Summer can be challenging for a cook. There are lots of light and refreshing salads to make but when you want a more substantial meal, you also want to find a way to make it without turning your oven on if at all possible. I discovered this recipe in Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem cookbook and thought it sounded sort of disgusting. Pasta with a lukewarm yogurt sauce? Um, maybe? I should know by now to just trust Ottolenghi.
The pasta used here is conchiglie. Conchiglie is shell pasta. (I could have just called the recipe Shell Pasta with etc. but I learned to both spell and pronounce conchiglie so we’re sticking with that.) Conchiglie is a great pasta to pair with peas and pine nuts because they are small enough to snuggle into the pasta. Ever try eating spaghetti with peas? You are basically alternating mouthfuls of pasta and peas because you cannot get them on the same fork. No such problem here.
The sauce is incredibly easy to make. You combine yogurt, olive oil, peas and garlic in a food processor and blend until smooth. You cook your pasta, throwing the peas in during the last minute to cook them. While the pasta is going, you heat olive oil in a saucepan and add chile pepper of choice with the pine nuts to toast and spice them up. Then you slowly add your cooked pasta and peas to the yogurt sauce. The spicy pine nuts get added at the end along with some fresh dill and crumbed feta. That’s it. Ottolenghi used fresh basil. I did not have any and I quite like the pairing of peas and dill so I swapped that out. He said to use any Turkish or Syrian chile flakes and I chose aleppo flakes.
Also, this is a great recipe for people who are supposed to watch their salt. Other than salting the pasta water, there is no salt added to this dish. Skip the feta at the end to lower the overall salt even more.
The sauce is creamy and delicious, plus you get a little bit of kick from the pine nuts. Perfect for a hot day. As usual, I have modified the recipe to make a single person serving, exactly one bowl of pasta. You can multiply the recipe to feed more people.
Conchiglie with Yogurt, Peas and Pine Nuts
(Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem)
1 cup of conchiglie pasta shells
1/3 cup of fresh or frozen green peas plus one tablespoon, separated
2 tablespoons olive oil, separated
1 tablespoon pine nuts
1/4 to 3/4 teaspoon aleppo chile flakes (depending on heat preference)
1/4 cup greek yogurt
1/2 clove of garlic (or 1/4 teaspoon jarred minced garlic)
1 tablespoon fresh dill
1 tablespoon crumbled feta
Cook the pasta in well salted boiling water.
While the pasta is cooking, heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a small saucepan. When it is shimmering*, add the pine nuts and chile flakes and cook over medium heat until the nuts have browned and the oil is a deep red. Then set aside to cool.
In a food processor, combine remaining tablespoon of olive oil, one tablespoon of peas, and garlic. Puree until smooth and nicely green in color. (You may have a few chunks of pea in there. It will not hurt anything.)
Pour the sauce into a bowl and wait for the pasta to finish cooking. When the pasta has about one minute of cooking time left, add the rest of the peas to the pot. Strain the cooked pasta and peas. Add them SLOWLY to the bowl with the sauce. Too quickly and you add too much heat to fast and the sauce will separate. Mix it all together. Add the dill and feta and then sprinkle the pine nuts on top. (For even more heat, drizzle the oil from the pine nut saucepan too.)
* Instructions always say to wait until the oil shimmers. I find this instruction to be a bit difficult to follow depending on the lighting in the kitchen. Rather than “shimmers”, I would suggest “slithers”. Room temperature oil moves at a slow slide, but once oil has been heated, it moves much quicker. If you pick up the pan and tilt it back and forth, you can see how the oil moves around. When it starts snaking, you’re home.