Crawling to the Fresher’s week finish line, a hangover on the horizon and Fresher’s flu not far behind it; the thought of a big meal is enough to wake the chunder dragon. However, it’s now time to stop classifying pasta and cheese as a ‘proper dinner’ and start driving some wholesome nutrients into your tummy! We know your expertise in the kitchen doesn’t quite match that of Jamie Oliver’s just yet, but a week or so on beige cuisine is the limit. You don’t have to condemn yourself to beans on toast for all time either. Remember your friend pasta and his sidekick, cheese? Well he’s bringing more friends into the circle.
“It is difficult to find an ingredient that doesn’t go well with pasta.”
Pasta is a commodity at university. It’s rich in carbohydrates, making it perfect for fuel to keep ticking over in lectures, as well as the starch to soak up all hangovers. It is quick and easy to cook. You don’t even have to boil the water yourself —just fill the kettle up and Bob’s your uncle. All that’s left is to pair it with a little goodness and flavour.
It is difficult to find an ingredient that doesn’t go well with pasta. However, cheap and nutritious ingredients are essential the Holy Grail: after all 75% of that student loan ought to go toward costumes, alcohol and takeaways. Think frozen. Think vegetables: peas, peppers, broccoli, carrots, you name it, it will come in some frozen form or another. Think ‘Smart Price’ varieties – veg is veg no matter the packaging design, brand or cost. Frozen vegetables can be thrown into the pan to boil away with your pasta, simple as. They will also contribute essential vitamins (A and C) and fibre to your diet in abundance.
“Chopped tomatoes make a fabulous sauce base for pasta dishes”
Don’t only limit yourself to frozen vegetables either though; frozen meat/meat alternatives exist as well. Admittedly, meat will always be more expensive than vegetables, however frozen is always cheaper than fresh! What’s more, you’re less likely to find it in the fridge 2 weeks later with salmonella written all over it. Whether it be quorn products, mincemeat or chicken, you can defrost them in the microwave straight from frozen. After defrosting, simply pop them in the oven (usually 200 C/ Gas Mark 6 for 25-30 mins, they should have cooking instructions on them) or on the hob until brown/ golden in colour and add them to your pasta dish. It is the perfect blend of carbs and protein.
Your food life shouldn’t just exist in the freezer though. Ambient stable foods, canned and jar products, can also contribute to a cracking pasta dish. Yes, I’m talking about that can of chopped tomatoes and that Homepride pasta bake sauce you’ve got hidden away. Chopped tomatoes make a fabulous sauce base for pasta dishes and all you need to do is open the tin, pour over your pasta and heat. The same applies with a pasta bake sauce: open jar, pour over your pasta and heat.
In case you don’t believe how easy the life of pasta can be, here’s a very basic recipe to start you on your pasta journey:
1/2 jar pasta bake sauce
Frozen vegetables: peas, mushrooms, sweetcorn and mixed peppers
1 can tuna (optional)
- Oven at 200 C/ Gas Mark 6.
- Put pasta in ovenproof dish and add pasta bake sauce.
- Add frozen vegetables and tuna. Mix ingredients in ovenproof dish.
- Put dish in oven for 25 mins.
- Add cheese and put in oven for another 20 mins.
- Serve as it is.
As time goes on you will get more confident and more creative with food. For now, just stick to the basics, obtain nutrients aside from Red Bull’s vitamin B12 overload and avoid setting the fire alarm off when burning your bacon (the memoirs of my first year).
Siobhan Lauren Davis
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Feature image courtesy of ‘Piero Damora’ via Flickr. License here.