The Student Staple: Pasta

The Student Digestive: How much pasta should you use? Deborah Ryan has some solid blunt advice for students (and anyone else who just want to make dinner!)

Pasta allo Genovese. Photograph: Deborah Ryan

Pasta allo Genovese. Photograph: Deborah Ryan


I remember when my older sister started college, my dad gave her some advice after she remarked that she would only live off cheap pasta.

He said that she had to choose between beer and food - otherwise she’d be the size of a house. 

That was solid blunt dad advice. 

I’ve always kept this in mind when I make pasta so I normally use a cup measure to weigh how much I need. Not how much I want because that’s an entirely different thing!

This recipe is really simple but does take a long time to cook. It’s definitely something to make if you’re at home for the day studying.

Start the beef around midday to be ready in time for dinner. I know this sounds like effort, I know this is not Pot Noodle but it is worth the wait. It also makes enough that you can freeze a few portions. You can then reheat a portion of beef and continue the recipe with freshly cooked pasta*.

You can use any short pasta shape you have but I would recommend rigatoni or penne because they’re the perfect vessel for sauce.

It’s also very important to salt your pasta water, it should be salty like the sea. Otherwise your dish won’t taste seasoned and if you just add salt afterwards, it will just taste salty. Yes, I do know how odd that sounds

Pasta allo Genovese
2 medium red onions
454g stewing beef, cut into 1” chunks
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp chopped parsley
Parmesan cheese
75g rigatoni per portion

Peel and thinly slice the red onions. I find peeling them is easier if you cut them down the middle through the root and peel off the outer halves.

Heat a saucepan on low with a tbsp of olive oil. Add your onions and a pinch of salt. 

Sweat your onions on low, you want to cook them until they’re very soft but have no colour. Cover the pot with a lid as this will help cook them down. This can take a while so take out your laptop and get some study done

Now add your beef and turn up the heat to med-high. Give the beef a stir, you want to brown the beef before you turn down the heat again.

Then knock down the heat to a gentle simmer and go back your mindless scrolling of your Facebook feed instead of studying.

Leave the beef to cook for around 4-5 hours, checking it every hour or so to make sure it isn’t burning. It should be quite liquidy anyway but if it starts to catch at the bottom ,add a drop of water.

After you’ve watched around two movies instead of studying, the beef should be done. I normally break up the pieces of beef with the wooden spoon, just to shred it slightly. It will be really tender.

Add the tbsp of vinegar and other tbsp of oil to the beef to perk up the flavour. Keep warm

Boil a big pot of water and a big pinch of salt. Add your pasta and cook for the time stated on the packet, taste it a minute before to see if the pasta is cooked. Strain the pasta and reserve a cup of the water.

Pour the pasta back into the big pot and add enough beef for your pasta, around a few tbsp. Mix with some of the pasta water to combine it all together and add the parsley.

Serve onto your plate and if you’re feeling extra fancy, grate some parmesan on top.

Now to get back to all of that study and/or procrastinating

* This article was amended on 16/10/17.