18 Cheap Pasta Dinners for the End of the Month
Pasta is the budget-friendly ingredient that keeps giving. One box of most pasta is less than $2, but you can easily get six to eight servings out of it. And if you bulk up pasta with more inexpensive vegetables like zucchini and squash, canned goods like beans and tomatoes, and cheap proteins like ground beef and sausage, you can stretch those end-of-the-month dollars into delicious meals that will taste anything but cheap. Here, we've gathered 18 of our top-rated budget-friendly pasta dishes that are big on flavor and satisfaction but won't leave your wallet empty.
Bow Ties with Sausage, Tomatoes and Cream
One pound of sweet Italian sausage stretches into six servings with the addition of bow tie pasta, onions, and chopped canned tomatoes. The cream might seem like a splurge, but it adds a decadent richness to the flavor and texture. "Half and half worked fine instead of heavy cream and letting the pasta finish cooking in the sauce made the flavor really soak in," wrote Teresa Amy Castleman.
Macaroni and Tomatoes
Budget tip: Save your bacon grease. It adds incredible flavor to dishes, like this humble pasta dinner, and it's a "free" byproduct of cooking the breakfast meat. And it turns pasta, tomato sauce, and a can of stewed tomatoes into a filling, tasty budget-friendly pasta dinner.
Fresh From the Vine Tortellini
Smoky Chipotle Mac and Cheese
Instead of a box of macaroni and cheese, make this homemade version that has much more flavor. Canned soup adds rich creaminess, but a surprise ingredient, chipotle chile in adobo sauce, adds smoky depth and a hint of heat.
Haluski - Cabbage and Noodles
Four ingredients form the base of this humble dish, and while that ingredient list might not look like much, the final meal is surprisingly comforting and filling. "Very good! I wanted something different and this worked out great. I used Collezione noodles and they were yummy," write Diana Bierer.
Baked Ziti I
This pasta casserole stretches one pound of ground beef, spaghetti sauce, and cheese into 10 big helpings, so it will be sure to feed your family until pay day. It also has more than 6500 five-star reviews, so you know buying the ingredients for this meal is money well spent.
A high-impact ingredient like sun-dried tomatoes may cost a few extra dollars in your grocery budget, but you won't use the whole container at once. That means you can stretch the expense over a few meals — and enjoy the flavorful results. "Absolutely delicious, and so simple to make. This has become a staple in our house," writes Toni Ogden.
Cherry Tomato Sauce with Penne
Roasting and stewing cherry tomatoes releases their natural juices and creates a fast and flavorful pasta sauce. You need only add some spices, garlic, and a bit of chicken broth to make the sauce cover several servings. If you have some other veggies in your crisper drawer, don't hesitate to add zucchini, squash, or peppers.
One Pan Orecchiette Pasta
Chef John says this recipe is a favorite among college students because it's "super-easy, cost pennies, and require a bare minimum of kitchen equipment." This recipe serves two, but you could double or even triple it for the whole family, and it will still be easy on the wallet.
Spaghetti alla Carbonara: the Traditional Italian Recipe
Traditional Spaghetti alla Carbonara is an Italian pasta dish made with egg, hard cheese, black pepper, and cured pork. This recipe calls for guanciale, which you may have to purchase at a specialty market. If you can't find it, an unsmoked bacon or pancetta will work nicely. Here again, one high-flavor ingredient goes a long way, and if your store or butcher allows it, buy only what you need so you can save some money.
You don't have to skip meat or seafood just because you're stretching your food budget this month. Frozen shrimp, which often comes packaged in two- or three-pound bags, can cost several dollars less per pound than beef or chicken. Plus, it's frozen, which means you can keep it stored for several months until you're ready to finish it up. This dish, like any good budget-friendly pasta dish, also relies on filling, inexpensive veggies like squash and zucchini to make large, satisfying servings.
Quick and Easy Hamburger Stroganoff
You might be tempted to turn to boxed mixes for a cheap pasta dinner, but this recipe is just as easy and tastes infinitely better. "I have made this recipe many times! It has become a regular in our house!! Super easy and tasty!!!" writes momcaja.
Cheater Baked Ziti
"Made dish minus the sausage and it was amazing. The sauce did it for us..the Alfredo mixed with red pizza sauce was great!" writes Amillie412
Chicken with Artichokes and Sundried Tomatoes
Sun-dried tomatoes and feta cheese aren't your typical pantry staples, but when you see how big an impact they can have on basic pasta dishes, you'll keep them on hand. Here, they're added to pasta, artichoke hearts, and chicken broth to form a fast sauce. Sprinkle the feta on top right before serving.
Lasagna Stuffed Shells
Instead of layering pasta with ladles of sauce and cheese, buy fewer ingredients, save some money, and make these budget-friendly stuffed shells instead.
Easy Mexican Goulash
Goulash is a classic, comforting dinner that originated in Hungary. This version embodies the spirit of the warm and filling dish, which remains quite popular in Central Europe, but it takes a decidedly south-of-the-border spin with bell pepper, tomatoes with green chiles, corn, and salsa. It also comes together quickly, in just 30 minutes, so you can have a family-friendly dinner on the table faster than you can pick up takeout.
Clam Sauce with Linguine
Canned seafood, like clams, are quite inexpensive, but they make for a fantastic addition to pasta, salads, and other dishes where a high-flavor ingredient goes a long way. The clams are cooked in butter with mushrooms and then tossed together with pasta and herbs for a simple but presentation-worthy meal.
Skillet Gnocchi with Chard & White Beans
Pantry staples like canned beans and canned tomatoes bulk up pre-made gnocchi and wilted kale. The one-dish dinner is fast and easy, and it's sure to please the whole family: "My husband and I love this recipe!! It's now one of our favorites. It's fast and easy to make very tasty!" writes Amy.