MOST students would do anything to bag a free meal...

but in this case they had to cook it themselves first.

Paola Pasino, 40, from Glasgow, was one of six Italian 'mamas' from across the UK tasked with teaching cash-strapped students how to cook healthy Mediterranean cuisine.

Paola, an architect with Glasgow City Council, taught recipes passed down through generations of her family, who are from Turin.

During the free 90-minute classes, run by food company Sacla, students from the universities of Glasgow and Strathclyde, were taught how to make the perfect pasta sauce, a classic risotto and pizzas from scratch, as well as the student staple of macaroni cheese.

All the 'mamas' were sent to London for a one-day cookery course taught by Tom Parker Bowles, son of the Duchess of Cornwall, and Lorna Wing, whose mini fish and chips served in tiny cones made from newspaper changed the face of party food.

Paola taught three classes, including one where she invited four students into her own kitchen, celebrity chef style.

She taught two other classes at Strathclyde University, where she shared the secrets of the best tomato sauce with up to 50 students.

Paola said: "Cooking is my passion.

"The students absolutely loved it. First of all they were getting a free dinner. It was very funny.

"We had students of all nationalities - from Scotland, China, Malaysia.

"One of the things we found was that most didn't how to make a simple pasta sauce so we brought it down to basics.

"One of the students told me when his mum made pasta she would throw it against the wall to test if it's ready.

"Never do that.

"The top tip is to have a lot of water, about four or five litres. When the water boils put in a good spoon of rock salt.

"If the pasta has a white rim when you bite into it it's not ready.

"I like mine cooked al dente though.

"With tomato sauce, you have to buy a good passata or good quality tomatoes.

"I think the students were surprised that in a good tomato sauce there are only two or three ingredients.

"Add a splash of olive oil and a clove of garlic to the tomatoes with a bit of salt and sugar and a few leaves of basil and that's it."

Paola, who lives in the city's West End with husband Kevin, an architect, and daughter Elizabetta, also runs a catering firm called Two Mamas, specialising in Italian food.

The mum admits she had a battle on her hands persuading students that it's cheaper to cook than to queue at the local takeaway.

She said: "Students say they don't have time to cook and it's cheaper to buy something but afterwards they realised that isn't the case.

"You also don't always know what you are eating with fast food and ready meals.

"You don't know the calorie intake, you could be eating a lot of preservatives and colourings, stuff you don't really need."

PAOLO has this advice for anyone who is reluctant to leave a life of ready meals behind.

She said: "I think they should try. When you do you'll realise that it's not difficult, it can be fun, it's creative, you can do it with your friends and you can save money.

"Being able to cook will always impress your parents and your girlfriend or boyfriend."

The Sacla Student Cookery School pop-up classes took place in Glasgow, London, Manchester, Bristol, Swansea and Cardiff.