Poverty Pasta


Some of the best recipes in the world were created as a way to sustain a family on little income. Called "peasant" food, most cultures have traditional dishes that were created for just this reason. And while the dishes were created out of poverty, their popularity continues during more prosperous times.

I had a poverty year myself, as a senior at Auburn University. My roommate and I dined on ramen noodles, eggs and not much else as we worked our way towards finishing up our degrees. While our money was tight, a friend of ours shared her recipe for a cheap and easy spaghetti sauce.

I call the dish Poverty Pasta. And, even though it’s easy on your budget, it is a hearty pleaser that few would refuse. In college, we used the least expensive hot bulk sausage and spaghetti sauce we could buy when making this dish, but you can substitute name brand hot bulk sausage or Italian sausage and your favorite spaghetti sauce. The hot sausage makes this a piquant dish, but mild sausage can be used instead.

While the ingredient list is short, the flavor of this sauce really sings. Other ingredients can be added to make the dish even better. The addition of shredded carrot and chopped celery along with the onions and peppers called for would make this a quick Bolognese sauce. Sliced, sautéed mushrooms also are a tasty addition. Add a tossed salad and some crusty bread for a delicious Italian-American meal.

  • 1 pound hot bulk sausage
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
  • 1 25 to 28 ounce jar spaghetti sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 pound spaghetti, cooked according to package directions
  • Shredded Parmesan cheese
Brown the sausage in a large skillet over medium-high heat, breaking it up as it cooks. Drain the sausage and set aside. Add the onion and bell pepper to the skillet and sauté until wilted, about 5 minutes. Return the sausage to the skillet, add the spaghetti sauce, garlic salt and Italian seasoning and simmer, covered for 20 minutes. Serve over the pasta and sprinkle with the shredded Parmesan.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.