Food and Cooking during ESC – part II

Frieda’s favorite (easy and quick) recipes

Hej! I’m Frieda. In my last blog post, I wrote about tips and tricks for a good cooking experience while I’m volunteering through European Solidarity Corps program. This time I want to share two of my favorite go-to meals that I make on a weekly basis. They are easy, quick on totally low effort. As an honorable mention I put one recipe in that is a little more advanced but very delicious and totally worth the effort.

  1. Spinach Gorgonzola Pasta
    A staple in my weekly meals. The easiest way of achieving great depth of flavor is to use ingredients that have a powerful and unique taste. One of those is blue cheese. Through this one ingredient this meal gets elevated from a boring pasta dish to a palate feast with variety and flavor, that promises to please everyone (except people that don’t like blue cheese).
Spinach Gorgonzola Pasta

Time: 15 min                             

Servings: 4

Price per serving: 16 kr (≈1,60 €)


500 g Pasta (of your choice) ≈ 15 kr

1 Small Onion ≈ 2 kr

200 g Frozen Spinach (preferably whole leaves) ≈ 9 kr

250 g Blue Cheese ≈ 22 kr

Hard Cheese ≈ 15 kr


  • Boil water, pour into bigger pot and add salt. Cook pasta according to package instructions.
  • Chop onions finely. Add oil to smaller pot over medium high heat and sauté the onions until translucent and golden around the edges.
  • Add the frozen spinach and let it heat up. Cut blue cheese in smaller chunks.
  • When spinach isn’t frozen anymore add cheese chunks and stir until well combined. Optionally you can add cooking cream or milk to thin it out.
  • Drain pasta when al dente and divide into four or five deep plates. Add sauce and grate some hard cheese on top. Voilà, ready to serve!

    2. Couscous vegetable stir fry
    An easy, effortless meal full of vegetables and flavor. You don’t need a specific list of ingredients for this one. As soon as you have some staples you can mix and match and see what you have on hand in the moment. This is more of an idea you can build onto than strict recipe to follow. As long as there is vegetable (and soy sauce) everything is fine 😉.
Couscous vegetable stir fry

Time: 10–15 min

Servings: 4

Price per serving: 18 kr (≈1,80 €)


250 g Couscous ≈ 6 kr                            

1 Small Onion ≈ 2 kr

1 Zucchini ≈ 14 kr

2 Red bell peppers ≈ 18 kr

1 Can Chickpeas ≈ 8 kr

2 Tbsp Soy Sauce ≈ 8 kr

100 g Feta Cheese ≈ 15 kr

This is the combination of vegetables, beans and cheese that I found works best but feel free to swap them for some you have on hand or add others, like mushrooms, eggplant or tomatoes. You can also use Quinoa instead of Couscous if you prefer.


  • Cut the onion finely and chop the vegetables in bite sized pieces. Drain the chickpeas and rinse them to get rid of the canned liquid.
  • Put Couscous together with salt into a bowl or pot. Boil water in a kettle and add it in ratio 1:1. Cover with lid or plate for ca. 5 min. Check additionally and add water if everything is absorbed.
  • Sauté the onions in a pan over medium heat for a few minutes. When translucent add the zucchini and bell pepper. Stir occasionally and let them cook trough ca. 5 minutes. If you have vegetables with strongly differing cooking time, then you might need to change the time when to add them to the pan.
  • When done to your preferred stage add the chickpeas and let them heat up. After adding the soy sauce and feta cheese and let it melt together slightly.
  • Now you can plate a portion of couscous and some of the stir fry in a deep bowl and enjoy!

    3. Butternut Squash Pasta
    This is by far not a quick recipe, but it is worth the effort. Especially if you are not alone while cooking you can split the work and enjoy an amazing meal in the end that you all made together.
Butternut Squash Pasta

Time: 50 min

Servings: 4 or 5

Price per serving: 21 kr (≈2,10€)


1 Smallish butternut squash ≈ 17 kr

2 Cloves of garlic (optional) ≈ 0,5 kr

1 Onion (medium) ≈ 2 kr

250 g Ricotta ≈ 17 kr

70 g Parmesan (or some other hard cheese) ≈ 20 kr

500 g Pasta (preferably bigger shapes) ≈ 20  kr

50 g Nuts of choice (preferably hazel) ≈ 7 kr



  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Cut the squash in half. Cut one half in slim slices (ca. 1 cm) and other in thicker cubes. Cut the onion. Peel the garlic.
  2. Coat the squash in oil and salt. Spread it evenly on 1 or 2 baking sheets and put in the oven for about 15 min. 
  3. Sauté the onions in oil and then add water, nearly cooking them to make them soft. Toast the nuts in a pan until golden. 
  4. Grade the cheese into a bowl and add the Ricotta as well as generous amounts of salt, pepper and nutmeg. Mix until well combined and add water to thin it out. Set ca. 3 tbsp of the mixture aside in a small bowl. 
  5. Turn the squash pieces and roast for another 10-15 min, take out the garlic. Boil water in a larger pot and salt generously. 
  6. 5-10 min before squash is finished start cooking the pasta, cook until nearly al dente. Safe one cup of pasta water and drain.  
  7. When Squash is finished and has a nice caramelization, remove from the oven. Mash cubes together with onions and garlic with a potato masher or mix in a blender (if you have one). Add the mixture to the Ricotta mixture and combine. Set sliced squash aside. 
  8. Mix pasta with sauce and pasta water until thickened and well combined. Season to taste with salt and nutmeg. Plate and garnish with squash slices, dollops of Ricotta mixture, nuts and grated parmesan on top. Enjoy!

I know it is often hard to get yourself to cook, especially in times of work stress and daily grind. But it is not only healthier but also quite fulfilling to sit down and eat something you made on your own. Often the essential things standing between you and cooking are motivation and inspiration and I hope this blog post could help with that somewhat. With that, enjoy your homemade meals!


This is me:
I’m Frieda, 18 years old and I’m from Leipzig, Germany. I am ESC volunteer at Funkibator in the city of Växjö in Sweden from September 2021 to June 2022.