Pasta Carbonara (A Cheap And Easy Dinner Idea!)

Easy pasta carbonara recipe that makes a great cheap and easy dinner ideaAn easy Pasta Carbonara dish is one of the best cheap dinner ideas out there.

Not only is it easy to make, it also makes great leftovers for when you aren’t trying to cook a full blown meal the next day.

I remember back in my college days, this used to be one of the group house favorites, because it was ready in almost no time and people could just eat and eat loads of it.

Related: 49 Cheap Dinner Ideas That Are Quick And Easy To Make

A big part of the appeal was that it was made with bacon. ‘Real’ pasta carbonara is made with pancetta, but since we’re making a quick and cheap version this one uses ham bits.

If you try frying some sandwich ham slice in some olive oil they tend to taste almost as good as bacon. And they give the pasta a DELICIOUS flavor for a third of the price of an average pack of bacon.

This easy little recipe only needs a few ingredients:

  • Spaghetti
  • Flour
  • Milk
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Ham slices
  • Olive oil
  • Sliced Onions (optional)

…and that’s pretty much it. No fancy shmancy ingredients. No expensive ingredients that’ll set you back a week.

If you’re looking for seriously cheap dinner ideas to make, I almost took this on as a challenge and made a list of cheap meal ideas you can check out. If anything, it’ll help challenge you to really think about all the ways you can save money on your food budget. Which tends to be the biggest money suck in everyone’s budget.

Cheap easy meals on a budget are hard to come by, especially for large families. Hopefully the list gives you some ideas or helps you come up with some of your own.

Anyway, sometimes when I make this particular recipe I like to add a spray of half a lemon on top!

Call me crazy but the zesty taste of the lemon with the cheese and the ham are super DELICIOUS! Remember, we’re aiming for cheap and tasty here, not fancy.

The traditional carbonara recipe

The traditional Pasta Carbonara recipe has a few more ingredients like Pancetta, eggs (yes, eggs, who knew) and romano cheese (among other optional ingredients).

This particular recipe simplifies the whole thing because we want a cheap meal that can be easy to make and can be JUST as gratifying!

How to make an easy Carbonara sauce

For this recipe, I usually like to make a Carbonara sauce with some olive oil, a little bit of flour, some milk, and some parmesan cheese all mixed into a consistent sauce like base that will cling to your spaghetti and give it some good flavor.

Along with the browned ham, the recipe turns out to be DELICIOUS and super easy. Next time you make it you’ll know it by heart and it’ll probably take you less time.

Easy pasta carbonara recipe that makes a great cheap and easy dinner idea

Easy Pasta Carbonara

This cheap and easy version of pasta carbonara is perfect when you want a quick dinner and don't want to spend too much!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
4 people


  • 1 pack of spaghetti
  • 5 slices of ham sliced into thin strips
  • 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 4 tbsp flour
  • 1/4 cup milk or water
  • 1/2 cup parmesan
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 pinch of sea salt to taste
  • 1 bunch of parsley for garnish
  • 1/4 of a white onion, sliced (optional)


  • First add your olive oil to a pan on medium heat
  • In a separate pan, bring water to a boil and add the spaghetti along with a pinch of salt. Boil for about 8-10 minutes or until noodles are soft to taste.
  • Add your thinly stripped ham to your pan with olive oil and stir occasionally until the edges slightly brown. You can also add your onion slices here (though they are optional)
  • Add your flour and water or milk and stir until it makes a semi thick paste. Then add your salt and pepper.
  • Add your parmesan and stir. Then add your noodles and mix everything well
  • Garnish with additional parmesan and parsley
  • Enjoy!

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