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I’ve gone slightly Italian over the past couple of weeks. Firstly there was a rather rambunctious themed murder mystery one weekend. Aptly named Pasta, Passion and Pistols, it saw myself and a group of friends dress up in dodgy outfits, sit down to some grub and accuse each other of the murder of Pepi Roni in outrageously bad accents (mine was bordering on Welsh towards the end as I struggled to stay in character after several glasses of wine). Bellisimo!

Next was a trip away to Verona where I split my time evenly between eating the city out of pizza and gleefully visiting the actual balcony Juliet stood on*. So, as a tribute to Italy (or a complete insult depending on your knowledge of traditional Italian cuisine) I present to you three pastas for any price bracket.

*May not have been the actual balcony Juliet stood on

I personally find pasta to be a true lifesaver and a staple part of my diet when living a credit munched lifestyle. A little bit of pesto and toasted pine nuts mixed up quickly make a meal, while some pepper and tomatoes roasted in the oven with some balsamic vinegar for 20 minutes then tossed with fusilli creates a delicious and healthy dish. It’s cheap, keeps well at the back of a cupboard and even the dried variant tastes delicious. There are also enough varieties available at most local supermarkets these days to maintain a little diversity.

However, picking up a jar of sauce can quickly jack up the price of a meal, not to mention taking the fun out of it. I can’t understand why anyone would choose a jar of bolognaise sauce over rustle up a batch of your own at home. Only a little more effort ensures something devoid of that weird sweet/salty taste Dolmio has somehow created and it’s so much better for you.

And like my three curries, pasta dishes can be made in vast quantities, so you can eat it with friends, over a couple of sittings, or stick it in the freezer for another day. There really are no excuses.

Cheap

Macaroni and cheese. It’s amazingly bad for you yet so comforting and tasty. The way the bottom remains all gooey while the top crisps over. My only problem is, I never seem to have macaroni in. I’m a fusilli girl through and through, which is purely for logistical reasons – 1/ it is one of the cheaper forms of dried pasta and 2/ it is the easiest one to get on your fork. I point blank refuse to chase pasta bows around my plate as their sauce covered shape evades every stab. And don’t even get me started on the dangers of a tube of penne straight out the oven, cleverly concealing burning hot cheese. With fusilli there are simply no problems, no hidden surprises.

Now don’t get me wrong, this is essentially a fancy pants macaroni and cheese. Not that there is anything wrong with mac and cheese, but I think it would be a bit of a cop out to post a recipe for it. I mean, it’s not too difficult to master. Instead, try my cheesy pasta bake, hopefully designed to give you a bit of a change from your standard pasta meal.

Cheesy pasta bake

Cheerful

For a while, I struggled with the concept of seafood and pasta. For some reason I didn’t think the two went together particularly well – like seafood on pizza. Then I manned up and actually properly tried some, quickly realising the error of my ways and lamenting all the missed opportunities. I still think seafood on pizza is wrong though. And pineapple, but that’s another story.

Anyway, I’m putting this recipe under the cheerful section rather than the flush because I think it does require a lot of stock ingredients. Ok, buying everything outright will cost a little, but these are things I tend to have in my fridge and cupboard most of the time. And replacing the raw prawns with cooked ones or using spaghetti instead of linguine cuts a few corners as well. However, I’m posting this version of the recipe because it’s how it should really be done.

Prawn linguine

Flush

Surprisingly, the name lasagne actually derives from an ancient Greek meaning for ‘cooking pot’. However, the concept was pinched by the Romans and ultimately transformed over the years into the dish of meat, pasta and cheese layers we now know. What have the Romans ever done for us, eh?

I love lasagne and it absolutely pains me to see it done half heartedly. It needs to be big, bold and full of flavour and after years of experimenting, I think I may have found the ultimate version. Sure it may not be completely authentic, but I challenge anyone to not feel satisfied after eating a huge slab of this recipe.

The ultimate lasagne

Pushing the boat out?

Looking to impressive further???

This might not necessarily be more expensive (providing you have the kit already), but making your own pasta will certainly give these meals an extra something. Failing that, fresh pasta is delicious and cooks in a fraction of the time.

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