Quarantine Cooking Made imPASTAbly Easy

Pasta dinners out are infuriatingly expensive. 

A bowl of rigatoni can easily set you back at least $16, then if you want to add some meat and a glass of wine, say goodbye to that paycheck.

While a bowl full of steamy carbs covered in sauce and hopefully cheese is delicious, I can’t help but scratch my head at the price. I get that making pasta is labor intensive, but flour, water, and eggs are as cheap as it gets. A great marinara isn’t a budget buster either, with fairly standard, reasonably priced, ingredients.  Alas, a good bowl of spaghetti is quite pricey. 

A take-out Italian diner is not in the quarantine budget, but making pasta dishes at home is mind-blowingly cheap and the perfect comfort food. Here are some of our creations for a price point that will make it hard to fork over $18 for penne again.

Pesto Chicken Pappardelle: $2.75 a Serving

Egg Pappardelle Pasta

At one of our many trips to Trader Joes, we eyed a bag of egg pappardelle pasta, found some pesto, grabbed chicken, and ran home to get started. The process was beyond easy. We cooked the pasta, sautéed up the chicken, then put it all together in a skillet with the pesto and some additional spices and handful of spinach and voila! An Italian feast!


Pasta: $1.99

Pesto: $2.99

Chicken: $6

Total: $10.98.  Made 4 meals-> $2.75 a serving!

Gnocchi with Turkey Bolognese: $2.99 a Serving


My first cruise contract was based in the Mediterranean, and one port I decided to escort a tour to a winery. After getting the low down on how to make wine from an animated 75-year-old Italian man with a thick accent, we saw a demonstration on how to make fresh gnocchi. The best part was that we each proceeded to get a bowl of said gnocchi along with endless wine.  The little pillows of goodness melted in my mouth, and it was pure heaven.  

Since then, gnocchi has been my Italian pasta meal of choice.  

While quite different from an authentic Italian experience, the frozen cauliflower gnocchi at Trader Joes is pretty delicious. The entire bag is $2.99, plus, it’s base is cauliflower so obviously it’s healthy. However, one aisle over you can get a package of gnocchi in the dried pasta section for a mere $1.99!  The perfect base for our next cheap Italian dinner in. 

The process involved cooking the ground turkey in the marinara, then adding the cooked pasta in along with more spices. It is impossibly easy, extremely delicious, and you don’t have to be Rachel Ray to whip this up. 

Price Point: 

Gnocchi: $1.99

Marinara: $1.99

Ground Turkey: $4.99

Total =$8.97.  Made 3 meals-à $2.99 a serving. 

Lasagna: $2.86 a Serving

After a tumultuous few days, a comfort meal was in order. What’s the ultimate comfort pasta dish? Lasagna of course!  

I associate the dish with Filomena’s, an Italian restaurant in Georgetown that decorates the cozy, dark interior to the nines for each major holiday. The entire Askegaard/Kowalski clan would pay homage to the pasta mecca each Halloween, Christmas, and Easter, and it would always involve crazy Aunt Carol battling with the hostess over getting the best table, Grandma approaching a stranger’s tables to babble on about God, plenty of laughs, and loads of carbs.  The ultimate dish at Philomena’s in the massive, cheesy, rich lasagna, and I’ll be bold to say it’s the best I’ve ever had. 

Jeremy took on the dish, and I’ll admit I was sitting on the couch drinking a beer through the whole process, but it went something like this.

  1. Make a meat sauce with premade pasta sauce, tomato paste, ground beef, and loads of spices.
  2. Make a cream sauce with milk, butter, and nutmeg.
  3. Layer the premade lasagna noodles from Trader Joes with the two sauces.
  4. Pop it in the oven for 40 minutes
  5. Add cheese to the top and bake for 30 more minutes
  6. Let it set for 15 minutes
  7. Enjoy!

This was by far the most complex pasta dish created by Chef Hales, but it was oh so delicious. 


Beef: $12

Onion: $.60

Cheeses: $3

Sauces: $4.00

Pasta Sheets: $2.50

Red Wine: $2.50

Garlic: $.50

Flour $.50

Milk: $2.50

Butter: $.50

Total= $28.60  Made 8-10 Servings -à $3.68-$2.86 a serving!!!!!!

Compare that to the $13 Philomena’s bill!

With that being said, the lasagna was hands down the most labor and time intensive dish on this list. So if you do fancy a splurge on a dinner out, consider getting the lasagna, as it isn’t as simple as penne, gnocchi, spaghetti, so on and so forth. 

Final Thoughts…..

You don’t need to wine and dine at a cozy Italian restaurant for a great meal. Pasta is an easy comfort dish that tastes delicious and won’t break the bank.  

Try out these three pasta creations, and let us know your favorite dishes to whip up!

2 Comments Add yours

  1. oh yes please lasagne any day of the week!


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