Simple, affordable dishes begin with Italian pasta

Every week, I’ll be sharing simple, healthy and affordable recipes to encourage college students to cook from scratch.

There are few foods more comforting than a steaming bowl of spaghetti with homemade tomato sauce. Familiar and satisfying, pasta is the ideal dish for a long night of studying or a cozy dinner with roommates. Since most sauces require several minutes of bubbling away on the stove, however, many college students may be tempted to reach for a jarred alternative. This ingenious recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Living is healthy and packed with bold flavor, but can be whipped up in less time than it takes to order takeout.

Delizioso · This week’s recipes deal with one of the most affordable ingredients: pasta. Usually between 99 cents and $1.50 at the local Fresh and Easy store, pasta dishes are an affordable and satisfying way to entertain guests and prepare various tasty meals on a budget. - Maral Tavitian | Daily Trojan

Delizioso · This week’s recipes deal with one of the most affordable ingredients: pasta. Usually between 99 cents and $1.50 at the local Fresh and Easy store, pasta dishes are an affordable and satisfying way to entertain guests and prepare various tasty meals on a budget. – Maral Tavitian | Daily Trojan

Rather than preparing the pasta and sauce separately, simply place all the ingredients in one pan and stir them together over high heat for nine minutes. This method keeps dirty dishes to a minimum and results in perfectly al dente spaghetti every time. Plump cherry tomatoes give the sauce its freshness, complemented by a subtle kick from the crushed red pepper flakes and sweetness from the sliced onions.

As the pasta cooks, it releases starch, which thickens the sauce and provides creaminess despite being completely vegan. While a generous sprinkling of grated Parmesan never hurts, the dish is luxurious and silky even without the addition of cheese.

Once you nail the basic formula, feel free to get creative with different variations of the classic. Swap in canned tomatoes, spinach and olives for a quick puttanesca, or add a handful of arugula and some thinly sliced ham. Take advantage of the opportunity to clean out leftovers from the refrigerator, tossing in steamed vegetables or ground beef. The recipe accommodates whatever you have on hand, stays fresh throughout the week and is easy to reheat in the microwave when you are pressed for time.

Best of all, even the most novice cooks can execute this fool-proof dish. If you are wary of stepping into the kitchen alone, cooking is a excellent way to bond with roommates. Since the recipe is affordable but still produces a generous amount, it is a great meal to serve to company. As everyone eases into the first week of school, get to know your neighbors by inviting them over for a casual dinner party. Food is one of the most effective ways of making friends in college, and with homemade pasta this tasty, your guests may never want to leave your apartment. No matter when you decide to try it out, after you make this quintessential recipe once, it will surely become a fixture of your weekly dinner rotation.


One-Pan Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce 

This simple recipe is hassle free and still allows for some great Italian flavors on a budget. The best part? It’s all made in one pan, so less dishes after everyone’s done.


Active: 15 min; Total: 20 min

Serves 4-6


– 12 ounces spaghetti or capellini

– 12 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes, halved or quartered if large

– 1 medium onion, thinly sliced

– 5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

– ½ teaspoon red-pepper flakes

– 2 sprigs basil, plus torn leaves for garnish

– 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

– 4½ cups water

– Salt and pepper to taste

– Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving.


1.Combine pasta, tomatoes, onion, garlic, red-pepper flakes, basil, oil, 2 teaspoons salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and water in a large straight-sided skillet. Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil mixture, stirring and turning pasta frequently with tongs, until pasta is al dente and water has nearly evaporated, about nine minutes.

2.Sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan, if desired, and serve.


Meaty Chicken Sausage Spaghetti


Daily Trojan editor-in-chief Euno Lee swears by this recipe for easy, stress-free entertaining when your pasta needs to be dressed up a little. The extra simmering time helps to take away some of the acidity from the tomatoes, while the chicken sausage adds some healthy protein to an already low-fat dish.

Though chianti wine can be pricey, Trader Joe’s has an excellent selection of budget-priced options that are excellent for cooking.


Active: 25 min; Total: 45-90 min.


– 1 12 oz. package of spaghetti

– 3 chicken sausages, removed from casing and chopped into bite-sized chunks

– 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

– 1 medium onion, diced

– 1 16 oz. can crushed San Marzano Tomatoes

– 2 tbsp. chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley

– 1 cup Italian red-wine (I prefer the cheap Chianti from Trader Joe’s)

– Olive oil

– Salt and pepper to taste

-Freshly grated parmesan reggiano


1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until just before smoking. Add sausage and cook until browned. Add onions and saute until translucent. After about 1-2 minutes, add garlic and saute until browned.

2. Deglaze the pan with the red wine, making sure to stir vigorously and get all the caramelized bits off the bottom of the pan.

3. Once the wine has reduced by half, add crushed tomatoes, parsley, salt and pepper.

4. Let simmer at low heat for up to 45 minutes to remove all acidity from tomatoes.

5. While sauce is simmering, put water, tablespoon of olive oil and salt in a large saucepan and bring to boil. Once the water is boiling, add the pasta and set the timer for seven minutes.

6. Once pasta is still firm to the bite but almost fully cooked, drain and add to the finished sauce.

7. Mix thoroughly and sprinkle with extra chopped parsley and parmesan reggiano to serve.

8. Dish serves 3-4.


Maral Tavitian is a sophomore majoring in print and digital journalism. Her column, “The Epicurean Dorm,” runs Tuesdays.