Meat Free Mondays – 25 Cent Pasta Salad

The purpose of this blog is to provide inexpensive and delicious recipes to help folks stretch their grocery budget during these tough economic times.

Recently, all the stars aligned and I was able to make three pounds of pasta salad for just 25 cents. I wanted to write about it because it exemplifies how a little outside the box thinking can offer real rewards.

Okay, so I was at a produce store one day last week when I noticed they had 1 lb bags of pasta on sale for just $.25. They were mostly tiny pastas, like mini shells and orzo. At that price, I grabbed one immediately. I later saw the same pasta at a national chain grocery store and it was only $.44, still a great deal.

When my wife Sandi came home from her family’s Thanksgiving dinner (we split up for Thanksgiving, but Christmast is sacred), they insisted she bring home the leftover relish tray — an assortment of carrot and celery sticks, black olives, scallions, pepperocini, radishes, pickles, etc.

When I opened the refrigerator the next morning and found the relish tray, a lightbulb went off over my head — 25 cent pasta salad!

I quickly diced up select portions of the relish tray, combined those with a few other vegetables I had lying around, and then whipped up a quick Italian dressing and, voila! Three pounds of delicious italian pasta salad for just a quarter. For The Win!

This recipe is an example of how leftovers can be repurposed in creative ways, one of the hallmarks of frugal cooking. Here’s an article I read recently about other ways to radically stretch your food budget.

25 Cent Pasta Salad

8 oz bag of small shell pasta

4-5 carrot sticks, small dice

4-5 celery sticks, small dice

3-4 radishes, small dice

1/2 red onion, small dice

8-10 black olives, chopped

2-3 pepperocini, stem removed, chopped

2-3 scallions, sliced

For the Zesty Italian Dressing

1/2 cup EVOO

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1 TBS Italian seasoning

1/2 tsp granulated sugar

1/4 tsp red pepper flake

1 clove garlic, crushed

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

1. Boil a pot of salted water. Add pasta and cook to package instructions, about 8 minutes. Drain in colander and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process.

2. To make dressing, combine vinegar, garlic, Italian seasoning, sugar and pepper flake in a mixing bowl. Place bowl on damp dishtowel to keep the bowl from spinning while you add the oil. Whisk the oil into the vinegar solution, starting very slowly with only a drop at a time then steadily increasing, until all the oil is emulsified into the dressing. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Combine pasta, olives, carrot, celery, radish, red onion, olive, pepperocini and scallions in mixing bowl, then fold in dressing. Season to taste with salt and fresh cracked black pepper.

This pasta tastes better if you let the flavors meld together in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Toss before serving to distribute the oil that settles to the bottom of the bowl.

Have you ever had the opportunity to make a shockingly inexpensive dish? Share your story below in the comments section. And thanks for looking at my blog!

10 thoughts on “Meat Free Mondays – 25 Cent Pasta Salad

  1. I spent last night banging out my 3 meals for the week. (3 complete meals in 1 hour, 10 minutes – all on a 4 burner stove top. I think that’s my personal best.)
    This one would have been a nice simple addition.

    But, at this time of year (especially in Chicago), wouldn’t you want to go with hot food?

    • It’s funny, I usually make pasta salad out of leftover pasta, but the opposite also could be true. If you heated this up and added a little parmesan, it would be pretty good, too!

      btw: Great blog today about the holiday giving experience.

  2. Shockingly inexpensive; ever tried Spaghetti Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino (spaghetti with garlic, olive oil and chili peppers)? Leave out the chili peppers if you can’t handle them & make sure you don’t burn the garlic. Garlic used to be more expensive than meat but luckily this is not so anymore. Got a cold? Then there’s no kissing anyway 😉 add some more garlic because it’s a natural antibiotic. Some cents left? Add some chopped parsley and grate some parmesan over it all.

    And as El Guapo (how modest!) says; it’s a warm plate of pasta.

    • EconoLodge is one of the better traveling hotels. Motel 6 is always dangerous. Microtels are fine but the rooms are super tiny.

      These are the things I’ve learned from shuttling Maggie back and forth to college in Washington, D.C.

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