Yogurt spaghetti? Really? Yes really.
Well, not really, if you think I mean spaghetti made from yogurt. I mean a spaghetti tossed in a sauce made from thick, creamy, tangy Greek yogurt. Mixed with fresh baby spinach and topped with sweet, spicy, and savory lamb meatballs, and you have my post for May’s trip to Greece on My Kitchen, My World.
Let’s start with the meatballs. I took ground lamb meat and mixed it with grated onion, garlic, toasted pine nuts, fresh mint and parsley, and to add sweetness and take some of the edge off of the gamey flavor, some honey. Since this is a Greek inspired dish, I also tossed in plenty of cumin, cinnamon, and oregano to try to mirror the flavors of a good gyro too.
To make things a little easier, I browned the meatballs on the stove top before setting them on a wire rack set in a baking sheet to bake the rest of the way through while I cooked the pasta and made the sauce. Choosing a whole wheat pasta for its nutty flavor, I cooked the pasta according to package directions for al dente then reserved a half cup of the starchy cooking liquid. This was mixed into 2 cups of Greek yogurt and plenty of sharp Romano cheese. Fresh baby spinach added some nice crunch while topping everything off with plenty of fresh mint and parsley made this creamy, hearty pasta bright in flavor. If I did this again, I’d probably take a tip from an Amy Sedaris recipe for yogurt spaghetti by adding a ton of caramelized, sweet onions. That way, the pasta itself would have more flavor. As this recipe that I’m about to give you will be written, you have to take a bite of the meatball with each bite of pasta and spinach to maximize the flavor, but oh what flavor! If you’re looking for a twist on spaghetti and meatballs, give this a try for its balance of sweet, spice, tang, and fresh green flavors.
Note: You can use any grated, sharply flavored cheese here, be it Parmesan or of course, a Greek cheese like myzithra; Romano is just what I had on hand. If you wanted to add onion to the yogurt, I’d take a large, sweet onion, finely dice it then cook it over low heat in a tablespoon each of olive oil and butter with a pinch of sugar to help the caramelization. Stir occasionally to keep from burning, and cook until golden, yellow-brown, probably about 35-40 minutes.
- 1 lb ground lamb
- 1/2 medium yellow onion, grated on the large holes of a box grater
- 2 medium cloves of garlic, grated
- 1 tablespoon Montreal steak seasoning
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
- 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
- 1 tablespoon honey
- olive oil
- 1/4 cup each chopped fresh parsley and mint (taking out 1 tablespoon from each to put into meatballs)
- 1/2 pound whole wheat spaghetti, cooked to al dente according to package directions, reserving 1/2 cup of cooking liquid
- 2 cups plain Greek yogurt
- 1 cup grated Romano cheese
- 2 cups fresh baby spinach
- salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and prepare a baking sheet by lining it with foil and placing a wire rack on it. In a large bowl, combine the ground lamb, grated onion, grated garlic, steak seasoning, cumin, oregano, coriander, cinnamon, egg, bread crumbs, pine nuts, honey, and 1 tablespoon each of the chopped fresh mint and parsley. Mix together with hands until just combined, then form into 1 inch meatballs. You should get about 18-20 meatballs.
Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to a large skillet and heat over medium high heat. When oil ripples, add half of the meatballs, browning on each side before removing to the prepared baking sheet, about 2 minutes per side. Repeat with second batch of meatballs then place in oven, cooking for 15 minutes or until cooked through.
While meatballs bake, cook and drain pasta, reserving a half cup of the cooking water. Mix the yogurt, grated cheese, and pasta water together until you reach a sauce consistency. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper or to taste. Mix the sauce together with the cooked pasta and spinach. Plate pasta with 3-4 meatballs then top with a sprinkle of reserved fresh mint and parsley.
Yields 4-5 servings.