If there’s one ingredient that is used and loved in many cuisines around the world, it is yoghurt. It was one of the first foods that we fed to our babies, and is a staple on our dinner tables every night, either on its own, or in a raita or curry. Later we discovered even more magical ways of using it – for example, in cakes and muffins, where yoghurt’s tang and richness contributes to tender and tasty baked goodies. Yoghurt panna cottas, parfaits, popsicles, semifreddo and gelato are all delicious, and these desserts play on yoghurt’s creamy tartness to impart a decadent mouth-feel while still keeping things light and refreshing.
While many of the desserts we’ve tried with yogurt are Italian, it seemed that we had rarely seen yogurt used in savoury Italian dishes, unlike Greek food where it is a mainstay. A little digging around the internet however showed us how little we knew. Italians were using yoghurt in all sorts of applications like tart fillings, inside ravioli, fritters, sauces, marinades, bechemel and more. And thus it came about that we thought of creating a summery dish that showcases this beautiful ingredient in one of our favourite cuisines – Italian.
The other ingredient that’s a star in our salad today is vegetables. When one looks at vegetables in Italian cuisine, it is fresh, local and seasonal produce that is used. And then, there’s not much that’s done to it..just quick cooking and simple dressings that don’t mess with the integrity of the flavours and textures.
So, for our pasta dish today we just cut the veggies into large strips and grilled them. Grilling is a fantastic way to keep the veggies juicy and tender-crisp and even if you just use a grill pan in the kitchen. The sizzle and char of the grill bring out the flavours in even bland vegetables like zucchini, amp up the sweet pungency of onions and accentuate the piquancy of bell peppers.
We used yoghurt and tomato paste in the marinade for creaminess and colour, along with garlic and a little seasoning. It is important not to marinate the vegetables for too long, or else they will start losing their juices and become watery.
Any good quality short cut of pasta can be used in this salad. We’ve used Del Monte’s Chifferi Rigati, which looks almost like elbow macaroni, but with ridges along its length that help the sauce to cling on to the pasta. We cooked the pasta as recommended by the good folks at Del Monte – in plenty of generously salted water, as this is the only chance to flavour the pasta itself.
Grilled fresh vegetables, al dente pasta and a garlicky yoghurt dressing make this pasta a firm family favourite. We make it a lot in the summer, since it is light and cooling, waist-friendly and comes together quickly. And if you need a dish for a potluck or picnic, our Creamy Pasta Salad with Grilled Veggies is perfect since it tastes wonderful at room temperature as well.
We like to make a big batch and stock this mayo and cheese-free yet satisfying pasta dish in our refrigerators to have on hand for a quick meal. You can even add grilled chicken chunks or prawns to the dish to make it even more hearty.
Creamy Pasta Salad with Grilled Veggies
Servings – 4 Serving size – 1 heaped cup salad
Preparation time – 30 minutes Cooking time – 15 minutes
Special Equipment – Grill pan or outdoor grill, or use an iron tava or even an OTG
For the grilled vegetables –
- Marinade –
- ¼ cup thick yogurt
- 2 cloves garlic, mashed to a paste*
- 1 teaspoon tomato paste
- ¼ teaspoon freshly grated pepper
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning or mixed dried herbs
- ¼ teaspoon red chilli flakes, or to taste
- Salt to taste
- 1 onion
- ½ zucchini
- ½ red pepper
- ½ yellow pepper
- 3-4 baby corn
- 8-10 asparagus spears or 3-4 spring onion greens
- 1 tablespoon oil
- Mix together all the ingredients for the marinade in a small bowl.
- Peel and then cut the onion into wedges, keeping the root intact so that the pieces stay together. Cut the zucchini into 4 sections length-wise. Cut the peppers into 1″ thick strips. Slit the babycorn lengthwise. Trim away the woody asparagus ends or if using spring onions, cut them lengthwise.
- Preheat a grill pan on medium heat, and brush it with a little oil.
- Toss the veggies in the marinade and immediately place them on the hot grill. Do not crowd the veggies on the grill, you can grill them in batches instead. Remember to clean the tava with a paper napkin and then drizzle oil before you grill the next batch. Grill the veggies on both sides until softened and starting to char, but still crisp.
- Once grilled, cut the veggies into smaller, bite-sized pieces. Set aside to cool.
For the salad –
- 1.5 cups Del Monte Chifferi Rigati
- 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup thick yoghurt
- 4 cloves garlic, mashed to a paste*
- ½ teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon honey or sugar
- ¼ teaspoon freshly grated pepper
- Salt to taste
- ½ cup fresh basil, loosely packed
- A few lettuce leaves, cherry tomatoes, olives and pickled chillies for garnish
- Boil the pasta as per the directions on the package, taking care to keep it al dente. Drain and then toss the pasta with the extra virgin olive oil. Set aside to cool.
- To make the dressing whisk together the yoghurt, garlic, lemon juice, honey, pepper and salt until smooth. Taste and season if necessary.
- Put the pasta in a large mixing bowl. Add the fresh basil, tearing up the leaves into bite-sized pieces. Reserve a quarter cup of the dressing and pour the rest over the pasta. Toss well. Add the grilled veggies to the bowl and mix very gently.
- If you are not serving the pasta right away, refrigerate it and the reserved dressing separately in closed containers. Mix in the reserved dressing just before serving. If serving immediately, add in the reserved dressing only if the salad looks dry.
- Transfer the salad to a serving bowl lined with lettuce. Add cherry tomatoes, olives and pickled chillies for garnish, as desired.
* To mash garlic by hand for this recipe, smash the pods with the side of a heavy knife. Remove the skins, then chop the smashed garlic into smaller pieces and mash them up using the side of the knife, adding a few grains of salt to provide an abrasive. You can also use a pestle and mortar.
We’re sending our Creamy Pasta Salad with Grilled Veggies to Del Monte’s #DelMonteItalianEscapades campaign
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