Greek Yogurt Pasta Sauce (Healthy Dinner Recipe)
This Greek yogurt pasta sauce is a vegetarian dinner that is packed with nutrition and flavor! Topped with sautéed lentils and chickpeas, these creamy noodles will have you coming back for seconds!
Do you participate in Meatless Monday? While we don’t necessarily do it on a certain day of the week, at least once or twice a week, we try to enjoy a vegetarian meal.
To be honest, sometimes it’s just a takeout meal of a bunch of appetizers that happen to not have meat in them. But I’ll often cook meatless meals myself, too, like a vegetarian quiche with a side salad, savory mushroom oatmeal for dinner with a side of maple Brussels sprouts, or vegetarian fajitas.
Since my husband and I both like eating a wide variety of vegetables, grains and legumes, and our toddler turns her nose up at almost any type of meat (even mama’s rigatoni bolognese!), we hardly feel like we’re depriving ourselves of anything.
I’ve learned that the trick to eating a vegetarian dinner (and not feeling hungry a few hours later) is to make sure you include plenty of fiber, calcium and protein, as well as a healthy amount of good fat, to keep you full.
Did you know you can make a creamy pasta sauce using Greek yogurt? This Garlicky Greek Yogurt Pasta with Sautéed Lentils & Chickpeas will rock your next Meatless Monday, I promise!
Why I love savory Greek yogurt recipes:
I was pretty quick to jump on the Greek bandwagon when it started gaining popularity in the United States years ago, and I’m STILL on that bandwagon. It’s always in my fridge.
The #1 reason I love it so much is it’s versatility. You can eat it plain, on the sweet side with fruit, or as savory yogurt. I also love it as a condiment, and I use it almost everywhere that sour cream would generally be appropriate, such as dolloped on top of my burrito bowl recipe, or used as an ingredient for Greek yogurt mashed potatoes. I even use it to make frozen yogurt pie.
The tanginess of Greek yogurt has a way of cutting through the richness in an otherwise heavy dish, while the creaminess makes anything more satisfying.
A few weeks ago, I even dolloped it on top of minestrone pasta, since I forgot to pick up ricotta at the store, and it was delicious. I guess that’s another Greek yogurt dinner recipe to add to my repertoire!
If you’ve only experienced Greek yogurt on the sweeter side of the spectrum, I encourage you to try it in a savory Greek yogurt recipe!
How to make Greek yogurt pasta sauce:
This basic Greek yogurt pasta sauce comes together in less than five minutes.
First, you’ll heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet. Add some minced garlic, and sauté it briefly just to perfume the oil. Then, you’ll whisk in the Greek yogurt, some milk, lemon zest, salt and pepper.
You only need to cook it 2 minutes or until the sauce is just warmed through. Then, add cooked pasta, a splash of pasta water, toss, and serve!
Seriously, could this Greek yogurt recipe be any easier?
How should I serve Greek yogurt sauce?
I like to serve Greek yogurt pasta topped with a mixture of caramelized onions, chickpeas and lentils. I actually make this mixture FIRST, then transfer it to a bowl, and use the same skillet to make the yogurt sauce.
Simply slice a large yellow onion and pan-fry it in a bit of olive oil until it’s dark golden brown and a little bit crispy.
Add some chickpeas and cooked lentils. I used beluga lentils because I love their dark black color, but the brown lentils that I use for vegan lentil curry and lentil burritos work, too. Green lentils and red lentils are also great here. Any kind of lentil!
Quickly sauté the chickpeas and lentils to warm them through.
While this is going on, cook a pot of spaghetti. Make the Greek yogurt sauce, then toss the spaghetti with the sauce.
Top the Greek yogurt spaghetti with the lentil and chickpea mixture, then sprinkle with some red pepper flakes and fresh mint for added flavor. I served this dish with some lightly sautéed arugula to round out this satisfying, healthful vegetarian meal.
What if I want to add meat?
Between the Greek yogurt sauce, lentils and chickpeas, there’s a fair amount of protein in this vegetarian Greek yogurt spaghetti. But if you’re looking to add something a little, well, meatier, I have some ideas.
Sautéed shrimp would be tasty, or chunks of roasted salmon, like I use in my creamy salmon pasta.
A meat-free option to add even more protein would be a fried or poached egg. I mean, I have a hard time resisting pasta with a fried egg on top!
Will non-fat Greek yogurt work for this dinner recipe? How about regular yogurt?
Without getting too technical (I took a food chemistry class in culinary school so that you don’t have to), you need to have a certain fat to protein ratio in your yogurt if you’re going to cook with it, like with this Greek yogurt pasta sauce. If there’s not enough fat, it’s probably going to curdle when you heat it up.
If you want to learn more, Food52 has a great article on cooking with yogurt (without fear) that explains it all.
But long story short, use full fat Greek yogurt for this Greek yogurt sauce recipe. I have not tested this recipe with regular yogurt, only the Greek variety. Lowfat or nonfat Greek yogurt DOES work in my acini de pepe pasta salad recipe.
- 12 ounces spaghetti
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup prepared lentils (see Notes)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1-1/2 cups full fat Greek yogurt
- 1/4 cup whole milk
- Zest of 1/2 lemon
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
- Red pepper flakes, for serving
- Bring large pot of salted water to boiling over high heat. Add spaghetti and cook according to package instructions. Reserve 1/4 cup pasta cooking water, then drain pasta.
- Meanwhile, in large high-sided skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add onion; cook 8 to 10 minutes or until dark golden brown, stirring frequently. Add chickpeas and lentils; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Transfer chickpea mixture to medium bowl; cover to keep warm.
- Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in same skillet over medium-low heat. Add garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Whisk in yogurt, milk, lemon zest, salt and black pepper. Cook 2 minutes or until warmed through, whisking constantly.
- Add drained pasta and 2 tablespoons pasta water to yogurt mixture; toss to combine. If sauce is too thick, add additional pasta water 1 tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is achieved. Divide pasta between 4 pasta bowls. Divide chickpea mixture over pasta. Serve sprinkled with fresh mint and red pepper flakes, if desired.
Heads up! You'll need to cook your lentils before you start this recipe. You can use any type of lentil - brown, green, red or black. Prepare according to the package instructions for the type of lentil you are using. You'll need 1 cup cooked lentils.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 418Total Fat: 17gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 16mgSodium: 583mgCarbohydrates: 47gFiber: 6gSugar: 9gProtein: 21g