By mid-January, the holidays are behind us but bills from holiday shopping are still rolling in. Maybe you’re looking for ways to spend less money this month and want to start a collection of simple meal ideas that don’t come with a big price tag. Sometimes all you need are a few ingredients to put a dinner on the table that your whole family will love and ask for again and again.
Lower Your Grocery Bill and Cut Back on Food Waste
This idea of making inexpensive meals and cutting grocery costs is what inspired food writer and recipe developer, Joy Manning, in her recent article for The Washington Post. She writes about how many of us remember our grandparents’ stories about stretching a dollar to feed their families, and reveals how she uses the staples of Italian cooking to prepare low-cost meals.
Manning shares ideas for creating a shopping list with a few affordable ingredients to make easy pizza and pasta dishes. She also emphasizes not letting food—and dollars—go to waste. One of her go-to dishes is a clean-out-the-fridge frittata, where you toss leftover ingredients like cooked chicken, broccoli florets, sliced mushrooms and shredded cheese into a skillet with beaten eggs.
For Budget-Friendly Meals, Turn to Italian Recipes
Another Italian cooking practice that has been used for generations is reserving some of the starchy water that has been used to cook pasta to add to sauces for other pasta dishes. The starch acts as a stabilizer in the sauce and helps it adhere to the pasta when it is tossed and ready to serve.
The test chefs in the kitchens of Christopher Kimball‘s Milk Street have found a new way to make authentic Cacio e Pepe, a dish in which Pecorino Romano cheese and freshly grated black pepper are the star ingredients and the sauce is smooth and creamy. Pecorino Romano, an aged sheep milk’s cheese with a strong salty flavor, is a dry cheese that needs to be melted carefully since it can easily break up in the sauce and form clumps. Milk Street discovered a method of using starchy water and shredded Pecorino to make a velvety cream sauce.
The Milk Street version of Cacio e Pepe reverses the process of adding hot cooking water to room temperature cheese and hot pasta, and instead creates a starchy water by whisking together cold water and corn starch. The corn starch acts as the stabilizer and will keep the cheese from clumping when it is added to the starchy water and gently heated in a pan.
It’s also important to note that when you are only using a few ingredients, they need to be quality ingredients. For the cheese sauce, use a block of Pecorino Romano and shred it yourself. Pre-shredded cheese will simply not give you the best results.
Here’s to happy cooking—that’s also easy and affordable—in 2019!