The $10 Meal: Our Take on Risotto

The $10 Meal: Our Take on Risotto

You have a life, but you also have taste buds.

You don’t want to waste money on restaurants all the time, and you’re all for wholesome food…but odds are that you don’t exactly have time to plan a seven-course dinner extravaganza.

So we’ve got you covered. We bring you a nutritious, non-takeout dinner for four people that came in at exactly $9.37 (at least when we tested it). Best of all, it’s a one-pot meal that you can have ready in under a half hour. (For additional easy one-pot meals, click here.)

We know what they say about teaching a man to fish. This recipe doesn’t involve fish, but we do want to help you innovate for many meals to come. Our version of “risotto” is actually made with pasta, but you can remake it over and over by adding different variations. Here are the underlying principles behind our faux risotto:

Vegetable: Any leafy green works as the main building block of this dish, so feel free to pick whatever looks freshest at a low price. Beyond that, accessorize however you want with vegetables that provide visual and textural contrast, like onions and red peppers.

Starch: Choose something that cooks quickly or can be made separately and mixed in. In particular, consider small pasta like orzo, couscous, or pastina—or leftover brown rice from last night’s takeout. If you do go with an already-cooked grain, wait to add it until after the stock and other ingredients have simmered for about 5 minutes.

Protein: Pretty much anything goes. We like finely chopped chicken, sausage, mini meatballs from ground turkey, or a touch of tofu. Beans also work great because they add a creamy texture, diversify the protein, and stretch the dish. Nutritionally speaking, you probably don’t need more than about 3 ounces of protein per serving, but do what feels right.

(Check this out for what should know about getting complete proteins without spending a ton of money.)

Turkey Meatball and Broccoli Rabe “Risotto”

Serves: 4

Total time: 25 minutes

10 oz ground natural turkey
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound green leafy vegetable like broccoli rabe, cleaned and sliced thinly
1 cup water, divided into ½ cups
1 jarred roasted red pepper, chopped
1 can small white beans, rinsed well
2 cups low sodium chicken stock*
8 oz small pasta like orzo, pastina, or stelline
1 oz Parmesan cheese

Form the turkey into about three dozen (36) little flattened meatballs. Heat a large frying pan over medium flame and add olive oil. Once the pan is hot, add the meatballs, and try not to let the meatballs touch each other. Brown on both sides, about three minutes each. Remove from pan and cover.


Add onion and garlic to pan and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add green vegetable, ½ cup water, and combine well. Add red pepper, white bean, and pasta. Mix well.  Add stock, cover and let simmer until pasta is tender, about 12 minutes. Add water if needed. Portion and top with parmesan cheese.

*If you use homemade chicken stock, add ½ tsp salt to the dish when you pour in the stock.

Crash Courses: Making the Most of Your Ingredients

This recipe calls for chicken stock—and it’s cheaper and healthier to make your own. Here’s how.

Olive oil is expensive. Want to make the most of it? Read this.

From regular to “designer” onions, here’s how to use them to the best effect. Check it out.


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