Upgrade your Italian meal on a limited budget: Pasta, Sauce, or Cheese?

When it comes to creating a delicious Italian meal, the quality of ingredients can make a significant difference. However, if you’re on a tight budget, you might find yourself wondering which ingredient to prioritize: the pasta, the sauce, or the cheese? The answer isn’t as straightforward as you might think, as it depends on the specific dish you’re preparing and your personal taste preferences. Let’s delve into each option to help you make the best decision for your next Italian culinary adventure.

Upgrading the Pasta

While it might be tempting to reach for the cheapest box of pasta on the shelf, investing in a higher-quality pasta can elevate your dish. Premium pasta, often imported from Italy, is made from high-quality durum wheat and extruded through bronze dies, resulting in a rougher texture that holds sauce better. However, if your sauce or cheese is already of high quality, the difference might not be as noticeable.

  • Pros: Better texture, holds sauce better
  • Cons: Difference might not be noticeable with high-quality sauce or cheese

Upgrading the Sauce

Good sauce is the heart of many Italian dishes. Upgrading from a jarred sauce to a homemade one, or choosing a premium jarred sauce, can significantly improve the flavor of your meal. High-quality sauces have a depth of flavor that cheaper ones often lack. However, if your pasta and cheese are of lower quality, a high-quality sauce might not be able to compensate.

  • Pros: Improved flavor, can make or break a dish
  • Cons: Might not compensate for low-quality pasta or cheese

Upgrading the Cheese

Cheese can add a rich, creamy element to your Italian dish. Upgrading to a high-quality cheese can add a new dimension of flavor. However, cheese is often used sparingly in Italian cooking, so the difference might not be as noticeable unless it’s a cheese-heavy dish like lasagna or fettuccine Alfredo.

  • Pros: Adds richness and depth of flavor
  • Cons: Difference might not be noticeable in dishes that don’t use a lot of cheese


In conclusion, the best ingredient to upgrade in your Italian meal depends on the specific dish and your personal preferences. If you’re making a pasta-heavy dish, consider upgrading the pasta. If the sauce is the star of the show, invest in a high-quality sauce. And if you’re a cheese lover or making a cheese-heavy dish, splurge on the cheese. No matter what you choose, remember that the best meals are made with love and enjoyed with good company.