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When I went to university (back when dinosaurs roamed the earth), I pretty much subsisted on toast due to my tiny budget. I consumed so much of the stuff that it really is a wonder I can stand the sight of it now. So that you don’t have to suffer the same sad state of affairs, we’ve cobbled together some ideas to help you eat like a king (or queen) on a student’s budget.

Pasta de resistance


Whenever I hear about no-carb diets, I think: “Well, have you seen any obese Italians lately?” (Of course I could tell myself the same thing about Swiss people when biting into my second Lindt chocolate for the day). Pasta is the student’s best friend (and no, I don’t mean two-minute noodles). It’s affordable, comes in a variety of forms from gnocchi to tagliatelle, macaroni to linguini, and can be bulked up with nutritious yet saucy sauces. We’ve got a great recipe for you that is as old as your grandma, so you can safely say it’s stood the test of time.

Poor Man’s Spaghetti

When you think of Italy, you probably think of gorgeous scenery and people, but post-World War II Italy was a different story. Faced with dire poverty, locals had to come up with creative ways to feed their families using just a few cheap ingredients. And so ‘
cucina povera’, or ‘the kitchen of the poor’, was born. This encompassed culinary methods and recipes developed by Italy’s peasants to make the best of every food scrap and also eliminate waste. A staple ingredient was pasta, which was cheap to make, consisting of just flour and water.


Poor Man's Spaghetti originated in Italy and, if it's from Italy, despite the dubious name, you know it has to taste lip-smacking good.

The quintessential cucina povera dish was called spaghetti alla puveriello, or Poor Man’s Spaghetti. Despite its simplicity, I’m sure you’ll find this meal simply deliziosa! Here’s the recipe…


  • 100g (grams) spaghetti
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp (teaspoon) to Tbsp (tablespoon) lard (pig fat - yes really)
  • 2-3 Tbsp pecorino romano cheese, grated
  • Salt and black paper


  1. Add water to a large pot. When water comes to a boil, add salt (it is recommended by chefs, although presumably not by doctors, to add a generous amount). Then add the spaghetti.
  2. Shortly before the spaghetti is al dente*, melt a teaspoon to a tablespoon of lard (depending on how afraid you are of your doctor) in a frying pan. When it starts to warm up, crack the egg into the pan. Fry the egg 'sunny side up', but make sure that the yolk stays runny and the egg whites remain soft. (Note: as a substitute for lard, you can use unsalted butter, or otherwise, coconut, vegetable, or olive oil).
  3. Transfer the spaghetti to the frying pan. Add the grated cheese, some black pepper, and a ladle of the cooking water from the pot the spaghetti was cooked in (oh yes, don't toss it out... Maybe I should have mentioned that before). Mix thoroughly over low heat.
  4. Serve immediately. 

*'Al dente' refers to pasta or rice that is cooked for the perfect amount of time so as to be firm when eaten. Actually, it translates from Italian as, 'to the tooth'. This is viewed as the ideal consistency.

Have you herb the news?

If you’re a student, chances are you’re living in a dorm, apartment, or other small space. The good news is that you don’t need a garden out of the pages of Country Home magazine to cultivate a herb garden. And using herbs is a super way to add flavour to any meal. In fact, container gardening is all the rage. (So there, glossy magazines!). Here are some top tips for growing a herb garden in a teeny weensy space:

Use the right soil

Not all soil is created equal. The website,, says: “It's best to use a specialized potting mix in your containers.” Which mix you choose depends on the plants you want to grow, so be sure to research this to avoid any accidental plant homicide. Money-saving tip: Add filler to the bottom of the container. This should consist of drainage-promoting materials such as (believe it or not) crushed aluminum cans. “Lay a piece of landscape cloth over the filler and top with potting soil.” (

Container gardening is a super way to grow tasty herbs to add flavour to any meal without breaking the bank.

Pick the right containers

The rule of thumb is to make sure your containers have good drainage. A lack of sufficient drainage could mean throwing time and money down the drain (I don’t blame you if you’re rolling your eyes at the bad pun) and a watery death for your poor plants. According to the green-fingered experts,
the minimum size for a drainage hole is 1/2 an inch/ 1.27cm in diameter for small or ​medium-sized pots. Clay pots (with decent drainage holes) are preferable to plastic ones because they are more breathable.

But if your budget doesn’t extend to these, consider scavenging for items at garage sales or flea markets that could be ‘upcycled’. From teacups to whiskey barrels, the sky’s the limit. Just please don’t raid your granny’s fine china cabinet unless she’s happy with her antiques having holes drilled into them. There are countless ideas for everyday items that you can upcycle into containers, although I draw the line at using old boots because 'smelly foot' is not one of my favourite flavours. Space-saver tip: Consider popping containers into hanging baskets. Just be sure to mind your head.

Another tip: think about the herbs you like eating before you go and plant 10 pots of parsley and realise you don’t really like parsley or that it doesn’t go well with your favourite dishes. Keep in mind that all herbs need at least six hours of sunlight a day, so be sure to find your sunniest indoor spots to nurture your botanical wonderland. “If they don’t get enough sun, they’ll become leggy and start to lose their flavor,” writes And while being leggy is considered a plus in humans, it’s not such a perk in the plant kingdom.

Basil is rated as one of the easiest herbs to grow indoors – think of it as a laidback surfer dude who just loves to chillax. As a student, you may only have the barest of the bare in terms of utensils while you save up for that $500 Le Creuset matching pot set, but you’re in luck because, with just a toaster and some fresh basil picked from your oh-so-impressive container garden (so Insta-cool), you can truly make magic. 

Tomato Basil Mozzarella Baguette 

Lest I be accused of including recipes with toast, and thereby contradicting my earlier promise that you would not have to endure the same fate that I did, let me assure you that this is no ordinary toast. This is Fancy Toast, aka baguette (pronounce it bu-get, not bugwet, or you may well be hit on the head by a Frenchman with one).


1 French baguette

8 ounces/approx 226 grams fresh mozzarella cheese

4 Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced

4 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped


  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius,
  2. Slice baguette in half so that you're left with two long halves of bread. 
  3. Slice mozzarella ball into very thin slices. Slice tomatoes into semi-thin slices. Please note we will be coming with a magnifying glass to check.
  4. Layer mozzarella slices along the bread.
  5. Place on a baking tray and bake for 3-4 minutes, or until mozzarella begins to melt and bubble slightly. (The keyword here is 'slightly').
  6. Remove from oven and lay tomato slices on top. 
  7. Return to oven for 1-2 more minutes. Remove from oven, unless you like the taste of charred bread. 
  8. Sprinkle with fresh chopped basil. Slice into pieces. Garnish lightly with salt and pepper, if you wish. Bon appetit!

Adapted from


'Caprese' is an Italian salad made up of fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil.

A moreish mashup of this recipe is a grilled basil caprese panini sandwich (pictured above), which is a mouthful to say and eat!

Having ended our journey where we began - in Italy - it only seems fitting to say, “Ciao!”, which truth be told is also what we say in English, having pilfered the phrase long ago from Italy, along with so many scrumptious recipes.


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