Dirt cheap is an interesting way to phrase this weeks contest and would allow all kinds of soliloquies if one so desired. Opening cans and dumping them into a pot is probably the cheapest on my wallet. I could spend the extra bucks on organic but then that would sort of defeat the purpose of dirt cheap, yes you can discuss and debate this statement all you want but if you are hungry and can't afford it then you don't care about what it will do to the environment down the road or what your future health ailments might be. But enough. So here is what I did and my reasoning. First off, while I can buy larger quantities and have left overs for lunch I won't. In this case it is one dirt cheap meal and I am actually going to put the dirt part of the statement to work for me. I always get a kick out of people saying they saved money because it was on sale. Anytime something green is leaving my wallet I am not saving money but spending it and if it is on sale I am just not spending as much. So back to dirt cheap dinners. Luckily at my grocery they often times offer pasta at ten boxes for ten dollars but if you buy one they have to sell it to you for one dollar not the usual price. Fresh garlic is the same way, often you can get a head for fifty cents. Unsalted butter these days often times comes in two packs for smaller families but unless I am going to steal margarine from the baked potato station at Wendy's it is about the best I am going to do, so a buck forty nine. Everyone should have salt and pepper and if you don't you won't be looking at this recipe but standing in line for Taco Tuesday and collecting up your four for a dollar soft shells and a super-sized cola. So the final couple of components for this dish are where you might have some expense. You can pay $2.99 for a packet of fresh sage or you can go by the garden center and buy a sage plant, not a start, but a plant for 3.99 and plant it. It will be big enough you can use the sage tonight and not kill it and down the road you will have something that has beautiful purple flowers, is a perennial so it will grow back after the snow has cleared and you will be able to use it for many years to come. The poor man's parmesan is not my idea and I think I saw Jamie Oliver create something like this once but I am sure he was not the first and, obviously, for eons many have used this sort of topping on all sorts of things. I don't waste bread. I make my own bread so I am very aware of the effort it takes to make a good loaf. I save the heals, odds and ends and if I dry them out they will not mold. I can then use them for all sorts of things. The almonds, quite honestly I have no idea of their cost, but I am guessing a little bag in the baking section probably goes for top dollar or at least 99 cents. Is this the cheapest meal, well probably not but for my family anytime they enjoy something and it is this inexpensive I am good with it and I am guessing it is less then the Golden Corral, or human CAFO as I like to call it, but then again I haven't been to one of those in a long time so I have no idea what it costs. Oh and BTW, the real value of this meal is both girls like to jump in and help make it and it is one where they easily can. - thirschfeld —thirschfeld
Test Kitchen Notes
As always, thirschfeld has put together a beautiful dish, and this one really is dirt cheap. Going well above and beyond buttered noodles, this pasta is just as simple and easy. I love the almonds with the brown butter and recommend toasting them a little first before adding the breadcrumbs to the pan. The "poor man's parmesan" adds something special that brings out the toasty goodness of the brown butter. I left the crispy sage leaves in when tossing the pasta and loved the little flecks in my dish. - biffbourgeois —Stephanie Bourgeois
2 adults and 2 kids, both good eaters
stick, unsalted butter
fresh sage leaves
garlic cloves, sliced thinly
dried bread crumbs
salt and pepper
In This Recipe
Melt 1 1/2 tablespoons of the butter in a saute pan placed over medium heat. Add the bread crumbs and almonds. Season them with salt and pepper. Saute and stir them until they begin to toast and turn golden brown. Remove them from the pan.
Bring a large pot of heavily salted water, should taste like sea water, to a boil. Drop in the linguine noodles and cook them for 11 minutes or as directed on the package.
Place a large 12 or 14 inch saute pan over medium high heat and add the rest of the butter. Add the sage and let the butter bubble and crackle until it starts to get brown bits. Add the garlic.
Once the garlic is fragrant add 1/2 cup of pasta water to the butter sage sauce to stop the garlic from over cooking and let it simmer. Once the noodles are al dente us a spider to scoop the pasta from the water and put it directly into the pan.
Toss and mix the pasta with the sage butter. Taste for seasoning, correct it if necessary and plate it up. Top it with the bread crumb mixture serve.