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Poor Man’s Pasta is simple, easy, affordable, hearty, and so delicious!  Perfectly cooked pasta in a cheesy, garlicky, and a creamy sauce – a perfect dish anytime of the day!

The name of this recipe may ring true in respect to the ingredients needed to prepare it, however, the same statement cannot be applied to the taste of this pasta dish.  Poor Man’s Pasta is what I’ve heard it referred to in the past, but recently, one of my friends called it Coin Pasta. (A play on the cheap ingredients.)

This dinner is filling and satisfying, and truth be told, any additional food items, such as bread or a salad, is not needed at all!  It is worth noting that this pasta appeals to the most ravenous meat-eater as well as the most delicate palate. The leftovers from this pasta night were thoroughly enjoyed by my mother, who thinks vegetarians are weird, and by my daughter, who has very picky taste buds.

(The photos you see in this post were updated in early 2018, almost 5 years from the original date this blog post was published.  Since then, I have made this dish several times.  Two years ago, my daughter became a vegetarian as well, so now I have two vegetarians in my life – both her and John.e.  Also, my mom passed away in late 2016, but gladly, I was able to make this dish for her many, many times since the original post publish date.)

I imagine that Poor Man’s Pasta might have been quite a familiar and welcoming dish in poor economic times.  Pasta has always been an ingredient that most people could afford, and being able to cook it using only water and salt, must have been a huge blessing for some families.  When I think of dishes like this, I think of simpler times – when money was scarce, but the family dinner table was important.  Everyone worked and pulled their weight, and dinners needed to be filling, satisfying, and carb heavy.  I picture moms toiling all day at home and pulling together a tasty dinner with the bare essentials.

In fact, Dear Reader, there were times in my childhood where money was tight and my mom would rely on cheap ingredients to pull together a meal to feed our family of five.  I cannot count how many times she would make a huge pasta dish, usually consisting of ground beef (again, inexpensive) and canned tomato sauce.  Even though dried pasta and canned sauce isn’t extravagant and can be unappealing to some people, my mom could make a meal taste like a million bucks with just a few pantry basics.

Pantry cooking is one of my favourite ways to cook.  I guess in some way, I learned that from my mom, even though I wasn’t ever in the kitchen with her.  My love of baking and cooking didn’t blossom until I had moved out on my own.  But, to this day, I love assembling a meal using one or two fresh ingredients and my pantry staples.  To me, it’s what comfort food cooking is all about – cooking with what you have on hand.

So, you see, Poor Man’s Pasta is a dish that is made with whatever you have on hand.  Pasta, milk or cream, salt, pepper, and butter or oil, are pretty much a staple in any home.  Adding in the cheese and whatever veggies you have on hand makes a wonderful, simple, rustic dinner.

Try it with broccoli, red peppers, lima beans, or even leave out the veggies completely if you have none available.  The onions and garlic alone make this a very flavourful pasta.  I know people who enjoy pasta tossed with just a little bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper – that simple.

Any frozen veggie would work well in this dish.  You could also add some grilled chicken if you prefer a non-vegetarian pasta dish.  And, there’s no need to make it fancy.  A garnish is certainly not needed!  And truth be told, I’ve often made this dish with parmesan cheese from a shaker can – that’s right; I admit it!  You don’t need to spend $20 on a wedge of good parmesan for this dish.  And unless Gordon Ramsay is dining with you, no one will ever know the difference!

So there you have it!  A glorious pasta dish for very little money and lots of wonderful flavour!  Enjoy!

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5 from 1 vote

Poor Man's Pasta

Poor Man’s Pasta is simple, easy, affordable, hearty, and so delicious! Perfectly cooked pasta in a cheesy, garlicky, and a creamy sauce – a perfect dish anytime of the day!
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time25 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, Italian
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 1070kcal
Author: Lord Byron's Kitchen


  • 500 grams penne pasta, cooked and drained
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 cups green peas, frozen
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon dried red chili flakes, optional
  • Fresh parsley, finely chopped, for garnish (optional)


  • When cooking your pasta, do not overcook. The pasta will be tossed in the sauce at the end and will cook a little further. Also, save one cup of the pasta water.
  • In a large skillet, over medium heat, saute the chopped onions in the olive oil until lightly browned – about 5 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and cook for 5 more minutes.
  • Add the pepper, salt, and dried red chili flakes, if using. Stir to combine.
  • Next, lower heat to medium-low and add the heavy cream and the parmesan cheese. Stir until the parmesan cheese has melted into the heavy cream and onion mixture.
  • Once the sauce begins to thicken, add the frozen peas. Stir the peas through the mixture and cook for 5 minutes.
  • Turn off the heat, add the cooked pasta and toss to coat. Add a lid to the skillet and let the pasta sit for 2 minutes. If the sauce has become too thick, add a tablespoon or two of the pasta water and toss. Add as much pasta water as you would like to thin the sauce if you think it is necessary.
  • Garnish with fresh parsley and more parmesan if you desire. Enjoy!


Calories: 1070kcal | Carbohydrates: 112g | Protein: 28g | Fat: 56g | Saturated Fat: 30g | Cholesterol: 174mg | Sodium: 397mg | Potassium: 630mg | Fiber: 8g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 2450IU | Vitamin C: 33.7mg | Calcium: 276mg | Iron: 3mg

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This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. Saw this on my fb feed and drooled a little on my keyboard, whoops! This looks great, Byron! Both of my parents think vegetarians are weird as well, which I always blamed on the Old-School Greekness Syndrome. :)
    1. I'm glad I'm not the only one who experiences the "vegetarians are weird" thing! Thanks for the compliment, Marissa. :)
  2. How fitting is this!? I was just telling my husband over breakfast that I was going to throw together some sort of pasta dish using whatever bits we have left in the fridge today and some cream so we didn't buy food before travel. Making tonight!
    1. I love 'clean out the fridge' cooking. You never know what you're going to come up with; it's always a surprise. :)
  3. I was so upset because I got distracted and accidentally burned the cream sauce a little bit! But it is a quick, easy side dish I was looking for and I'll definitely try it again, because even with the less than perfect sauce it was still very good! I've saved several of your recipes to try out later. Thank you!

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