Restaurant Italian on a Budget

6 Mar

College students love eating out. We’re all broke, but that doesn’t stop us from throwing down $25 on an entree from the new gastropub down the road. It’s a way to socialize and eat something not made from a galley kitchen, but it’s killing our bottom line.

My pockets are particularly light at the moment and it doesn’t help that my house it surrounded by amazing Italian restaurants. The temptation to spend is overwhelming, so I’ve come up with some tricks on how to eat restaurant quality Italian food, without paying the restaurant price.

Don’t Skimp on the Sauce

The main difference between college kitchen Italian food and restaurant quality Italian food is the sauce. Good Italian restaurants hand make their sauces daily. They simmer vats of tomatoes and spices for hours,which is why their sauce tastes so good. When I make Italian food, I just pour jarred tomato sauce over pasta and call it a day. Jarred tomato sauces are great because they’re cheap and easy, but they don’t compare in flavor to homemade sauces.

Want to know how to work around the system? Buy pasta sauce from your favorite Italian restaurant. Most Italian places sell their sauces by the pint. They cost around $2, which is the same price as jarred sauce, but are a million times better tasting. All you have to do is cook a box of pasta, throw on the sauce, and you’ll have the same restaurant dish for a quarter of the price.

Shell Out for Some Dough

Few things go together better then pizza and college students. We love the stuff, but $10 for a large cheese pie is a little steep. You can work around this by buying your own pizza dough directly from the source, your favorite pizza joint. Most places are more then willing to sell you some of their pizza dough. A 16 ounce bag of dough costs around $1.50 and bakes nicely in your home oven.

Once you have the dough, add canned pizza sauce, your favorite toppings and bake at 450 until the cheese starts to bubble. I promise you, it’ll taste amazing and save you the delivery fee. The next time your out to dinner, ask for some dough and freeze it. Frozen dough is a great freezer staple and keeps forever.

Build Ambiance

For me, the main draw of going out to dinner is the ambiance. I enjoy eating in a pleasant setting surrounded by friends and wine. Keep in mind, this can all be arranged in the comfort of your own house/apartment/dorm room.

If you always eat dinner in the kitchen, try eating in the living room or vice verse. A change of dining scenery will help make it feel like you’re out to eat. Also, try turning off the overhead light and opt for a floor lamp or even a candle. Ambiance and lighting go hand-in-hand. Once your pad is prepped, make sure to invite over friends. As long as you’re with good company, it doesn’t matter if you’re dining in or eating out. Finally, eating in is always BYOB.

4 Responses to “Restaurant Italian on a Budget”

  1. Vegan Flavorista March 18, 2013 at 4:37 pm #

    Smart, creative ideas! Thanks for posting šŸ™‚

  2. Chelsea March 22, 2013 at 2:20 pm #

    This works so well! It’s so easy and super cheap! The pizzeria even sold me some of their fresh mozzarella to go with the dough, thanks so much for the great idea!! I will most definitely be doing this again!

    • meganrodkey March 22, 2013 at 8:33 pm #

      I’m happy to hear they sold you the mozzarella too! It’s great to hear that the pizza turned out well.

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