Weeknight Cooking

Fettuccine Alfredo, but Make It Spring

A weeknight pasta recipe that comes together for just $3 a head.

April 29, 2019
Photo by Julia Gartland

In the immortal words of Matthew McConoughey, alright, alright, alright...just look at this pasta.

Lately I’ve been on a quest to add new recipes like these to my weeknight repertoire, ones that 1) look and taste great, 2) feel like spring, and 3) slide in under the wire at a truly reasonable budget.

I started with the thought of tapenade. I love, love, love tapenade (read: olives; read: salt), but when made with black olives it’s not always the prettiest condiment at the ball. So in the spirit of green, I went for some brightly hued Castevetrano olives as the anchor.

And then I wondered if pairing something creamy with the tapenade might not be a nice way to temper the intensity of the brininess. When thoughts of creamy pasta float through the mind, the word “Alfredo” is never far behind.

And then I needed a vegetable. A cheap and cheerful and substantial vegetable. Green beans! Green beans are one of the biggest bargains at the store, especially when they’re in season: It feels like you’re getting them for almost nothing.

The Parmesan and the olives are the priciest of all the ingredients, but you really don’t need all that much of each. And yes, you can buy the best aged, authentic DOP (which means it's from the protected region, or domain of production) Parmesan at the store—and spend more. But if you go with one of the less expensive versions (i.e. domestic), you can get off pretty cheaply. Just promise me that you’ll never reach for grated cheese in a can, that’s all I ask.

The olives are the base of the tapenade, which is the flavor punch that propels this pasta from soft and innocuous to...alright, alright, alright.

Otherwise the cost of the ingredients is quite moderate. And I was not reaching for the organic cream or the French butter here. My mission was clear: pasta on a budget.

Here’s the breakdown of costs (based on the prices at my local grocery store):

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter $0.75
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic $0.10
1 cup heavy cream $1.50
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste $0.05
3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan $3.00
1 pound dried fettuccine $1.00
3/4 pound green beans $2.00
1/2 cup Green Olive Tapenade (1/2 recipe) $3.00
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley $0.50

Which comes out to $11.90, just under $3 a head for a family of four.

Mission accomplished.

Serve this with a colorful salad, such as:

What's your go-to pasta dinner? Please share the recipe below!
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Author of The Mom 100 Cookbook and themom100.com blog. A New Yorker, cook, and mom, I don't sit still very much.