Being in college, sometimes dinner relied on a box of pasta and whatever you had in your fridge. If you are anything like I was in college, then it actually relied on a box of pasta and the food I had that was about to expire. What can I say, when you’re ballin on a college budget, you work with what you got.
1. Olive Oil and Garlic
This is my tried and true. I still make this now that I’m back home. It is the easiest pasta to make I would say. My preferred noodle is angel hair. I don’t like the thick spaghetti noodles, but that’s just me. This pasta my roommates and I would make multiple times a week. All you do is take your preferred pasta and toss in some olive oil and garlic. If you are anything like we were in school, then by garlic I mean garlic salt. Lots of it. Towards the end of out collegiate career we would step up our olive oil pasta game and add red pepper flakes, lots of those too. We also always had asparagus in our fridge, so that was usually accompanied with our meal of the night.
Another easy pasta to make is just taking the vegetables you have in your fridge that are on the verge of being questionable and sautéing them. This is personally one of my favorites because I buy a lot of squash, onion, mushroom, so that is normally what this consists of for me. This would also turn in to making some sort of salad to incorporate other vegetables I had neglected that week. For the sauce of this pasta, you could use olive oil, alfredo, honestly any type of sauce that you have. Normally I reached for olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Be sure to season everything though. There is nothing worse than bland vegetables and pasta, trust me. Toss in some garlic salt, red pepper flakes, anything. Wherever your mind takes you with the seasoning run with it because your pasta will need it.
3. Jarred Pasta Sauce
This is desperation at it’s lowest. I didn’t grow up eating pasta sauce out of a jar but, when you don’t have the time or the ingredients, sometimes it’s easiest to grab a $2 jar of sauce and put it on your pasta. Let me also be clear, these are all single serving pastas, so that jar of pasta sauce will last you a long time, and they don’t expire quickly. You could eat pasta with that same jar of sauce for easily two weeks. For this though, you need to add some protein. I usually went with ground turkey or a chicken breast. If that’s not your style then take that idea from above and throw in some veggies. Eggplant wouldn’t be a bad idea? Or, instead of pasta make a spaghetti squash, that was always easy and tasty as well. For me, some type of meat was my go to and you guessed it, garlic salt and red pepper flakes.
I could make a package of chicken breasts last me a week or more. So, the freezer always has chicken in it. What’s easiest for a chicken breast is to either bake it or cook it in a frying pan and add to whatever pasta above that interests you. Chicken can go with almost any type of meal you make. That is partially because sometimes that’s the only thing you have. For the sauce of this pasta so you aren’t eating plain noodles and chicken alfredo or marinara sauce would work best in my opinion. But, it’s solely up to whatever you have in your fridge, cupboard, or maybe even your next door neighbor. Asking our neighbors if we could borrow stuff so we could make dinner was a big help during our last year of college.
For some reason, we always had bags of frozen shrimp in our freezer. So, as you can hopefully assume these were added to our pasta here and there. For this, the best option for shrimp is the olive oil and garlic pasta. Maybe even some parmesan cheese if you have it. Adding shrimp to your pasta you can keep it fairly simple. Also, for a little something extra, if you have a lemon, squeeze that in there too.
Cheese and pasta are a match made in heaven in my book. In my personal opinion, cheese belongs on every type of pasta. In this case, though, when I say cheese I’m implying the less fancy version of cacio e pepe. I would take whatever parmesan cheese I had in the fridge and just pour it on in. This is one of the pastas that would benefit from some meat or veggies on the side. If you’re just eating a bowl of noodles and cheese, I won’t judge you because I’ve been there, but you’ll wish you had something to go with it. You could honestly take leftovers and reheat it, that seemed to be a go to in our apartment.
The easiest and quickest way to make noodles. A chunk of butter. The idea sounds sad. However, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. This is very similar to the olive oil and garlic but butter hits different. You could add anything in your fridge to this to make it more than just butter and noodles. Also, be sure to spice this up. Garlic salt, pepper, anything and everything that’s in your spice cabinet, include it. If you’re not in the mood to add stuff to the pasta itself, then take the veggies you’re about to throw out and cook as a side. However, if this were me, I would add in some sautéed mushrooms and garlic and be perfectly happy with that.
8. Call Someone
If all else fails and your creative pasta juices are just not flowing, call someone. Tell them what’s in your fridge or pantry and maybe they can save your dinner and your headache by creating something for you. There is no easier way to decide what to eat than to talk it through with someone.