Basil Pesto Pasta for One (Nut-Free)

We have been having unseasonably hot and humid weather in our part of the world. Considering the heat, I haven’t wanted to cook or bake heavy dishes. This easy-to-make pesto pasta has been a meal that I’ve been eating frequently. It is relatively light, can be ready in a few minutes, and the pasta is the only thing you need to cook!

I have a few basil plants in my kitchen (thanks to my mom!), and they are full of leaves. The abundance of basil, along with the heat, inspired this dish. This recipe is specifically adapted to serve one person. I am more of a pasta fan than my husband, so I make this for myself when we are eating separate meals. However, you can easily multiply the quantities to serve multiple people.

I chose to make it nut-free because my mother doesn’t care for nuts, and there are some nut-based allergies in our family. I don’t miss the pine nuts, but the pesto itself is a bit thinner than traditional pesto. I have also added lemon juice to this recipe. You may choose to omit the lemon juice if you would like the pesto a bit thicker.

A few notes on the recipe:

Fresh Garlic: The garlic in this recipe is raw (not cooked), and raw garlic can have a bit of a bite to it. If you do not like the taste of raw garlic, you can roast it in the oven, prior to making the pasta dish (click here for a roasting guide). You can also substitute the minced garlic with a 1/8 teaspoon of dried garlic powder.

Parmesan Cheese: Shredded Parmesan cheese is blended into the pesto mixture. You can use Pecorino Romano instead of Parmesan cheese, but it is saltier. Keep this in mind when you are adding salt to the pesto mixture.

Fresh Mozzarella: I add fresh mozzarella to the pasta dish. You an either add an ounce of the mozzarella “pearls” or cube fresh mozzarella. If you do not have fresh mozzarella, you can add a couple tablespoons of shredded mozzarella cheese.

Tomatoes: This recipe benefits from the addition of cherry or grape tomatoes. If you would like to add tomatoes to the recipe, simply halve the tomatoes prior to making the dish. If you do not have cherry tomatoes, you can add half of a diced Roma tomato. If you choose to add a Roma tomato, remove the seeds before dicing it.

Cost Analysis:

Please note – the cost is based on what I paid for ingredients in the year 2020. Your actual costs may differ.

Picture Tutorial:

Recipe:

  • Difficulty: easy
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An easy homemade pesto pasta recipe that is nut-free and results in one serving.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup (packed) fresh basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon of minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 4 ounces pasta (I used fettuccine, but any shape will do)
  • pinch of salt, to taste
  • 1 ounce of fresh mozzarella cheese
  • suggested add-in: 1/2 cup of cherry tomatoes (cut in half)

Directions

  1. Boil salted water in a saucepan and prepare pasta noodles per box instructions.
  2. Combine basil, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, and a pinch or two of salt in a small blender or food processor. Blend until well combined.
  3. Drain pasta and remove it from heat. Add pesto to the pasta noodles and mix until combined. Add fresh mozzarella and uncooked tomatoes (if using) to the pasta.
  4. Top dish with additional Parmesan cheese and basil.
  5. Enjoy!

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Easy Fettuccine Alfredo for One

Everyone needs a few good single-serving recipes. Whether you need dinner-for-one, or a quick homemade lunch, this recipe is a good addition to that list.

Fettuccine Alfredo has been one of my favorite indulgent meals since I was a child. Unfortunately, my husband James is not a fan of Alfredo sauce. So, I make this single-serving recipe for myself when I am craving a creamy pasta lunch.

This recipe is creamy and flavorful with the addition of garlic and parsley. You may, however, also consider adding steamed or sauted vegetables. Alfredo pairs especially well with broccoli, peppers, and tomatoes. Simply saute the vegetables in a separate frying pan with olive oil until softened, or steam the vegetables while you prepare the Alfredo sauce. Then, stir the vegetables into the completed sauce prior to adding the pasta.

Notes on the Recipe:

Garlic: This recipe calls for one clove of minced garlic. You can also use about 1/2 teaspoon of already minced garlic or 1/8 teaspoon of dried garlic powder. If you are a garlic-lover, add two cloves of garlic. I frequently do this, but the garlic flavor is very strong.

Half-and-half creamer: I use half-and-half for this recipe because it is something I usually have on hand for my coffee. It has more fat than milk, and this makes the Alfredo creamy. You can also use whipping cream, which will result in an even creamier sauce. If you don’t have either on hand, you can use milk. If you use milk, the sauce will remain relatively thin.

Cost Analysis:

Fettuccine Alfredo is known as a rich and indulgent meal, so the cost and time requirement to make this dish may surprise you. This single serving recipe takes just 15 minutes to make and costs about $0.76 for the serving.

Picture Tutorial:

Recipe:

Easy Fettuccine Alfredo for One

  • Difficulty: easy
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This easy homemade Fettuccine Alfredo recipe is made with common household ingredients, costs less than a dollar to make, and results in one delicious serving.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon salted butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons half-and-half creamer
  • 4 ounces pasta (I used fettuccine, but any shape will do)
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried parsley
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Melt butter on low heat in a small saucepan. Separately, boil water in a saucepan and prepare pasta noodles per box instructions.
  2. Add minced garlic to the melted butter. Increase the heat to medium-low and allow the garlic to cook for about one minute. Stir carefully and do not allow the garlic to burn.
  3. Add half-and-half creamer to the butter mixture one tablespoon at a time. Wisk or stir after each addition. Allow the butter and creamer mixture to cook for 2-3 minutes, until it has thickened slightly.
  4. Add shredded Parmesan cheese and wisk or stir until well combined. This should take about a minute.
  5. Add dried parsley to the sauce and stir.
  6. After the pasta is cooked and drained, add it to the sauce mixture. Stir until well combined.
  7. Top the pasta dish with additional Parmesan cheese, parsley, and pepper, to taste.
  8. Enjoy!

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Oven Baked Black Bean Quesadillas

Black bean quesadillas are a staple in our household. They are easy-to-make, cheap, quick, and tasty. Plus, you only need four ingredients to make this recipe! Well – perhaps five ingredients because I rarely eat a quesadilla without good salsa!

Why make quesadillas in the oven?

I frequently make quesadillas in a frying pan (click here for that recipe). A frying pan does get a quesadilla nice and crispy, but there are two major reasons to bake your quesadillas.

  1. It is easier to make a batch of quesadillas. If you want to make multiple quesadillas at once, you can prepare all of your quesadillas and bake them in one or two batches. If you use a frying pan, you will need to prepare and bake each quesadilla separately.
  2. All the quesadillas will be ready at the same time. Unlike preparing quesadillas in a frying pan, all of your quesadillas will be hot and ready to eat at the same time.

The only noticeable difference between oven baking and pan frying is the texture of the tortilla. The oven baked tortilla is much crispier, while the pan fried tortilla has a crunchy yet chewy exterior. Both are good.

Cost Analysis:

Black bean quesadillas are a nice and cheap meal or appetizer. A basic black bean quesadilla will cost about $0.88 to make. This doesn’t include the cost of salsa.

Please note – the cost is based on what I paid for ingredients in the year 2020. Your actual costs may differ.

Picture Tutorial:

Recipe:

Oven Baked Black Bean Quesadillas

  • Servings: 2 quesadillas
  • Difficulty: easy
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This quick and easy vegetarian quesadilla recipe is the perfect no hassle lunch or party appetizer!


Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 2 flour tortillas (preferably taco size)
  • 6 tablespoons of shredded Mexican cheese
  • a few drops of olive oil (or other oil neutral oil if preferred)

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Lay your tortillas on a baking sheet. Place a few drops of oil on one side of the tortillas. Lightly rub the oil into one side of each tortilla.
  3. Flip the tortilla on the baking sheet so that the oil side is DOWN.
  4. Add three tablespoons of shredded cheese to one half of the tortilla (non-oil side)
  5. Add a quarter cup of black beans to the same half of the tortilla (non-oil side)
  6. Fold the tortillas in half
  7. Place into the oven and bake for 10 minutes, and flip halfway through the baking process.
  8. Slice tortilla into four pieces (I use a pizza cutter)
  9. Serve with salsa, preferably pico de gallo!

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Fast, Easy, & Delicious Pasta

My college cafeteria served made-to-order pasta. It was great. Perhaps it was a little too great, as I gained 10 pounds during my first year of college…

In the cafeteria, a cook would allow you to select your garlic, oil, sauce, vegetables, meat, and pasta noodle shape. As a frequenter of the pasta station, I sampled a variety of made-to-order dishes. Now, easy pasta dishes are my go-to lazy meal. You can use up the produce you have in your home, and make the pasta dish to your taste.

For me, a great lazy pasta dish only requires:

  • Olive oil
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Some form of tomato (grape, diced, or even canned)
  • Pasta

Other add-ins I like include:

  • Mozzarella cheese
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Fresh herbs
  • Other vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, asparagus, peppers, etc.

The olive oil and tomatoes form a light sauce. The addition of garlic, cheese and fresh herbs makes it a great light dish for summer. If you want something heavier, consider adding butter, additional cheese, and meat.

The pasta we had last night incorporated fresh tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, fresh basil, and two types of cheese. The cost was $1.71 per person (see below for cost analysis).

Cost Analysis:

Note: The costs are based on what I paid for ingredients in 2020. Your total cost may differ.

Recipe:

Quick & Easy Pasta Dish

  • Difficulty: easy
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An easy and versatile pasta dish.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped or minced
  • 1 1/4 cups grape tomatoes (cut in half)
  • 4 ounces pasta (I used fettuccine, but any shape will do)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice (or balsamic vinegar)
  • Additional add-ins: mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, fresh basil or other herbs, other vegetables!

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil on medium heat. Separately, boil water in a saucepan and prepare pasta noodles per box instructions.
  2. Add finely chopped onion and a pinch of salt to the olive oil and allow the onion to cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and 1 cup of grape tomatoes, and any additional vegetables. Allow mixture to cook for a few minutes in the oil. Add lemon juice.
  3. Allow this mixture to cook for an additional 5-10 minutes, until onion and tomato are softened.
  4. Mix pasta noodles into the tomato sauce.
  5. Top with 1/4 cup of uncooked tomatoes (if desired). I like this for the texture, but you could choose to cook all of the tomatoes.
  6. Top with cheese, fresh herbs, salt and pepper, if desired.
  7. Enjoy!

What are your go-to lazy meals?

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Pea & Parmesan Risotto

I had a dish similar to this one on a vacation about five years ago, and I absolutely loved it. The dish was delicious, so of course I attempted to recreate it! I have tried a number of variations (including topping with fresh pea sprouts, omitting the additional peas, and experimenting with dried basil), but the recipe I am including in this post is the one I make the most often.

Concerning modifications, I don’t think the pea sprouts are worth the extra cost, but are a lovely topping if you are serving to dinner guests. I also prefer the dish with fresh basil, but have made it a number of times with dried basil. I use frozen peas, but it is good (if not better) with fresh peas. The great thing about cooking is that there really isn’t a right or wrong way to do it. So, use what you have and enjoy!

Side note: I love bread. I almost always serve rosemary focaccia bread (click here for recipe) with this risotto. I think it is a stellar combination!

From a cost perspective, the dish cost us about $1.50 per serving to make. An obvious way to make the dish cheaper is to either make your own vegetable stock or use a stock cube. I usually pay for pre-made broth, which makes the dish a lot more expensive than it needs to be.

Frugal Cost Analysis:

Note: This cost analysis is based on what I paid for my own ingredients in the year 2020. Actual prices may vary.

Picture Tutorial:

Recipe:

Pea and Parmesan Risotto for $1.50 per serving

  • Difficulty: Easy
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This easy and delicious risotto combines frozen peas, fresh basil, and Parmesan cheese, which results in a delicious vegetarian meal.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 32 ounces vegetable broth + hot water, if needed
  • 10 ounces frozen peas (you don’t need exactly 10 ounces. Less is fine. If you love peas, more is fine!)
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 4 fresh basil leaves
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Heat vegetable broth in a small saucepan and simmer over low heat.
  2. Heat frozen peas following bag instructions. Note: Steam in the bag frozen vegetables are more expensive, but quite convenient for this recipe.
  3. Add butter to a large saucepan and and heat using medium-low heat. After it is heated, add diced onion. Cook for approximately 10 minutes, or until onion is softened. Stir the onions occasionally, and do not allow them to burn.
  4. Increase heat to medium and add arborio rice. Cook for another 2 minutes.
  5. While the rice is cooking, add 1/2 cup of vegetable broth and 1/2 cup of peas to a blender. Also add 4 fresh basil leaves (or a pinch of dried basil). Blend until smooth. Set aside for use later.
  6. Reduce heat of the large saucepan to medium-low. Add a ladleful of broth to the rice. Stir (you will need to stir frequently throughout the entire broth process). Once the broth is absorbed, add another ladleful of broth. Continue this process until the rice is tender. (I generally taste the rice to confirm it isn’t still crunchy). This process will likely take 20-25 minutes. If you use up all of the broth, continue with hot water.
  7. Remove from heat. Add pea puree and stir. Add shredded Parmesan cheese and stir. Add remaining peas and stir. Allow to set for about 3-5 minutes.
  8. Top with additional Parmesan cheese, pepper, and salt (if desired). Enjoy!

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Easy Vegetarian Refried Beans

When we were newly married, we lived near an excellent Mexican restaurant. We didn’t eat there often, but when we did, I always got a dish that included refried beans. We no longer live near the Mexican restaurant, so I make them at home instead!

This recipe is delicious (and reheats reasonably well). It is a great side dish, but we often eat them as part of an entree. I use the refried beans as a filling in my tacos (in lieu of meat). I combine the beans with lettuce, tomato, cheese, and guacamole. It is absolutely delicious.

The beans are also relatively inexpensive. It costs about $1.65 to make a batch of the beans, and you should be able to get two entree-sized servings out of the batch. If you are serving as a side dish, you should be able to get four servings out of the batch. Enjoy! – Kristin

Frugal Cost Analysis:

Note: This cost analysis is based on what I paid for my own ingredients in the year 2020. Actual prices may vary.

Picture Tutorial:

Recipe:

Easy Vegetarian Refried Beans

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
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These homemade refried beans are easy, delicious, and cost $0.83 per serving. You'll never go back to the can…

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder (more if you like them spicy)
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon lime juice, optional
  • 1 can (14.5-15.5 ounces) pinto beans, NOT drained

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil in a large frying pan on medium heat.
  2. Add diced onion and a pinch of kosher salt. Cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add garlic and chili powder and cook for an additional minute.
  4. Mix in the pinto beans (with liquid from can), the vegetable broth, and lime juice.
  5. Continue to cook the mixture on medium heat for about 20 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to stir and mash (or mush if you prefer the term) the mixture periodically. The beans are ready when they thicken.
  6. Serve in tacos, as part of a taco salad, or as a side dish to any Mexican fare.
  7. Enjoy!

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Fresh Tomato Risotto – Wine Not Required!

If you are a risotto connoisseur, you may be surprised to see one major ingredient missing from this recipe: wine!

Wine may add a bit of flavor, but I find the risotto to be just as delicious without the wine. Plus you cut down on the overall expense of the dish! However, if you would like, you can add a 1/4 cup of dry white wine to the dish prior to adding the vegetable stock. 🙂

I make a few different risotto dishes, including a pea risotto and a pumpkin risotto. This is perhaps the most deluxe and expensive at $1.73 a plate, but it is absolutely delicious. We had it for dinner last night with a few slices of rosemary focaccia bread, and again leftover for lunch. I regret nothing!

Continue reading “Fresh Tomato Risotto – Wine Not Required!”

Irresistible Rosemary Focaccia Bread for $1.20

I am a lover of bread, and rosemary focaccia bread is one of my absolute favorites. This bread is relatively easy and ALWAYS impresses dinner guests. It turns out perfectly every time I make it, and it is unbelievably delicious.

While searching for a great focaccia bread recipe, I stumbled upon a recipe posted by Gimme Some Oven. The bread I prepare is an adaptation of her amazing rosemary focaccia bread. My version uses dried rosemary (as I do not generally have fresh rosemary on hand) and divides the recipe in half.

Another great thing about this bread is that it is relatively inexpensive to make, especially considering the luxurious end result.

Cost Analysis:

This analysis excludes the cost of toppings. For more on the cost of toppings, click here!
Note: This cost analysis is based on what I paid for my own ingredients in the year 2020. Actual prices may vary.

Picture Tutorial:

Recipe:

Irresistible Rosemary Focaccia Bread for $1.20

  • Difficulty: relatively easy
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A luxurious and salty loaf of focaccia bread elevated with the addition of rosemary.

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1.25 teaspoons active-dry yeast (1/2 package)
  • 1.75 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil + additional tablespoon for drizzling
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt + additional for sprinkling
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary

Directions

  1. Combine yeast and sugar in a mixing bowl. Add warm water to mixture.
  2. Let yeast proof for about 10 minutes.
  3. Add 1 cup of flour, 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt, and one tablespoon olive oil to the yeast mixture. I use a stand mixer with a dough hook, and I use it to mix the dough on low in the stand mixer for about a minute. If you do not have a stand mixer, mix and knead the dough by hand.
  4. Add additional flour, kosher salt, and one tablespoon of olive oil. Mix on medium-low for another 4-5 minutes.
  5. Form dough into a ball and put it in a greased mixing bowl. Put a little oil on top of the dough ball and cover with a damp kitchen towel. Allow dough to rise for about 45-60 minutes (I tend to wait 60 minutes) in a warm area.
  6. Take dough out of the bowl and roll it into a circle. You can use a rolling pin, but I sometimes just push the dough down with my hands. Put the flattened dough on a baking sheet, cover with a damp kitchen towel, and allow to rise for another 20 minutes. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  7. Poke holes all over the dough, drizzle it with a tablespoon of olive oil, and sprinkle with kosher salt and dried rosemary, to taste.
  8. Bake in oven for about 20 minutes and enjoy! Note: This bread is best on its first day. If you are not planning to eat all of the bread on its first day, I would recommend drizzling with olive oil and reheating it in the oven prior to eating.

Avocado Salad with Roasted Potatoes

A few years ago, James and I took a (frugal) vacation to York, England. We had a very enjoyable lunch in an elegant tea room, located on a busy street corner. I ordered a salad similar to this one, and we spent a lovely hour talking, watching the street through the tall windows, and soaking up the atmosphere.

When our vacation was over, and we returned home, I tried to recreate the salad from the tea room. It has become one of our favorite fresh and frugal meals. We had this avocado salad for lunch today. It was delicious and cost about $1.40 per person. The only thing missing was the beautiful tea room and a fabulous cup of English Breakfast Tea. Enjoy!

Cost Analysis:

Note: This cost analysis is based on what I paid for my own ingredients in the year 2020. Actual prices may vary.

Picture Tutorial:

Recipe:

Avocado Salad with Roasted Potatoes

  • Difficulty: easy
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This fresh and hearty salad has a great blend of flavors and textures.

Ingredients

  • 1 cucumber, peeled, sliced, and halved
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 stalk of celery, peeled and sliced
  • 2 potatoes (I used russet), peeled and diced
  • Lettuce (either romaine or a spring mix)
  • Olive oil, 1 tablespoon + more for drizzling
  • Balsamic vinegar, to taste
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
  • Parmesan cheese, if desired

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Peel and dice potatoes. Mix in a bowl with 1 tablespoon olive oil.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread potatoes on baking sheet. Season with kosher salt and pepper, to taste.
  4. Bake potatoes for 25-30 minutes in oven. Check halfway through and flip. Season with more salt and pepper, to taste.
  5. Peel the celery (I do this to remove some of the strings) and cut up the avocado.
  6. Mix lettuce, cucumber, celery and avocado together. Dress with olive oil and a little bit of balsamic vinegar. Top with roasted potatoes and Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Hearty Southwest Black Beans & Rice

This recipe is a staple in our house. It is cheap, delicious and makes for great leftovers!

I usually eat mine taco-style in tortilla shells with shredded cheese, tomato, lettuce, and guacamole. James prefers to load his up with taco fixings and eat with chips. Either way is great!

This is a relatively cheap recipe at $0.80 per generous serving. Happy eating!

Cost Analysis:

Note: This cost analysis is based on what I paid for my own ingredients in the year 2020. Actual prices may vary.

Picture Tutorial:

Recipe:

Southwest Black Beans & Rice

  • Difficulty: easy
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Rice, Black Beans, Corn and some basic spices make for a hearty vegetarian main dish or a great side dish!

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped or minced
  • 3/4 cup uncooked rice (I usually use long grain)
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth (or salted water if you don’t have broth)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 can of black beans (about 15 ounces), drained
  • 1 small can of whole kernel corn (8-9 ounces), drained

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil in a medium size saucepan on medium heat. Add garlic and onion and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add rice and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes (until slightly toasted).
  3. Add vegetable broth and bring mixtures to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low for about 20 minutes.
  4. Add cumin and chili powder and stir into rice mixture.
  5. Stir black beans and corn into the mixture.
  6. Serve with all the standard taco fixings inside of tortillas, with tortilla chips, or just enjoy plain!