Poor Man's Pasta

When I was little, there were 9 children, plus mom and dad and sister-in-law for a total of 12. We were very poor, but my mom would cook this warm-hearty meal made with love. It was so good and hot on cold nights, and we would sleep content with our bellies full.

Now my daughters, nieces, and cousins' families come to my home to eat this food and learn how to make it. It always hits the spot. We are all living better then we have ever lived with everybody working and owning homes, businesses, and having things I never dreamed we would have.

We still make this meal, and it sure brings back wonderful memories from when I was little. We now enjoy and talk about old days and new days as we eat our "poor man's food" as we call it. We are blessed.


  • 2 cups elbow macaroni or shells any size except large ones.
  • 9-10 cups boiling water
  • half of 1/3 cup onion
  • half of 1/3 cup bell pepper (optional)
  • half of a medium potato, cut in small cubes (optional)
  • 1 tsp. garlic, or to your taste
  • 1 tsp. cumin, or to taste being careful as it is very spicy
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  • 1 (6 oz. can) tomato paste
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 slice cheese (optional)


Brown the pasta (very browned) in 3 teaspoons cooking oil or olive oil. Boil 9-10 cups water (as you are browning the pasta). Add water to pasta, then add garlic, cumin, salt, and pepper. Add tomato paste, stirring as you add it. Add potato, bell pepper, and onion.

Cook for 25 minutes. Do not let it get depleted of water. If needed, have boiling water ready to add and boil for another 5 minutes. Add 1 slice cheese to the food 5 minutes before it's done, unless you want to let everyone add cheese to their food as it's served.

Serve in a bowl with homemade pinto beans, ranch style beans, or pork and beans. We also like to eat this with French bread, regular bread, or good hot flour tortillas!


Servings: 4-6 people
Prep Time: 15 to 20 Minutes
Cooking Time: 25 Minutes

Source: This is from my family, Estrada. We've been cooking this meal for over 50 years, as I am now 59, and I was about 2 years old when my mom started cooking it for us. I am sure my grandma cooked this for my mom and her brothers and sisters.

By carmenr from Houston, TX

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July 19, 20110 found this helpful

This sounds like of those wonderful family comfort foods that almost everyone I know who grew up in "hard times" learned to depend on and love forever. Our family has several, some like this one of yours which is a rich combination of pasta and beans basically, and we have one that is rice and beans with a few additions. When we're really hungry and tired, one or the other always comes to mind.


Thank you for sharing yours.

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July 19, 20110 found this helpful

Thanks for sharing. I will try this, sounds good.

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July 20, 20110 found this helpful

Since it's a long-standing family meal for you, it must be tasty. I will definitely try it for myself, and maybe even this week or weekend. I love quick & easy, and love cheap even more! : )

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