How to Spice Up Your Pasta in a Pinch

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It shouldn’t as a shock when I tell you that Americans love pasta in all its various forms. In fact, it’s so popular that it’s the 6th most consumed food in the US as of a report in 2019. To give you a better understanding, that’s about 20lbs of the stuff per person per year or almost 6 billion pounds for the country as a whole.

Needless to say, it’s popular. And no wonder! There are hundreds of kinds of pasta. You can make a fancy dish that goes for $50 a plate or feed a family of four for a dollar. You can make it the most extravagant dish with many diverse flavors or plain and simple with butter that even the pickiest of kids will eat.

For the purpose of this article, though, I’ll be focusing on the cheap and tasty options.

Make the store-bought sauce your own

You can easily find pre-made pasta sauce for a mere $1 just about anywhere. Sometimes though, it’s nice to give it that from scratch or home-cooked feeling. Here are some of my favorite ways to spice up my sauces.

  • Add extra flavor. I’ll often add a little extra dried basil, oregano, or Italian seasoning to spice it up. While doing this, I also warm the sauce on medium-low and keep it at a slow simmer so the flavors have more time to seep in. If you like spice, try adding some crushed red peppers!
  • Add some veggies. Be they fresh, frozen, or canned, adding a bit of veggie will add an extra ounce of nutrition as well as flavor. My go-to veggies are:
    • onion
    • garlic
    • peppers
    • mushrooms
    • cauliflower
    • corn
    • broccoli
    • carrots
    • spinach (I add frozen spinach all the time)
    • radishes (I like these because as they cook, they just take on the flavor of the sauce so that you barely even notice when you eat them.)
  • Try adding a little mayo. Okay, I know this one sounds so weird, but trust me, it is SOOOOO good. Once the sauce is hot and you are serving, stir a little bit of mayo into your tomato sauce. This will honestly make the best rose you’ve ever tried, and it’s so easy.
  • Add some protein. Here are the ones I like adding;
    • chicken
    • ground meat of any sort
    • meatballs
    • green lentils
    • tofu
    • shrimp
    • sausage (one of my favorites)
  • Give it a little topping. Here are some of the extra’s I love putting on my pasta:
    • cheese. Just about any kind, but my go-to cheeses are cheddar, mozzarella, or Parmesan.
    • green onions
    • fresh basil or oregano
    • It’s not my go-to, but I’ve met people who love adding a little sour cream. This is especially good with creamy sauces and little ones as it cools the sauce down quickly.
    • crushed red peppers
  • Add some garlic bread to the side. For a cheap simple version, just toast your bread, add butter, and a little garlic salt.
  • Try turning it into baked pasta. The simple way to do it is to cook the noodles al dente, mix them with the sauce (try adding a little extra sauce, so it doesn’t dry out in the oven), and bake at 400 for 10-15 minutes.
  • Try adding these toppings to your baked pasta: (These work for pretty much any baked pasta.)
    • bread crumbs
    • hemp hearts or ground flaxseed (I know these two sound weird, but they’re packed full of nutrients, and you’ll barely notice them at all!)
    • cheese
    • Any of the other toppings listed above.

Try making your own noodles

While it may seem intimidating, making your own noodles can be pretty simple, and you don’t need much. The basics of most kinds of pasta consist of oil, flour, eggs, and a little salt. All things that pretty much everyone keeps on hand. (Here’s a no-egg pasta recipe my mom used to make.)

Now, you might be thinking, “But Chloe, I don’t have a pasta maker!” Well, to that I say, so what? Sure, it definitely makes it easier, but it’s not a requirement. I’ve only made pasta a handful of times, but I never once used a pasta maker. I just worked on rolling it out super thin, and it worked just fine.

For one of my favorite and most popular pasta recipes, go here.

What is your favorite?

There are honestly just so many types of pasta, it’s crazy. Not including different noodle shapes of the standard kinds you see at a store, here are some great options:

  • ramen noodles
  • glass noodles
  • egg noodles
  • rice noodles
  • stuffed pasta such as ravioli or tortellini
  • gnocchi (this is a favorite of mine)
  • And so much more.

Have you ever made homemade pasta?

How do you like to spice up your pasta on a dime? What are your favorite pasta tips and tricks? With so many options, I’m sure I’ve missed dozens. Let me know in the comments.

About Chloe Morgan

Chloe Morgan grew up living with a tight budget. In her late teens and early 20’s all the lessons she’d learned started to slip, like it does for many college age students on their own for the first time, and with their first credit card. As she’s gotten older, she’s started to deal with the repercussions and has taken on a frugal way of living, keeping her costs low, as she pays off debt and saves for her future. Chloe lives in Northern Ontario, Canada, with her cute dog, Rhea.

How to Spice Up Your Pasta in a Pinch
Chloe Morgan

Chloe Morgan

Chloe Morgan grew up living with a tight budget. In her late teens and early 20’s all the lessons she’d learned started to slip, like it does for many college age students on their own for the first time, and with their first credit card. As she’s gotten older, she’s started to deal with the repercussions and has taken on a frugal way of living, keeping her costs low, as she pays off debt and saves for her future. Chloe lives in Northern Ontario, Canada, with her cute dog, Rhea.

6 thoughts on “How to Spice Up Your Pasta in a Pinch”

  1. Some great suggestions! Some of those add-ins can cost some serious money but it’s definitely possible to shop around and only use a little. Soy Protein, once soaked, is a nice addition to meatballs, stretches the meat and you don’t know it’s there. I like making my own pasta too. In my case I make udon, since that just needs flour water salt and a knife. Another nice thing to put on pasta is gravy, I make an interesting dish with chicken meatballs and gravy over bowtie noodles. If you find a good deal on chicken (especially if you grind your own) that can be a fairly cheap dish. And it’s tasty, too.

  2. Bill in Houston

    Sorry, but mayo on pasta is revolting.

    Instead try some garlic, chopped onion, and a drizzle of olive oil.

    Note: When you cook pasta, do NOT use oil. Any sauce doesn’t stick. Use plenty of water and some salt.

  3. Leftover mostaccioli can be fried up for poor man’s lasagna. Spaghetti also fries up well. A lot of sauce will make it hard to crisp up but any of the additions mentioned in the article will just enhance the flavor. As with other leftovers, save up in the freezer until you have enough to fry.
    We used to freeze up a large container of mostaccioli to take camping (propane stove to cook on) which did double duty – ice block then a meal.

  4. For a change of pace I will add to my cooked pasta some butter, Ranch flavored powdered popcorn seasoning and some sour cream. It is a different kick to the pasta instead of the normal sauce.

  5. When my son is with me I’ll go all out on a beautiful sauce loaded with fresh veg. When I am on my own a can of braised steak and onions on pasta – parmesan on top – is perfect. Can of Stagg Chili on pasta perfect as well. Sometimes so simple is so good.

  6. I always start with 1/2 lb. Italian sausage. Since I use so little, it should be hot. I fry it up with lots of onions, green pepper, and Italian seasoning. Then I add a big can of crushed tomatoes and let the pot simmer for awhile. If it needs more seasoning, I add garlic, oregano, and more Italian seasoning. There are so many veggies in it that it’s so healthy!
    Be sure that whatever pasta you use, salt the water liberally.

    If I am just eating pasta, I use garlic seasoning, Italian seasoning, and butter. Mmmm.

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