I recently binged Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy on BBC iPlayer, and while the food might not make you want to hop on a plane any faster, it’s also a reminder that many good Italian dishes come from humble roots.
This is the simplest pasta I find myself cooking over and over again: spaghetti aglio e olio – a cheerful dish that just calls for a little garlic, olive oil and chili flakes. Other summer favourites, panzanella (a Tuscan salad of tomatoes, onions and stale bread) and risi e bisi (Venetian rice and peas) really show Italian ingenuity for creating great recipes from very little. If you want a deep-dive cookbook for these and more, I recommend anything from Marcella Hazan.
If, like me, pasta makes a regular appearance on your weekly menu, a simple cheese swap could cut costs. Try replacing the parmigiano reggiano (what we tend to call parmesan) with grana padano, which is usually found on the side at the supermarket. While Parmigiano Reggiano is aged and nutty, Grana Padano is softer but priced lower – 200g of Grana Padano costs around £1.88, Parmesan £3.10.
Both are great for grating over pasta, and when used in the kitchen, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference.
Courgette, garlic and chilli spaghetti
A cross between my go-to aglio e olio and Stanley Tucci’s spaghetti alla nerano (with zucchini), it’s fabulously simple and summery
200g spaghetti – 28p, 2 large courgettes (about 400g) – 80p, 1 red chilli – 21p, 30g grana padano – 28p
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the spaghetti and cook 1 minute less than indicated on the package (you will finish cooking with the zucchini).
- Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
- For 1 minute, sauté 2 sliced garlic cloves and 1 seeded and finely chopped red chilli (use a pinch of dried chilli flakes if you don’t have fresh chilli.)
- Add the courgettes (thinly sliced), a good pinch of salt and sauté, stirring regularly, for 8 minutes or until the courgettes are golden brown.
- Take a cup of cooking water before draining the pasta, then add the two to the pan with the zucchini and the grated Grana Padano. Mix until combined, then season with black pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice if desired.
- Serve immediately with a little more grated cheese on top.
To note This cost assumes you have some basic ingredients.
Do you have a good recipe for eating well and reducing your food bills? Email [email protected] If we print it, we will send you a bottle of champagne