How to CookPasta

12 Gutsy Ways to Give Yogurt Pasta A Lift, From Meaty to Extra Green

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Big Sunday dinners anchor the upcoming week, especially if you make a little extra. We partnered with Tillamook to join the #RealFoodSunday movement, encouraging families to cook and eat Real Food together once a week, but especially on Sundays.

“This secret just might change your life: You can, and should, dress pasta with Greek yogurt,” says the headnote for one of our favorite Genius Recipes—and it’s a trick we use again and again. Because just because a recipe is genius doesn’t mean it can’t be tweaked and altered a little to make it your own.

Creamy without cream and hearty-yet-light, yogurt makes for a low-effort, high-reward pasta sauce, especially on lazy Sundays with the family when you're all about tossing in what the pantry's giving you.

Pasta with Yogurt and Spicy Creamed Kale
Pasta with Yogurt and Spicy Creamed Kale

Don’t like caramelized onions? Don’t use them. Want to add some green in the form of creamed kale? Do it. Have some pancetta lying around? Get it crispy and toss it in. If you've made Diane Kochilas’ Pasta with Yogurt and Caramelized Onions before, add-ins will breathe new life into what is surely now a favorite meal. If not, well, there’s no better time to make it then now. Here are some delicious—and dare we say approaching genius—ways to change up yogurt pasta.

Alex Raij's Mushroom Confit (Setas Confitadas)

Alex Raij's Mushroom Confit (Setas Confitadas) by Genius Recipes

Penne with Creamed Greens and Pancetta

Penne with Creamed Greens and Pancetta by Amanda Hesser

Mix these into the pasta:

  • Frozen peas: Thaw them first, keep warm, then toss with the pasta and yogurt mixture.

  • Mushrooms: If you want classic, straight-up sauteed mushrooms all you need is butter, raw mushrooms, salt, and a hot pan with plenty of space for optimal browning. However, if you have a bit more time, try bathing mushrooms in olive oil with plenty of sliced garlic for a confit that’s Genius all on its own. (Bonus: The leftover oil can be used for cooking eggs, searing chicken thighs, in dressing, and anywhere that welcomes umami flavor.)

  • Creamed greens: Spicy, slightly bitter greens—like kale, chard, and mustard—like cream, which tames them, yet accentuates their earthy flavor. Taking a cue from Amanda Hesser’s penne recipe, broccoli rabe is a welcome addition (as is pancetta, see below).

  • Pancetta (or bacon): Cook diced pancetta until rendered and crisp. Alternatively, you can use strips of bacon, crumbing it after desired doneness is reached.

Kale Pesto Orecchiette
Kale Pesto Orecchiette
  • Basil: For a pop of brightness, add 1 to 1 ½ cups fresh basil, torn, to the pasta.

  • Change the cheese: Although the recipe calls for kefalotyri cheese or pecorino Romano, Greek-style yogurt also pairs well with other strong, salty cheeses like feta or ricotta salata.

  • A kinda carbonara: Forget the eggs, but keep the bacon, black pepper, and parmesan. Traditional? No. Delicious? Yes.

  • Kale Pesto (or really any pesto): Mix pesto with yogurt (use as much or as little as your want), before tossing in the pasta.

Bacon Jam

Bacon Jam by Hannah Petertil

Fried Greens Meatlessballs

Fried Greens Meatlessballs by Alexandra Stafford

Or put these on top:

  • Crispy prosciutto: Heat thin slices of prosciutto in a skillet until crisp. Crumble, then scatter on top of the pasta to preserve the prosciutto’s crispiness.

  • Pine nut-chile oil: Inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi’s yogurt pasta in his book Jerusalem, heat 1/3 cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon Aleppo chile pepper flakes, and 1/4 cup pine nuts in a small saucepan until the nuts are golden brown. Drizzle on top of the pasta.

  • Bacon Jam: Cooking bacon with a heap of onions, paprika, garlic, sugar, plus maple syrup, vinegar, and beer transforms it into a spreadable paste worthy of being dolloped on top of pasta—and, of course, toast.

  • Fried Greens Meatlessballs: Like a meatless version of spaghetti and meatballs, adding these pan-fried, herbaceous orbs to pasta transforms the dish into something more filling.

Pasta with Yogurt and Spicy Creamed Kale
Pasta with Yogurt and Spicy Creamed Kale

For my version, that'll serve four and leave some for your next lunch, I borrowed elements of Trent Pierce's Miso Creamed Kale and added it my spicy twist on yogurt pasta.

Pasta with Yogurt and Spicy Creamed Kale

Pasta with Yogurt and Spicy Creamed Kale

Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm
Serves 4 to 6
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch lacinato (also called Tuscan) kale, stems removed, roughly chopped (about 4 to 6 cups packed)
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup dry vermouth
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound tagliatelle or other fresh pasta
  • 2 cups Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup coarsely grated kefalotyri or pecorino Romano
Go to Recipe

What would you put into yogurt pasta? Tell us in the comments below!

Tillamook invites you to join the #RealFoodSunday movement, which encourages cooking, eating, and sharing food together. Share your meals by tagging them #RealFoodSunday, get more tips and inspiration for your Sunday dinners, and find Tillamook Greek Yogurt here.

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Tags: Tips & Techniques, Genius Recipes