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Frugal Feasts: Orrechiette Carbonara

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Each Wednesday, I offer a recipe based on what's on sale at the grocery stores.

Today, I'm sharing my first reader recipe from Emily Scarborough, who will receive a copy of Charles Mattocks "Eat Cheap but Eat Well: Over 120 Penny-pinching Recipes." Scarborough's recipe for Orrechiette Carbonara shows that buying store brands can allow you to put a delicious cheap meal on the table without worrying about what's on sale at the grocery store. She found this recipe on

To read about how I learned to save an average of 40 percent on my weekly grocery bill, read my first Frugal Feasts post. And to see past Frugal Feasts recipes, click on the Frugal Feasts tag under Most Popular Tags on the blog's main page. 

Orrechiette Carbonara

4 smoked bacon slices, diced
2 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only), halved lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 1/3” pieces
10 ounces orecchiette (little ear shaped pasta) or small shells
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese plus additional for serving
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley

Cook bacon in large skillet over medium heat until crisp, about 8 minutes.  Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towel to drain.  Pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat from skillet if necessary.  Add leeks and sauté over medium heat until tender, about 6 minutes. Set aside. 

Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally.  Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta cooking liquid. 

Whisk eggs and 1/2 cup Parmesan in medium bowl to blend; gradually whisk in 1/4 cup pasta cooking liquid.  Add pasta to leeks in skillet and stir to heat.  Remove skillet from heat.  Pour egg mixture over pasta and stir until sauce is just creamy and eggs are no longer raw, about 2 minutes.  Return skillet to very low heat if egg mixture is runny; do not overcook or eggs will curdle.  Add some of remaining 1/4 cup pasta cooking liquid to pasta if needed to moisten.  Stir in bacon and parsley.  Serve pasta, passing additional cheese separately. 

Emily says she likes to serve this pasta with steamed broccoli on the side.  I typically buy the frozen broccoli florets when they are on sale and try to keep the freezer stocked with them. 

Makes 4 servings

Cost breakdown:

Harris Teeter Sliced Hickory Smoked Bacon - $3.79 for 16 oz., Cost for meal: $0.95
Fresh Leeks - $2.99 for 16 oz., Cost for meal: About $2
H.T. Traders Orecchiette - $2.50 for 16 oz., Cost for meal: $1.56
Harris Teeter Eggs - $1.19 for dozen, Cost for meal: $0.20
Harris Teeter Shredded Parmesan Cheese - $2.79 for 6 oz., Cost for meal: $1.86
Fresh Italian Parsley - $1.59/bunch, Cost for meal: About $0.10

Total Cost of Meal: $6.67
Cost per serving: $1.67

Emily based cost breakdown on prices at Harris Teeter. 

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About the blogger

Andrea Weigl has been the food writer at The News & Observer since the summer of 2007. She has won a handful of awards from the Association of Food Journalists and the Society for Features Journalism. Her profile of chef Ashley Christensen titled "A Force of Nature" will be published in the sixth edition of "Cornbread Nation: The Best of Southern Food Writing." She is serving a three-year term on the James Beard Foundation book awards committee. Follow her on Twitter at @andreaweigl.