This is what we used to cook, or at least what I remember cooking as a poor student. The main idea behind this is keeping the cost as low as possible and taste high. Taste is kept high by the use of lots of cheap cheese, and any other spare ingredients that are on hand which may (or may not) lend them selves to the dish.
- 2-3 large onions sliced, onions are cheap so best to pack in as many as you can be bothered slicing.
- 1 can of tinned tomatoes, go for 2 cans if you can afford it, what ever are on special. Sometimes whole tomatoes are cheaper, they will break down as you cook so they are fine to use.
- 200ml water, may need less or more depending on the type of tomatoes you managed to get. Whole tinned tomatoes are quite juicy, so less water.
- 500g Mince, again can be anything, we use to go for beef. Cheap to pick up mince on special, or larger quantities and freeze some of it off for when you’re really pour.
- Packet off pasta, what ever is on special, spaghetti or fettuccine are my favorites.
- As much cheese you can spare of what ever verity
- A bit of Oil, Fat, or Butter will do, something to stop the onions and meat burning.
Above is the bare minimum but there are a few things we often had on hand which were good.
- 2 clove garlic.
- 2 tsp dried mixed herbs. Oregano, Basil, Thyme, basically ANYTHING.
- 1 tsp dried spice. If you’re unsure about it, just through in a little. Paprika, Mace, Turmeric, Garam Masalaare all trusted.
- Salt & Pepper are almost necessary.
- Mushrooms small or large handful
- Courgette (Zucchini) 1 or 2 are fine
Get a pan on medium heat, and brown the onions with oil/butter whatever you found (a trick I only recently started using is to completely caramelise the onions, you might need a few more onions though). Then remove from pan and add more oil if necessary then the meat. I find buying a cheap mince is often quite oily so not much oil is needed. Browning off the meat separately helps, if you add them both at once they tend to sauté (the ingredients will steam and get juicy), you want to brown both of them. Sometimes if doing a larger batch you’ll need to cook the meat in 2-3 batches, browning off a smaller portion of the total mince, removing, then repeating. Don’t clean the pan at all through out his process, as long as you haven’t burnt anything. If bits start sticking to the pan, they’ll lift off when adding the tin of tomatoes and water. This will add to the flavor. So if you haven’t all ready add the tomatoes, a little water to start and stir. Put the mince and onions back in. At this point add everything else you’ve mustered up and turn the pan to a low heat. I like to cook covered for at least 30-60min, the longer your starving tummy can hold off the better it’ll taste. The browned ingredients will become really tender, and the browned fried flavor will seep into the sauce. If the sauce is still quite water after 30 minutes or an hour, remove lid and let the sauce reduce. Again this will add to the flavour. Evaporating the water out of the sauce will concentrate the flavours. Bring a pot of water to the boil about 20min before its ready, pasta will only take about 10min to cook. Draining the pasta and smothering with oil salt and pepper really helps.