On my first night CouchSurfing in Haifa, Israel, in the cozy apartment of a young married couple, the three of us sat down, along with a local friend, at the table on the balcony to eat dinner – which, surprisingly, the men had prepared from start to finish, while the wife and I relaxed. There were more surprises to be had.
The meal was a nice pasta stir fry. I served myself a portion, and it was delicious, but little did I know that it would get better. The husband whipped out a bottle of organic roasted sesame tahini and started pouring some over his helping. Intrigued, although not expecting to fall in love with the combination, I tried some myself. I proved myself wrong; I fell head-over-heels in love. I love pasta, and I love tahini, so why did I think I wouldn’t love them together? Like strawberries and balsamic vinegar, or watermelon and feta, this unlikely food pairing turned out to be delectable.
I’ve got to start putting more faith in tahini (or some call it tahina); so many people in the Middle East already do! The Israelis love the paste so much that they’ve even made it a topping option at frozen yogurt and ice cream stores, right between the hot fudge and caramel!
Recently, I revisited my wonderful tahini-pasta experience by making some wheat pasta, the healthy alternative to regular pasta I always choose, and adding some tahini sauce. That is pretty much the extent of my culinary prowess, but below is a simple recipe I found on a blog called Cate’s World Kitchen that I think I could handle.
I loved watching Popeye as a kid and still jump at every opportunity to eat spinach to get nice and strong, so this recipe appealed to me most – although with its fun rhyming name, the “Tahini Rotini” recipe I also found came in a close second. (Find that recipe here.)
Lemon-Tahini Pasta with Spinach
8 ounces dried fusilli pasta
4 tbsp tahini
4 tbsp lemon juice
4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
a few pinches salt and pepper
one large bunch spinach, stems removed and chopped
While the pasta is cooking, pulse the tahini, lemon juice, and garlic in a food processor until smooth. After draining the pasta, stir in the spinach, mixing until it wilts. Add the lemony tahini sauce and a few pinches of salt and pepper for good measure…mix well…and enjoy!
Tahini immediately thickens pasta and adds creaminess. Pasta with tahini sauce or paste makes for a heavy, filling meal, but it also provides a great opportunity to exercise eating small portions! Most recipes that combine pasta and tahini, including the one above, are vegan-friendly, easy to make, and very tasty.
Image of boys eating spaghetti from Shutterstock