Today’s recipe is a an attempt to reverse engineer a Feta & Semi-Dried Tomato Pasta that I found myself purchasing almost daily from Tesco. At £2 a pop, it’s not exactly a bank-breaker, but I was sure I could make a saving by recreating it myself! Especially as I was actually adding it as a part of their £3 meal deal.
The fact that I was eating it almost every day should be testament to the quality of the original version, but I’m pleased to say I mastered it on my second attempt! (Although the third wasn’t as good muahahahaha!)
200g dried pasta quills
200g feta, cubed
1 red onion, finely chopped
1/2 a roasted red pepper, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1tbsp tomato puree
1tbsp red wine vinegar
1tbsp chopped basil
1tbsp granulated sweetener
8 pieces of sun-dried tomatoes (prepared as per packet instructions, and then quartered)
This is enough for four servings, so keep that in mind when we get to the Tidy Savings! It’s most authentically served cold, from a plastic container… but I’ve been told the Tesco version is divine gently heated… so I may try it whilst still warm some time!
1. If your red pepper isn’t already roasted, get it roasted, skinned, and cooled again!
2. While that’s going on, you can also cook your pasta as per the packet instructions, and leave that to cool, too.
3. Gently fry the onions and garlic in a pan, just enough to soften the onions.
4. Add in the passata, sweetener, tomato puree, and vinegar. Bring it to the boil, then turn it down to gently simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5. When done, stir the sauce, basil, tomatoes, and the pepper through the pasta.
6. Divide into four servings, and top each with a quarter of the feta.
Now, the tidy savings today are a little bit different. I’ve done the usual comparison between the big four, however, remember we’re also up against a target of £2 per serving. The recipe I’ve given is for four portions (because that’s as long as I could safely leave the feta and passata for just one person).
It’s a bit embarrassing for Tesco, this, because their price of £8.22 for their own recipe, came only third, after Morrisons at £7.50 and then ASDA at £8.14. Sainsbury’s, as usual, trailed at £8.80.
It was the cost of Sun Dried Tomatoes that let Tesco down – they were the only retailer not to stock the Merchant Gourmet brand, which is significantly cheaper at the other three, compared to Tesco’s own Ingredients range.
The Eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that, apart from Morrisons, the cost from the others is more than the cost of buying four lots of the pre-prepared meal from Tesco! Across all four, the average price per portion was £2.04 vs the ready-made £2.00. However, this is where economies of scale is your friend. Most ingredients need to be bought in quantities far exceeding that needed for four portions. By simply buying another 200g of Feta, one red onion, and some Basil (as the first lot won’t be too great if you go four days between batches) you can double the yield of this recipe, at a new average price per portion of just £1.28! That’s a saving of £5.76 over the eight portions.
When you factor in that you can get many more batches out of the pasta, vinegar, sweetener, tomato puree, sun dried tomatoes, and garlic, I’m sure you can see how the savings would stack up!
This was all a bit of a guesstimate, having only the ingredients list to go from rather than a defined recipe to follow. It was a definite case of trial and error, with the first version only involving the passata, with no onions, basil, garlic, pepper, or tomato puree. It was all a bit flat. It was only at this point that I thought to actually check the ingredients!
The original list called for white wine vinegar, rather than red. I’d gone with red before I checked the ingredients list, and then the second time as well because it was all I had in the cupboard. When I later tried with white, I didn’t like it as much, so switched back to the red and got much better results.
The Tesco version includes spinach as well as the basil (and another leafy ingredient that I can’t remember). You could add some different herbs in, but I found this had plenty depth and flavour as it was.
My first version (shown in some of the pics here) used a reduced fat “salad cheese” instead of feta. It tasted of disappointment and despair. I reverted to full fat feta, as the allowance for fat club is quite generous anyway. At Slimming World, 45g counts as a healthy extra, so it’s not far off that allowance… and could easily be reduced even below 45g if you wanted to just count the syns instead (however, using the cheese as Healthy Extra makes this a “free” meal!)
Having said that, you could leave the cheese out if you have no soul, or swap it for a different cheese if you prefer. I think soft goats cheese would go particularly well in this recipe (definitely on my list of things to try) but a harder cheese such as Manchego, or even trusty old Cheddar, could work well, too. Maybe even parmesan shavings if you wanted to go flat-out Italian, rather than fusion.
Although this is quite a hearty and fulfilling lunch, if you wanted to bulk this up a bit more to get a full evening meal out of it, chicken and/or my favourite chorizo would go particularly well!
If you’re not following a diet, then feel free to fry using oil instead of fry-light, and a tbsp of olive oil stirred through the cooled mixture could also be nice!
Thanks to Tesco for creating the original masterpiece (it really is my favourite read-made convenience lunch).