Poor Man’s Pasta is a hearty, yet simple pasta dish made with a few inexpensive ingredients. It’s cheesy, garlicky, creamy, and very rich in flavour!
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. Recently though, 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 leftover pasta was thoroughly enjoyed by my mother, who cannot fathom why someone would choose to be a vegetarian. And by my daughter, who has very picky taste buds.
(The photos you see in this post were updated in early 2018. That was almost 5 years from the original date this recipe was published. Since then, I have made this dish several times. Two years ago, my daughter became a vegetarian. So with two vegetarians in my life – both her and John.e, this pasta is a go-to. Also, my mom passed away in late 2016. I was able to make this dish for her many, many times since the original post publish date.)
Feeding a family in hard times:
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. 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 works to pull their weight, and dinners are 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 use cheap ingredients to help put a meal on the table.
She would often prepare a pasta dish with inexpensive ground beef and canned sauce. Even though dried pasta and canned sauce is unappealing to some, mom could make a meal taste like a million bucks with just a few pantry basics.
Budget friendly does not mean lack of flavour!
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 can be prepared 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.
Variations are always good!
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. Also, you could add some grilled chicken if you prefer a non-vegetarian version. And, there’s no need to make it fancy. A garnish is not needed!
Truth be told, I will make 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!
Poor Man’s Pasta
- 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!