A few weeks ago my friend Jenni sent me a link to this recipe for Tzatziki Pasta Salad with the comment that, “it isn’t too Budget Bytes friendly (too many splurgy ingredients), but it’s really good!” I looked over the recipe and quickly decided that A) I needed to make it because it DID look really good, and B) I needed to budgetize it! My version, which I’m just calling Creamy Lemon Dill Greek Pasta Salad, is a little less splurgy, but still awesomely delicious! So good, in fact, that I almost ate a few forkfuls for breakfast this morning! 😜
Budget Swaps for Creamy Lemon Dill Pasta Salad
To make this pasta salad more budget friendly, I first had to identify the budget breaking ingredients, and there are a lot of them: Kalamata olives, sun dried tomatoes, feta, red onion, Greek yogurt, artichoke hearts, and fresh dill.
To minimize the budget-killing effect of these ingredients I had to either cut back or substitute where I could, while maintaining the “feel” of the recipe. Here’s what I did:
- I reduced the amount of feta in the salad to just 2oz. because feta is pretty potent, so I knew I could get away with using less.
- I used dried dill in place of fresh, and fresh tomatoes in place of sun dried (funny how one ingredient can be less expensive dried than fresh, but vice versa for a different ingredient).
- While I would have loved to have just reduced the amount of kalamata olives, I couldn’t find a good deal on them on this particular day, so they went on the cut list.
- Since I cut the olives, I kept the artichoke hearts. Nixing both would have deviated a little too far from that Greek salad feel I was going for.
- I kept the red onion, but vowed to make use of the leftovers either in another recipe or by pickling them.
- And lastly, I kept the Greek yogurt because that’s the cornerstone of the flavor profile, but made sure to buy one of the little cups that were on sale.
The resulting Creamy Lemon Dill Greek Pasta Salad might be a little more expensive than most pasta salads, but at $1.73 per large servings (1.5 cups each, give or take some) it’s still a bargain and is enough to make a nice light lunch.
Oh, one more thing! I know dried dill is not that common of an ingredient, so if you can’t get it or don’t want to buy it just for this recipe, oregano also goes great with these flavors. It will make a dressing very similar to the marinade for my Greek Marinated Chicken.
Creamy Lemon Dill Greek Pasta Salad
CREAMY LEMON DILL DRESSING
- 5 oz container plain Greek yogurt ($1.00)
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise ($0.28)
- 1 clove garlic, minced ($0.08)
- 1 fresh lemon ( $0.67)
- 1/4 tsp salt ($0.01)
- 1/4 tsp dried dill ($0.05)
- Freshly cracked pepper ($0.05)
- 1 lb. penne ($1.29)
- 1 cup grape tomatoes ($1.25)
- 1 cucumber (about 2 cups chopped) ($1.69)
- 15 oz. can quartered artichoke hearts ($2.59)
- 1/4 red onion ($0.34)
- 2 oz. feta ($1.12)
- Prepare the dressing first so the flavors have time to blend. Use a zester or small-holed cheese grater to remove the zest from the lemon. In a small bowl, stir together the Greek yogurt, mayonnaise, garlic, 1 Tbsp of the lemon juice, 1/2 tsp of the lemon zest, salt, dill, and some freshly cracked pepper (about 10-15 cranks of a pepper mill). Refrigerate the dressing until ready to use.
- Cook the pasta, in lightly salted water, according to the package directions. Drain the pasta and rinse briefly with cool water to bring the temperature down. Let the pasta drain until it's slightly dry and tacky on the surface.
- While the pasta is cooking, slice the cucumber, then cut the slices into quarter rounds. Slice the grape tomatoes in half. Finely dice the red onion. Drain the artichoke hearts, then roughly chop them. Crumble the feta cheese.
- Once the pasta is cooled and drained, Place it in a large bowl and combine with the cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, artichoke hearts, feta, and creamy lemon dill dressing. Stir to coat. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to eat.
Scroll down for the step by step photos!
Step by Step Photos
Begin by removing the zest from one lemon. You’ll need about 1/2 tsp of the zest for the dressing, but you can keep the rest to use as a garnish.
Prepare the dressing first, so the flavors have time to infuse into the yogurt. In a small bowl, stir together one 5oz. container of Greek yogurt, 1/4 cup mayonnaise, 1 clove of minced garlic, 1/2 tsp of the lemon zest, 1 Tbsp of the lemon’s juice, 1/4 tsp dried dill, 1/4 tsp salt, and some freshly cracked pepper. If you can’t find a single-serving container of Greek yogurt that is exactly 5oz, no worries. That part is flexible. It seems like every brand is a different size, but anywhere between 5-7oz. will be okay.
Refrigerate the dressing until you’re ready to use it.
Cook one pound of penne pasta in lightly salted water, according to the package directions. Once cooked, drain in a colander and rinse briefly with cool water to bring the temperature down. Let the pasta drain until it’s slightly tacky or sticky on the surface. This will allow it to grip the dressing better than really wet pasta.
While the pasta is cooking, prepare the rest of the salad ingredients. Slice about 1 cup of grape tomatoes in half, cut one cucumber into quarter rounds (about 2 cups), dice 1/4 red onion, drain and roughly chop one 15oz. can of quartered artichoke hearts, and crumble 2oz. of feta.
Combine the drained pasta, the vegetables, and feta in a large bowl.
Pour the creamy lemon dill dressing on top, then stir to coat.
And you’re done! You can garnish with any extra lemon zest or a light sprinkle of dried dill.
Fast, easy, delicious, and a little more budget friendly. ;)
…and I DID end up having a bowl of this Creamy Lemon Dill Greek Pasta Salad for breakfast as I wrote this post. LOL. What can I say? The photos got to me. :)