THE CANNY COOK: Lower your food bills and still eat well with Food editor Eleanor Maidment
I recently binge-watched Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy on BBC iPlayer, and while the food couldn’t make you want to jump on a plane any faster, it’s also a reminder that many great Italian dishes come from humble roots.
It is the simplest of pastas that I find myself cooking on repeat: spaghetti aglio e olio – a joyous dish requiring little more than garlic, olive oil and chilli flakes. Other summer favourites panzanella (a Tuscan salad of tomatoes, onion and stale bread) and risi e bisi (Venetian rice and peas) really show the Italian ingenuity for creating great recipes from very little. If you want a cookbook to delve into for these and more, I recommend anything by Marcella Hazan.
You would be hard pushed to notice this cheese swap
If, like me, pasta makes a regular appearance on your weekly menu, a simple cheese swap could cut costs. Try switching parmigiano reggiano (what we tend to call parmesan) for grana padano, usually found beside it in the supermarket. While parmigiano reggiano is aged and nutty, grana padano is more mellow but comes with a lower price tag – 200g of grana padano is roughly £1.88, parmesan £3.10.
Both are perfect for grating over pasta and, when used in cooking, you would be hard pushed to tell the difference.
Courgette, garlic and chilli spaghetti
A cross between my go-to aglio e olio and Stanley Tucci’s spaghetti alla nerano (with courgette), this is fabulously simple and summery
- Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil, add the spaghetti and cook for 1 minute less than the pack instructions (you’ll finish cooking it with the courgettes).
- Meanwhile, heat 3 tbsp olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.
- For 1 minute, fry 2 sliced garlic cloves and 1 deseeded and finely chopped red chilli (Use a pinch of dried chilli flakes if you don’t have fresh chilli.)
- Add the courgettes (thinly sliced), a good pinch of salt and fry, stirring regularly, for 8 minutes or until the courgettes are golden.
- Scoop out a cupful of the cooking water before draining the pasta, then add both to the pan with the courgette along with the grated grana padano. Toss until combined then season with black pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice if liked.
- Serve immediately with a little more cheese grated over the top.
Note This cost assumes you have some basic ingredients.
Do you have a great recipe for eating well and cutting food bills? Email firstname.lastname@example.org. If we print it, we’ll send you a bottle of champagne