Poor man's pasta - if you've got 10 minutes, you've got dinner

Poor Man’s Pasta

Sometimes, there’s nothing in the fridge and you can’t be bothered cooking anyway. It’s raining, the bus was late, the heating’s off, it’s late and the bed needs to be made. Something fast and easy is on the cards. It doesn’t get faster than this. If you make it with dried pasta, it takes about 10 minutes. If you use fresh pasta, it takes about 3.

I know this dish as poor man’s pasta. In Italy, there’s a dish called pasta aglio e olio – garlic and oil pasta – that’s almost exactly the same thing. It’s one of my favourites for being super-fast, and very satisfying. With good oil and fresh pasta, this is a delicacy.

Serves: 1. Prep: 5 minutes. Cooking time: 3-10 minutes.
Stores: For no more than 15 minutes. Make, then eat.


  • Large pot
  • Small pot
  • Kettle (optional)
  • Collander
  • Chopping board
  • Knife (and/or garlic crusher)
  • Wooden spoon


  • 1 portion of pasta (about 75 grams of dry pasta)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of capers or chopped olives (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon of finely chopped parsley (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Italian style hard cheese (optional)


  1. Boil a kettle and pour into the large pot. (To stop pasta from sticking, use a lot of water. Boil the kettle again, and top the pot up.)
  2. When the pot of water is boiling vigorously, add the pasta and cook according to instructions. No, there’s no need to salt the water, and oil on the top won’t stop the strands from sticking together.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in the small pot and add the garlic. Don’t burn the garlic!
  4. Add the capers or olives to heat up.
  5. When the pasta is cooked, drain it, then put it back in the, now dry, pot.
  6. Mix the garlic, oil, capers, and parsley (if using) with the pasta.
  7. Season to taste.
  8. Serve with a grating of Italian style cheese (if using).


You can do anything with a recipe this basic. Let your imagination go wild.

  • Aglio e olio: Keep the garlic, add a pinch of chilli flakes, use the parsley and forget about the capers.
  • Poor man’s mushroom pasta: Fry a handful of finely chopped mushrooms with the garlic.
  • Poor man’s left-over veg pasta: Chop up that half courgette that’s sitting in the fridge with the garlic and take it from there.
  • Poor man’s herb pasta: Chop a handful of fresh herbs – basil would be traditional, but thyme, coriander, parsley and anything you have handy works too (be light on the rosemary) – and stir in with the pasta when serving.
  • Poor man’s pea pasta: Forget the capers, add a handful or two of frozen peas to the pasta while cooking, do everything else as per the recipe.

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