Pasta With Yogurt and Caramelized Onions

Don’t you love when a recipe is easy enough to throw together on a weeknight, but delicious enough to serve to guests? Today’s recipe, from Food52’s new cookbook Genius Recipes, uses yogurt in place of cheese, for a three-ingredient sauce that’s sure to impress. Here’s how to make it…

Pasta with Yogurt & Caramelized Onions
from Food52 Genius Recipes

When cookbook author Diane Kochilas began dressing pasta with yogurt, her intention was to adapt a classic Greek island dish that required an obscure cheese called sitaka. But, in doing so, she created a dinner of convenience that’s striking enough to serve to company. The sauce has only two components: thick yogurt and starchy, salty pasta cooking water, which together create the soothing texture of an alfredo sauce, lightened up with yogurt’s tang. But it won’t taste austere, especially once you garnish with caramelized onions and Pecorino to balance out the sweetness and salt.

When Kochilas developed this recipe, 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 (that is, already strained) yogurts, this is an almost embarrassingly ready-to-eat food. The only step that takes time is caramelizing the onions, which you’ll want to do right. Give them at least 20 to 30 minutes, while you do everything else. They should look like stained glass when you’re done, and taste like honey.

Recipe: Pasta with Yogurt and Caramelized Onions
Serves 4 to 6

What you’ll need:
5 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
6 cups coarsely chopped or sliced onions
Sea salt
1 lb. tagliatelle or other fresh pasta
2 cups thick, strained Greek-style yogurt
1 cup coarsely grated kefalotyri or Pecorino Romano cheese

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the onions. Decrease the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring frequently and seasoning with salt to taste as you go, until the onions are soft and golden brown, 20 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. As the water heats, add enough salt so that you can taste it. Add the pasta and cook until soft, just past al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1⁄2 cup of the pasta water. Combine the yogurt with 1⁄4 cup cooking water and mix well. Add more of the reserved pasta water as needed to get the sauce to your desired thickness. Toss the pasta with the yogurt mixture. Serve the pasta immediately, sprinkled generously with cheese and topped with the caramelized onions and their juices.

GENIUS TIP: There are endless ways you can fancy up this meal. Throw in spinach or chard as the pasta finishes boiling. Or blend the sauce with peas, mint or tahini. Thank you so much, Food52! Your new book is amazing.

P.S. More recipes, including ricotta & honey crostini and fettuccine with mushrooms and walnuts.

(Reprinted with permission from Food52 Genius Recipes by Kristen Miglore ©2015. Recipe courtesy of Diane Kochilas. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Photo by James Ransom. Thanks to Caroline Donofrio for her help with this series)

  1. So so so good! I made this last night!!

  2. This sounds really delicious and something new to try. Thank you for sharing this.


  3. I’m gonna be honest, I’m not much of a pasta person. But this looks fabulous. If anything could convert me, it would be this.

  4. I made this, and it was great! Thanks for the simple recipe. My husband loved it!

  5. I gave this a whirl last night, and I think I may need to tweak it a bit next time! I found the yogurt to be a bit overpowering. I wondered if I should salt the pasta water a bit more, or dilute the sauce more than I did. I used way more pasta water than the recommended 1/4 cup.
    I’m a fairly inexperienced cook, so if anyone has tips!

  6. I made this over the weekend, and it was delicious :) I put some frozen peas in at the last minute, and they were so tasty! Thanks for the recipe Joanna!

  7. This looks AMAZING! Definitely going to try it out this week. Thanks for sharing!

  8. I follow Food52 and one of their “too many cooks” columns had so many rave reviews for this I had to try it. It was so so good! I now keep carmelized onions in my freezer for when I want to make something easy, quick, and satisfying!

  9. Super delicious! Love that it used all things we had in the house already, but tasted compleyely different from anything I would have dreamed up (ahem, salt, pepper, and chili flakes). Thanks for the recipe!

  10. I am so excited for this cookbook! This is the best column and I love Food52.

  11. We had this for dinner last night. It was so simple and delicious!

  12. Hi Joanna, I just wanted to leave a comment about how difficult it is.. to leave a comment!! When I read your blog in Safari, the “Leave a comment” button does not work. I need to open it in Firefox, and then it works. Maybe you want to bring that up with whoever is handling the technical bits of the blog. I have on several occasions tried commenting and ending up not to as it doesnt work. Now I discovered it works in Firefox! And oh, love your blog! x

  13. This pasta is one of our fav lazy-night dinner recipes. I had tried it from Diane Kochila’s book and have been making it ever since… of course with greek yogurt and feta.

  14. This looks amazing. My son loves carmelized onions and, of course, pasta! Making it this weekend. Thank you for sharing!

  15. junebug, i’ve never tried it! going to look for it this weekend.

  16. Jo says...

    Thank you, Joanna, for yet another delicious recipe!!!

  17. I just made this – awesome flavour, but the recipe should definitely warn NOT to use fat free greek yogurt (maybe I should have caught on to that by the “thick”)… It curdles!!! Make sure you use full fat!

  18. In Turkey (where I am currently living) they always have pasta with a yogurt sauce- the pasta is called manti and it is like tiny meat-filled ravioli, topped with a garlicky yogurt and red chili flakes- yum! no cheese needed

  19. Wow this look amazing and I haven’t had lunch yet.

    Have a wonderful day!
    Instagram: stylishlyinlove
    Twitter: stylishlyinlove

  20. This looks amazing, and I can’t wait to try it.

    Jo, have you ever tried Sohha Yogurt (made right in Brooklyn!)? It’s the most delicious yogurt I’ve ever had. It might be my favorite food.


  21. Thank you so much for this post! I’m really loving these pasta recipes you’ve been posting recently. I’m making the orecchiette tonight, and will make this tomorrow!

  22. I have made this pasta multiple times – it’s amazing!! The yogurt doesn’t taste “yogurt-y,” it just adds a tangy creaminess. One thing – the yogurt isn’t in place of cheese; you add Pecorino Romano at the end! Don’t forget that step – it’s essential.

  23. Looks really good! I might try to vegan-ize it.

  24. Oh man, Kefalotiri is the bomb dot com!! Love me some Greek cheeses and I can’t wait to try this recipe when Orthodox lent is over.

  25. That looks so good, and I NEED that book! Love Food52.

  26. I don’t like yogurt – I know, I know. Question is – does this taste like yogurt? With the addition of the onions and cheese, I might be able to eat it!

  27. So excited to try! Plus it seems easy enough for even me, the amateur wannabe chef (a wef?), to pull off. Fingers crossed.


  28. I love this! A local restaurant that has since gone out of business, had a similar dish as a special one afternoon and it featured goat cheese in a similar sauce with mushrooms and caramelized onions. This sounds like it’ll capture the same flavor profile with the tang of the yogurt! I love adding extra protein to a veggie friendly dish, too. Must try this soon!!