One of the best things about going to university is having your own flat — if you're lucky, it's with your friends — and having the freedom of inviting people over whenever you want to. One of the worst things about going to university is realizing how much food costs. So what's better than inviting people over for food? Making a traditional Italian carbonara for only £10 might sound impossible, but I promise you it's not.

Budgeting can be hard but with a little bit of attention you can easily make a standing-ovation-worthy dinner for you and your friends (OK, I might be a little biased, but still — trust me on this one)

1. Let's talk about the pasta.

milk, cheese
Kevin Kozlik

To keep the costs down, I recommend that you buy your local supermarket's own brand of pasta. I usually buy Sainsbury's Free-From spaghetti since I can eat neither gluten nor wheat, but feel free to go for whatever version you want.

If you're feeling fancy or want to opt for a healthier version, you may want to try whole wheat spaghetti — though I do not really recommend it for carbonara since the taste might be a little too rough for this recipe. Remember that 500g of pasta will feed around five people so do the math and don't leave your guests with an empty stomach.

#SpoonTip: Sainsbury's Basic Spaghetti only costs 40p per 500g! Even more exciting (for me, at least): Sainsbury's Deliciously FreeFrom Spaghetti 500g only costs £1.30

2. Let's get saucy...

chocolate, chicken, egg yolk, egg
Kristine Mahan

Now that you have the base, it's time to worry about the sauce. The traditional recipe is pretty simple: you just need to mix egg yolks with grated cheese. The original choice is Parmesan, since carbonara is a dish which was developed in central Italy.

However, since I am from the North, I love — and wholeheartdly recommend — using Grana Padano. It's basically the northern version of Parmesan: it's sweeter and gentler in taste but it still gives a very rich flavour and texture to the sauce. 

#SpoonTip: A dairy-free version of Parmesan can be found at Tesco. Unfortunately, it's slightly expensive but if you are dairy intolerant and you're looking for the best imitation of Parmesan around, I recommend it. Violife Prosociano Wedge, vegan Parmesan, 150g for £3.50 

You need to make sure the sauce is ready before the spaghetti since things will go pretty fast after the pasta's been cooked. Separate the egg yolks (2 per person) from the whites and put them in a bowl. Beat the egg yolks with a fork — as though you're scrambling eggs — and then slowly add grated cheese and a pinch of pepper.

I usually add one table spoon of grated cheese per egg yolk, but remember not to add all the cheese in bulk. Try to rely on your sight and taste: your goal is a creamy texture, not liquidy but not too solid as well, since you need to coat the spaghetti with it.

#SpoonTip: Sauces can be really different! You might want a thicker texture for a dipping sauce to scoop it better, but stick to the gentler side for a pasta sauce — like marinara or carbonara sauce — which needs to gently coat all the wheat-goodies. 

3. Pasta time.

macaroni, pasta, spaghetti
Alex Frank

Boil the water in a kettle before heating it up on the hob — in this way it will begin to boil much faster once it's in the pan. Once the water is boiling, add salt (a table spoon of salt for a big pot) and then the spaghetti. Keep in mind that you'll need to mix it constantly while it's cooking, otherwise it'll form a solid, inedible block. It should take around 10 minutes (slightly more if you bought the wholewheat version). Check the cooking time on the package.

Once the spaghetti is cooking it means only one thing: it's bacon time! Cut the bacon into small squares, season it (salt and pepper) and stir fry it in a pan with some olive oil. Again, the proportions should be 2 bacon strips per 1 person (but we won't judge if you want to add more!). By now, the pasta should be ready. Remember to taste it before straining it, you don't want to serve uncooked spaghetti.

#SpoonTip: There are two ways cooking pasta can go wrong. It can be "al dente", that means the pasta is still partially raw; or "scotta", which would result in chewy, overly-cooked pasta. What you want is a texture in the middle, not too hard and not too soft.

4. Mix and serve!

basil, macaroni, spaghetti carbonara, sauce, pasta, spaghetti
Lucy Rubin

Strain the spaghetti, place it in a big bowl or a clean pot — NOT the same pot otherwise the sauce will cook (it's basically raw egg) — pour the sauce on it and start to mantecare. That is, start mixing it with two forks, with a motion that goes from the bottom to the top. You want all of the spaghetti to be coated in sauce. When you reach this point, add the bacon. Mix a little bit again and serve it with a final touch of pepper and grated cheese. 

So, that's it. The best carbonara you've ever tasted in your life for less than £10. Not only will you have the chance to brag about following the traditional recipe with your friends, but you'll be able to cook also for that friend of yours who's gluten and/or dairy intolerant (if you can cater for them that makes you automatically amazing). It's cheap, it's healthy and it's definitely impress-a-date-worthy! This carbonara is the way to success.