I know, I know. This blog needs another finicky stuffed pasta recipe like I need another hole in my head. The labneh angle isn’t exactly new either. But I’m hoping against hope you can find a place in your heart for this Labneh Tortellini Watermelon Salad. It just wants to love you and spare you from the torture of preheating an oven in the middle of August. Oh, and it’s tangy, briny, salty and sweet. It’s all your favorite adjectives, so let’s get to know it better.
I realize that many of my recipes could easily be dubbed “inaccessible”. But I don’t believe they are and I don’t think you should either. Sure, my recipes aren’t generally breezy 30-minute affairs. My recipes are projects, but they are projects you get to eat, so really, they’re the best possible projects. I just used the word “projects” three times in a single sentence. I sure do write good.
So, you might be wondering, dear reader, why on earth I write these lengthy recipes? It seems stupid, right?! I mean, the Internet has given all of us the attention span of a gnat. No one wants to spend 4 hours let alone 1 on really anything. When I’m working with clients, I am forever being asked to make a recipe shorter, to cut an ingredient, or condense 2 steps into 1. I, of course, oblige because I value a healthy revenue stream. But it always makes me a little sad. Not because I’m an *artiste* with a vision that is being horrendously compromised. No, it’s because I value cooking as a stress reliever and I want others to see it that way. Cooking is an indulgence, not a chore. For me, cooking isn’t about efficiency, it’s about the journey.
Okay, so this might be the point where you tell me to “check my damn privilege”. I am fully aware that I am writing this while trapped in my own very narrow perspective. I am a 31-year-old, childless woman who works with food for a living. Of course, I can afford to be romantic about food prep. But not every night is a weeknight and making a habit of setting aside time to play in the kitchen is a worthy enterprise. Sunday long cooks were something I grew up with and still deeply value, so file my recipes away for that. Everything can’t be about reducing prep time and near instant gratification. It just can’t. No, I am literally pleading with you. Don’t let it be. Please, for my sake, make coq au vin the Julia way. We can’t lose the long way, I need the long way.
Okay, I will now stop being intolerably earnest and talk about this damn tortellini. I love this Labneh Tortellini Watermelon Salad because it’s light and refreshing while still being substantial. And true to my previously outlined “Long way” manifesto, it provides you with a delicious opportunity to practice your pasta making skills as well as your folding skills. Depending on who you are, that is very strongly a win/win scenario.
Before I get too far, I should mention that labneh comes in many different forms. The labneh used in this Labneh Tortellini Watermelon Salad is made using the method practiced in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, and Syria. Unlike the tortellini, this form of labneh is very easy to make. All you do is stir some salt into a tub of whole fat yogurt, plop it in the center of some cheesecloth and hang it for 6 hours. That’s it! You can untie it and enjoy. And yes, crackers love labneh just as much as you think they do.
Now, you may recall me whipping up a batch or two of labneh in the past. I think at some point I may have declared that cream cheese was dead to me. I was mad with labneh power, so maybe that was extreme. But labneh does taste like the tangy-er cousin to the favored bagel spread. So, if you’re thinking of parting ways with cream cheese, labneh is for sure a viable alternative. And it’s a hell of a lot easier than making your own cream cheese.
So, that’s the filling for the tortellini. Now, let’s talk about the tortellini itself. I have once again employed my favorite pasta recipe that, you may remember, I nerded out hard to cultivate. Honestly, making pasta is nothing to be afraid of, particularly if you have a pasta roller to call your own. And it doesn’t have to be motorized, manual pasta rollers are great too, some people argue they’re better. I don’t know, I use the same damn KitchenAid pasta attachment to roll my dough everytime. I’m happy in my rut, so if you want to learn more about the virtues of manual pasta rollers, you will have to refer to other food nerds who are more learned than I.
Anyway, so now you have your sheets of pasta all rolled out and they look great, better than you ever dared dream. So, what do you do now? Well, I’m going to lie to you, this is when things get a touch masochistic. Folding tortellini is kinda hard. There is definitely a learning curve involved and it isn’t a pretty process. I mean, after you fold 10, things get a lot smoother but getting to that 10 can be, erm, frustrating.
I don’t want to discourage you from making this Labneh Tortellini Watermelon Salad, I just want you to go in with your eyes open. There is nothing I find more discouraging than “easy” recipes that turn out to be anything but. No one needs an extra shame spiral in their lives. So, yes, tortellini is tough but it so satisfying and surprisingly addictive. Who knows, you might become obsessed and turn into the next Salty Seattle. Dare to dream.
Everything else in this Labneh Tortellini Watermelon Salad is fairly straightforward. Watermelon, black olives, pistachios, radicchio, and of course, avocado because avocado is always invited. Nothing crazy, nothing nuts. It’s 2018, Pinterest has normalized the concept of using watermelon in a salad, so I won’t even mention it as a selling feature. So, that’s the it. That’s all you need to know about this salad, except the recipe, so keep on scrollin’.
Labneh Tortellini Watermelon Salad with Lemon Dill Vinaigrette
Labneh Tortellini Watermelon Salad
- 1 batch Labneh Tortellini see below
- 1/2 a mini seedless watermelon cut into thin triangles
- 1 head radicchio leaves torn into bite-sized pieces
- 1 avocado diced
- 1/2 cup orange grape tomatoes halved
- 1/4 cup Kalamata olives halved
- 1 batch Lemon Dill Vinaigrette see below
- 2 tablespoons salted pistachios coarsely chopped
- 1 750g tub Greek yogurt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 large piece of cheesecloth
- 1 batch Labneh see above
- 170 g 6oz semolina flour
- 170 g 6oz 00 flour
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 whole eggs
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon water
Lemon Dill Vinaigrette
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon fresh dill finely chopped
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red peppers
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
For the Labneh
- In a medium-sized bowl combine the salt and yogurt. Lined another bowl with three layers of cheesecloth and pile the yogurt mixture into the center. Gather the edges of the cheesecloth together to form a bundle. Suspend the bundle over the sink, I tie mine to my faucet, and let hang for 6 hours.
- Unwrap the labneh and transfer it to a bowl. Refrigerate until ready to use.
For the Tortellini
- Whisk the salt, semolina, and 00 flour together in a large bowl. Form a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the eggs, yolks, and water to the center. Take a fork and whisk the eggs. Gradually start working the dry ingredients into the wet until a dough begins to form.
- Use your hands to work the dough into a ball. Wrap the ball tightly in plastic wrap and leave it to rest for 1 hour.
- Unwrap the dough and divide it into 8 parts. Keep the sections loosely wrapped as you work through the dough.
- Take one section and, using a pasta roller, roll the section out into a thin sheet. I rolled mine out to setting #5 on the KitchenAid Pasta Attachment. Dust the sheet with semolina and, using a 2-inch cookie cutter, cut-out as many rounds as you can. Gather up the scraps of dough and wrap in plastic to retain the moisture.
- Fill a small bowl with a little water and transfer the labneh to a pastry bag with a wide tip. Pipe roughly 1/2 a teaspoon of the labneh onto the center of each of the rounds. Dip a finger in the water and trace the edge of one of the rounds. Fold the round over itself to form a half-moon. Press the edges to form a seal. Dab each point of the moon with a little water and wrap the tips around your index finger so they meet in the center. Tuck one tip behind the other and press to seal. Repeat with the remaining rounds and transfer them to a baking sheet dusted with semolina flour and set aside.
- Repeat these steps with the remaining pasta dough sections and any scraps you collect.
- Once all the tortellini is folded, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Liberally salt the water and add the tortellini. Cook for 3 minutes or until al dente.
- Drain the tortellini and rinse in cold water. Toss the tortellini a little olive oil and transfer the pasta to the fridge until ready to use.
For the Vinaigrette
- Place all of the ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and whisk to combine. Refrigerate until ready to use. Give the dressing a quick whisk just before using.
For the Salad
- Place the tortellini, watermelon, radicchio, avocado, tomatoes, and olives in a large bowl. Pour the vinaigrette over top and toss to coat. Sprinkle the salad with pistachios and additional fresh dill.
- Serve immediately.