I am sitting here, in a coffee bar in Sofia (yep, it is the one on the picture).

Just had lunch: possibly the best pizza after the one I had in San Gimignano fifteen years ago. Now having coffee that came with a lucky note that said ‘Prosperity’.

I’m feeling good. Although I very much doubt that Lavazza print little notes some of the nasty stuff that is inevitable part of life on them: not good for business.

Still, I am in a great state of mind to fulfil a promise. Couple of days ago, my friend Ricky from the Skint Dad Blog and I were chatting about cooking Spaghetti Carbonara and I promised him to share the recipe I use.

There are two interesting things about this recipe:

  1. It was entrusted to me by the mother of an Italian friend; she is a great cook and makes possibly the best lemon tagliatelle I’ve tasted.
  2. It can be wasteful or frugal depending on whether you read this post long enough to get to the bonus recipe.

Ricky, this is for you, friend. Try it and let us know what you think.

 Spaghetti Carbonara

This is what you need:

  • 400 – 500g       Spaghetti (I usually cook 100 g per person)
  • 80 – 160g         Cubetti (the bacon bits from Aldi will do)
  • 4 – 5                    Eggs


Boil water in a large pot (pasta is much better when boiled in a large pot). Once the water is boiling put in the pasta and stir to make sure it is separated. Follow the instructions on the packet for the time it will take for the spaghetti to be cooked.

While the spaghetti is boiling, put a dash of olive oil in a large pan (this has to be large enough so that all pasta can fit in) and put the cubetti to fry.

Fry the cubetti (or the bacon bits) until they are slightly burned (after all ‘carbonara’ comes from ‘carbone’ which means ‘coal’). Once the cubetti are ready lower the flame but keep the pan on it – you need it warm later.

Separate the egg yolks and whites. Stir the yolks in a large bowl (large enough so that all pasta can fit in).

The next bit needs coordination and I usually send everyone out of the kitchen before doing it. This is the sequence you’ll have to complete fast:

    • Move the pan with the fried cubetti on high flame;
    • Drain the cooked spaghetti;
    • Put them in the bowl with the egg yolk and swirl around so that they are well coated;
    • Pour the spaghetti in the pan with the fried cubetti and stir for about a minute;
    • Pour the spaghetti from the pan in the bowl where the egg yolk was.

That’s it! Spaghetti Carbonara at its best. Serve with grates Parmesan and if you decide to be healthy with a nice salad.

 Note: You can put some garlic with the cubetti if you like; also, if you’d like the pasta a bit more moist you can put in a bit of milk (please don’t put in cream: I’ve asked my Italian friends and this seems to be an adaptation from Northern Europe).

How about this bonus then?

This recipe can be wasteful or frugal depending on what you do with the egg whites.

We did throw them away for about ten years; but this was during our wasteful period. Now that we are frugal artists we use the egg whites to make meringue. This is how you eat for less.

Meringues are called ‘kisses’ in Bulgarian and are delicately, sugary delicious.

You can choose to make something even more sophisticated like Pavlova from scratch. All your friends will be impressed because meringues are very difficult to make; to make them good you have to be a scientist.

So here is how you can make perfect meringues every time:

  • You have to measure exactly 60g of Custer sugar per egg white;
  • You have to beat the egg whites until the mixture is fluffy and solid before you add any sugar;
  • Add the sugar gradually while continuing to beat the mixture

We have tried doing this in different ways and the fastest and best one is to use a hand mixer.

When the mixture is ready you can either shape individual meringues or a base for Pavlova.

eat for less

Put in an oven that is preheated to 150C (fan oven) and immediately lower the temperature down to 130C.

Keep for one hour and then switch the oven off and leave the meringues (or the Pavlova base) in until the oven has completely cooled down.

If you are making Pavlova you’ll need cream (best beat it yourself) and fruit you and your family like.

And you know the best bit?

This combo of Spaghetti Carbonara and Pavlova is pure frugal artistry and allow you to eat for less because:

  • Both will cost you about £4 (it can be cheaper of slightly more expensive depending on your shopping habits and savvy). This is clear winner given that only Pavlova will cost more if you buy it ready.
  • Both dishes are tasty and impressive but very easy and quick to prepare; you just have to know the small tricks I just shared.
  • John and I have great time cooking this; a great opportunity to work as a team and he is very good with the meringue.
  • My son certainly has great time licking the bowl where the meringue mixture was prepared; heck, I do as well.

What do you cook that is tasty, fast and inexpensive?