Genius Recipes

Diane Kochilas' Pasta with Yogurt and Caramelized Onions

By • November 6, 2013 • 39 Comments

Every week -- often with your help -- Food52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.

Today: Yogurt masquerades as pasta sauce in the role it was born to play.

Diane Kochilas' Pasta with Yogurt and Caramelized Onions on Food52

It's almost too obvious: Take one thing you like, put it on the other thing you like. This explains why we put cheese on our apple pie, pineapple on our pizza, pizza on our bagels. It doesn't always work, but we'd be fools if we didn't try, right?

So when I tell you that you not only can but should put straight yogurt on your pasta, I understand why you're looking at me like I just told you ketchup was a perfectly good marinara sauce. It couldn't -- shouldn't -- be that easy, right? 

Diane Kochilas on Food52

Well, until recently, it wasn't. Diane Kochilas, author of 18 books on Greek cooking, first developed this recipe as a variation on a theme she saw repeatedly in her travels in Greece. As she told me, this was an "adaptation of a very classic Greek island dish that calls for a very obscure cheese, which I reworked with yogurt." This was a genius move.

Diane Kochilas' Pasta with Yogurt and Caramelized Onions on Food52

But at the time, in order for the yogurt to thicken enough to coat the pasta -- and not slip off into a puddle at the bottom of the plate -- you had to remember to strain it for two hours. This is hardly something to grumble about, but it did keep this dish in the realm of dinners you have to think about before you're hungry. 

Now, with the widespread availability of thick, Greek-style (i.e. already strained) yogurts, this is an almost embarrassingly ready-to-eat food.

Diane Kochilas' Pasta with Yogurt and Caramelized Onions on Food52  Diane Kochilas' Pasta with Yogurt and Caramelized Onions on Food52

Diane Kochilas' Pasta with Yogurt and Caramelized Onions on Food52  Diane Kochilas' Pasta with Yogurt and Caramelized Onions on Food52

The only step that takes any time at all is caramelizing the onions, which you'll want to do right. They should look like stained glass when you're done, and taste like honey.

More: 1 Batch of Caramelized Onions, 5 Dinners.

Diane Kochilas' Pasta with Yogurt and Caramelized Onions on Food52

Then all that's left is to boil your pasta, stirring a little of its starchy, salty water into the yogurt to complete your sauce. Yes, now it is officially no longer yogurt, but "sauce". 

Diane Kochilas' Pasta with Yogurt and Caramelized Onions on Food52  Diane Kochilas' Pasta with Yogurt and Caramelized Onions on Food52

Diane Kochilas' Pasta with Yogurt and Caramelized Onions on Food52

There are endless ways you could add a little something to fancy up the meal -- like spinach. Blend it with peas and mint. Or tahini.

Diane Kochilas' Pasta with Yogurt and Caramelized Onions on Food52

But Kochilas goes simple enough to stay within our reach (and our pantry's), indulgent enough to balance out the fact that this is essentially a cream sauce imposter.

Layer on those onions and long scrapes of pecorino, and you have a five-ingredient powerhouse to get you through anything: last-minute dinner parties, date nights, family affairs, vegetarian friendsgivings, and all the cold nights in between.

Diane Kochilas' Pasta with Yogurt and Caramelized Onions on Food52.

Diane Kochilas' Pasta with Yogurt and Caramelized Onions

Adapted slightly from The Glorious Foods of Greece (William Morrow Cookbooks, 2001) 

Serves 4 to 6

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 cups coarsely chopped onions
Sea salt
1 pound tagliatelle or other fresh pasta
2 cups thick, strained Greek-style yogurt

1 cup coarsely grated kefalotyri cheese, or pecorino Romano

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Ryan Dausch

Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected] 

Tags: pasta, yogurt, greek food, genius, Diane Kochilas, everyday cooking, special diets, vegetarian, how-to & diy, pantry

Comments (39)

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2 months ago diana

i have simmered the yogurt before with a little bit of feta, fresh garlic and fresh thyme, tossed the pasta with roasted asparagus and it was divine :)

Rit

5 months ago Paola Lovisetti-Scamihorn

Great recipe. I love yogurt. I will try it on the weekend.

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7 months ago Amaka

Does this store well in the fridge for leftovers?

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7 months ago Britastina

Yesssss! It is one of the most sophisticated pasta dishes I have ever tried. As always, the more basic a dish is, the tastier it is, and this is a winner. I love eating it cold. Sou vide(?) would be perfect. Come to think it, I'll prepare a large amount and freeze it in single portions.

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9 months ago Britastina

Fixed this tonight and it was wonderful! I followed the recipe, as I always do when trying a new recipe, and couldn't find anything wrong with it. A real keeper! Actually, I'm going to fix it again later this week. I hadn't thought of fried sage. Love it and will include it night after tomorrow.

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9 months ago Victoria G

This was dinner last night. My two teens like it bet started suggesting adjustments for next time. My son wanted more salt in the sauce to lower the tang. my daughter wanted more cheese. Someone suggested browning sage with the onions. After dinner I left for a meeting -- when I came home someone was standing at the refrigerator tasting the cold leftovers and said, "And it's really good cold!" Slicing onions next time. This is a great recipe.

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9 months ago TaurusChef

"vegetarian friendsgivings" I LOVE IT! THANK YOU! :)

Stringio

9 months ago Vishesh Valia

since last four years I have been using strained yogurt in my dressings and in pastas and tastes delicious. It is a good subsitute also for mayo

Mcs

9 months ago mcs3000

Such great writing, Kristen.

Jen_mike_rehearsal_dinner_ray_house_apr_11

9 months ago JenOzmun2010

Cooked this for dinner tonight. Amazing! My husband was pleased, which is no easy feat! Delicious. I'm wondering though what might be a good meat to serve with this that would work well with the pecorino and onions? Any ideas?

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9 months ago TaurusChef

It would only sully it to add meat.

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9 months ago TaurusChef

But lemon zest --yes!!! :)

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9 months ago KitchenBeard

It might be obvious but a little bacon might not be bad.

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9 months ago Idit Oz

Try to add toasted pine nuts to this yummy dish, the added texture makes it even more heavenly!

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9 months ago erika

You could also use creme fraiche instead of yogurt. I make a version of this with creme fraiche, fresh squeezed meyer lemon juice, some lemon rind, and you dump the hot pasta onto a bowl of raw, fresh arugula, toss and serve with freshly grated parmesan. DIVINE.

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9 months ago TaurusChef

Yes; lemon zest can only help!

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9 months ago Britastina

OK, this sounds and looks way to good to be true. But, the ingredients are all heavenly. Too late for supper tonight but I will fix it for lunch tomorrow. I'm a 3 - 5 ingredient kind of gal. Rarely have I found a simple recipe to fail.

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9 months ago Alyssa Holster

I don't typically like yogurt all that much but this looks amazing. Does it have an overt yogurt flavor/taste?

Miglore

9 months ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

I'm not that into yogurt either, but warming it up with the pasta mellows it, and the caramelized onions and cheese balance out the tang nicely. If you really don't like yogurt ever, though, you might not like this!

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8 months ago durun99

I found 2 cups of yogurt to be extremely overpowering. The rest was good though so I will try this again but with no more than 1 cup of yogurt.

Tarte_tatin

7 months ago durun99

Just tried it again with one 7-ounce container of Fage yogurt and everyone loved it this time.

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9 months ago ATG117

I am absolutely in love with this idea. Can't believe I never thought of it and can't wait to make it. What percent fat Greek yogurt did you use. I normally purchase the 2%. Do I need to go full fat for this? Also, any suggestions for other cheeses? I'm not a huge Romano fan.

Miglore

9 months ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

I recommend whole milk if possible -- so good -- but 2% should be good too. And how would you feel about Parmesan? That would be good.

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9 months ago ATG117

Parm always works ;) Thanks.

Stringio

9 months ago Gloria Patterson

Love this it will be dinner tonight

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9 months ago Rhonda35

As I read this column, I thought, "This isn't anything new! This Diane-lady took this recipe right out of Amanda's book, COOKING FOR MR. LATTE!" Took my copy of the book off the shelf, opened to food-stained page #197 and laughed as I discovered the recipe was given to Amanda by Diane Kochilas! :-) So, to all the doubters out there, I have to tell you: this recipe is delicious, absolutely delicious. I've made it countless times in the ten years since C.F.M.L. went into print and it is always a hit - especially when you get those onions caramelized perfectly - mmm. Derekp, I also slice rather than chop the onions - I like the way the strands of onion wrap around the pasta. Lorraine, I've added bacon before - cook that first, then caramelize the onions in the bacon fat. It's great that way. Bon appetit, everyone (I don't know how to say that in Greek.)

Alice

9 months ago Alice Gardner

When the ingredient list is wholly composed of things I already have in my kitchen (dried pasta, no fresh- forgive me), I have no choice but to give a recipe a go. Will be making this tonight, but adding mushrooms, because 1) it sounds very promising and 2) I really don't want to run to the grocery store...

Miglore

9 months ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

Dried pasta works great too! I would just cook to al dente rather than soft in that case.

Stringio

9 months ago Mike Vella

I was thinking the same thing. What a great, quick meal.

Alice

9 months ago Alice Gardner

This was fantastic. As good as it is with its whopping 5 ingredients, it begs to be made one's own with different additions. Thanks for sharing this, Kristen!

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9 months ago derekp

I think this is a bit of genius resulting from a collision of food cultures. Will need copious amounts of cheese and carmelised onions to work (i.e. taste of anything) and let's slice the onions rather than chop them, eh?

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9 months ago Lorraine

Anita, my mom did the3 same, but without the nutmeg. We used to call it Lazy Man’s Pierogi (Polish, eh?) Probably why I was drawn to try this. That and the fact that I love Greek food.

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9 months ago Anita Yarrish

YES! My mom's heritage is Polish and Slovock!!!

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9 months ago Lorraine

I am going to try this for lunch today. Maybe add some cannelini beans and bacon bits for my protein loving husband….Thanks mrslarkin, and good luck with your career!