ recipes sometimes get shoved. Squash & Spinach Rotolo really catches the eye but the recipe, which takes up to three hours to make (the butternut squash takes 90 mins to roast), isn’t the easiest to get right.
My latest attempt didn’t go to plan. I put too much water on my lasagne sheets, then overloaded the soggy sheets with filling which made it spill out when cooking in the pan. Infuriating. This isn’t a meal to make on a weeknight and is probably best for prepping on a Sunday evening in readiness for a ‘meat-free Monday’. As for the taste, actually it was pretty good, although I do find frozen spinach a little overbearing compared to fresh varieties.
One to try again, when I can summon up sufficient enthusiasm that is required to match the effort needed. More experienced cooks may fair better with this. If you love butternut squash, check out home-made butternut squash tortellini, which again needs a degree of skill to pull off, but is an excellent vegetarian pasta option.
Hot as a fever, rattle of bones. I could just taste it, taste it. Yooooouuuuu. Your Spaghetti is on FIRE. Ok, so I doubt Kings of Leon will be adapting the lyrics of ‘Sex on Fire’, but I did chuckle to myself while prepping Spaghetti on Fire from Justine Pattison.
This is a belter of a pasta dish, packed with good stuff (vege), and full of flavour from the smoked bacon and chilli flakes. Adding Parmesan and basil leaves is optional but I’d wholeheartedly recommend doing so toenhance the taste. This frugal recipe is right up there with my favourite pasta dishes, but numero uno for me remains Pasta Puttanesca. Which one is yours?
Ham & Pineapple Pasta Bake from Two Chubby Cubs is a proper feast – pasta, bacon, ham, pineapple, mozzarella and (optional) cheddar cheese in one-pot! It’s a cinch to throw together and will comfortably make 6 portions – perfect for feeding the kids over a couple of days or so.
Speaking of kids, this recipe threw up one of my life’s little mysteries. My son Will, who loves Hawaiian pizzas, curiously wouldn’t entertain having pineapple in this pasta bake. Go figure. The Cubs, whose fab debut book is wonderfully entertaining, suggest serving this with a light salad on the side to ‘pointedly ignore’, which I did :-).
My son Will loves pasta but supermarket varieties with sauce can come in at over 500 calories for just half a pack. So, I embarked on a mission to find healthier, yummier alternatives and Pea and Prosciutto Pasta from Justine Pattison has become his favourite.
The calorie count for this recipe is 329 per serving, however the addition of the butter and a splash of single cream still makes it feel sufficiently naughty and Will regards this as a proper treat. If you’re a big pasta fan, Justine’s book Without the Calories – pasta and rice, will be right up your street. You can also find more pasta dishes on this blog here.Continue reading “Pea and Prosciutto Pasta – forget unhealthy supermarket versions”→