Fettuccine with prosciutto and orange: $1.78/serving

Regardless of whether you choose to make the pasta yourself (I highly recommend you do, or at the very least buy fresh), this is one of the quickest pasta sauces there is—no chopping, no simmering, no spice grinding or opening cans. Just tear up some prosciutto, juice and zest an orange, pour in some cream, toss with the pasta and some reserved pasta water, and you’re done. It’s surprising yet familiar, comforting yet bright and fresh. (Budget tip: Prosciutto is cheapest at Trader Joe’s.)

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit. As below it makes 2 servings (servings larger than they appear in the picture).

• 2 oz. prosciutto, torn into 1-inch pieces: $2.50
• 12 oz. fettuccine [1 1/4 cups flour: 12 cents; 2 eggs (garden): $0]: 12 cents
• zest and juice of 1 orange: 50 cents
• 1/2 cup cream: 30 cents
• 2 T butter: 12 cents
• Salt & pepper: 2 cents
• 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (optional, for those not budgeting; for those budgeting, it’s just as good without it)
TOTAL: $3.56/2 = $1.78/serving

First off, do not be afraid of making pasta—all it takes is a little over a cup of flour, two eggs, and about 8-9 minutes of kneading. (I explain the process here and here.) It’s easy if you have a machine and still doable if you only have a rolling pin, and the quality difference between homemade and dried is akin to a freshly baked cupcake and a slice of supermarket sheet cake that’s been languishing in some basement break room for three days. Don’t shortchange yourself. If you have the money but not the time, at least spring for fresh pasta. There are so few ingredients in this dish that quality really does matter.

If you are making your own pasta, it helps to flour the strips of dough that you’ve run through the pasta machine or rolled out to your desired thinness, fold them a few times, and cut them into as uniform strips as you can.

Lift them up and, voilà, noodles.

Start a pot of salted water on to boil.

Melt the butter in a large skillet (I used nonstick) over medium-high heat. Add the torn prosciutto and cook until browned.

Cook the pasta in the boiling water for about 2 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the starchy cooking water.

Add the orange juice, starchy cooking water, 1/2 the orange zest, and cream to the skillet and bring to a boil. Add the noodles and cook a few minutes longer, until al dente. Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve garnished with the remaining orange zest and Parmesan, if desired.

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