Student Food Revisited

I’m sure I’m not alone in having survived my college years on a diet of pasta and pesto. The most essential items in my measly weekly shop in the early 2000s was a packet of value brand pasta and a jar of cheap and processed pesto. I sparingly added a dollop of pesto to my boiled pasta each night for my tea, and for a year or two, I was as happy as Larry.

Inevitably, however, I grew out of that dish. I also grew into cooking and my new found interest in food saw my horizons pass beyond pasta and pesto.

It was a few years until I returned to the loveliness that is pesto, and because I had a little more money at this stage, I was able to fork out for some really lovely stuff. I’ve also made my own and it’s THE easiest thing to make, as long as you have some lovely fresh basil.

In my years as a jarred pesto connoisseur, I also discovered that red pesto (which is tomato based) is often a lot more delicious than green pesto (usually basil based) as, naturally, the taste of the tomatoes can survive in a jarred environment. So, that’s how I discovered this super quick pasta supper. I add cherry tomatoes and a few pine nuts to add to the texture of the dish, but the key to it is using the best darned tomato-based pesto that you can get your hands on. Or, you could even use a recipe like this and make your own! Piece of cake.

The below recipe is something that I make often in our house. It takes less than 15 minutes to make and the end result is a very comforting bowl of pasta. Try to buy the best pesto that your budget will allow for. I used Fallon and Byrne’s Semi-Sun Dried Tomato Pesto, which is scandalously expensive at €5.95 for a small tub but it’s devastatingly tasty.

What you need for Tomato Pesto Dinner for 2 Hungry and Tired People

Olive oil


Enough spaghetti for 2 (around 175g should do it) 

About 12 really ripe and lovely cherry tomatoes 

1 clove of garlic

A handful of pine nuts (about 20g or so)

1 tub or jar of really good quality tomato pesto 

A few leaves of fresh basil

Parmesan cheese

Start by boiling your kettle. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan over a low to medium heat. Once the kettle is boiled, fill a saucepan and put it over a high heat until the water is bubbling. Add a good pinch of salt and a drizzle of olive oil, and add the spaghetti. Cook to the packet’s instructions. This will take anywhere between 9 and 11 minutes.

Meanwhile, add your cherry tomatoes to the hot frying pan. You want to gently fry them while the pasta is cooking. Add a pinch of salt to the tomatoes and give them a shake from time to time.

When the pasta has 5 more minutes to go, increase the heat of the frying pan to medium to high. Add the pine nuts and the garlic, and stir really well so they get well mixed with the tomatoes. Keep stirring so that the pine nuts get evenly browned and don’t burn.

When your pasta is done, drain and return the spaghetti back into the pan, off the heat. Add four large tablespoons of your pesto and mix everything really well. If you’d like more pesto, add a little more until you’re happy. Now put it back onto a low heat and stir, so that the pesto gets warmed up a little.

Divide the pasta into two bowls, and divide the tomatoes and pine nuts evenly between the bowls. Chop the fresh basil leaves and grate a bit of Parmesan cheese, and sprinkle the pasta with a bit of both.

Now, I can’t let this post go without highlighting my new plate. I got it in an Enable Ireland charity shop for 50c and I’m delighted with it. Isn’t it pretty? It has cute little shamrocks on it, and it’s made by the Adams’ Real English Ironstone Company, established in 1657. Although I don’t think this plate is that old.


To stick with the student theme, here is my favourite song from my college days. It’s still one of my favourite songs of all time. It’s The Beta Band’s Dry The Rain from The Three EPs. It will always transport me back to my cold flat in London where I went to University, listening to this smoking rollies and drinking tea. Good times.

Categories: Dinner


  1. Ahh – the ching-ching of a student band – good pick, my friend. I think I have a few years on you because pesto wasn’t ‘invented’ in my corner of Southampton where I went for educating, but pasta and pesto is the kids dinner when they are allowed to pick the menu. I do like your plate.

    • Thanks, Amee! It’s nice to see pesto and pasta as a treat again, as mid-uni years it was the desperately glum symbol of having a tenner to live on for the week. Still, I didn’t really care about food back then anyway!

      And thanks for the compliment on my crockery – I love it!

  2. Pingback: Skillful Means, Healthy Eating, and the Death of Goldilocks | Holy Poached Eggs! Skillful Means, Healthy Eating, and the Death of Goldilocks | A Southern Guy's Blog about Eating

  3. I love recipes like this! So simple but I can just imagine how tasty. I have to confess I have never tried red pesto so I will have to give this a go now :) will make a lovely lunch when my sister comes to visit in the next couple of weeks.

    • Good stuff! Red pesto really is lovely, and I do believe it survives the jarring process a little better than the green pesto, so that even the cheaper versions are very tasty. Another nice touch is to add a few slices of grilled halloumi cheese on top of each bowl of pasta – gives it an extra edge :)

  4. Gosh, pasta and pesto would have been posh at my university. I think we all sipped cups of chicken soup (from a packet) every day! I love this recipe…looks really yummy…and totes comforting =) xx

    • Hah hah! I was living the student dream and I didn’t even know it :)

      A very comforting and super quick dinner!

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