Mark Bittman: Greek Pasta

By Freya Bellin

An old classic like pasta salad could always use a little refreshing. This one channels a traditional Greek salad, and to much success. If you know you like bulgur, I would try doubling it straight off the bat and cutting down on some of the bowties. The texture combination is really great, but it gets lost if you don’t have enough bulgur in the mix. The cooked tomatoes flavor the rest of the dish with a light tomato sauce, and the olives add a nice brininess. You might experiment with smaller tomatoes, halved, in place of the larger wedges. The small ones, like grape or cherry tomatoes, are usually a little sweeter—a nice counterpoint to peppery arugula—and it would cut down the cooking time a bit as well. Be sure to let this sit before serving to allow the arugula to wilt and the flavors to meld. I enjoyed it most at room temperature anyway—perfect for leftovers. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.

Bowties with Arugula, Olives, Bulgur, and Fresh Tomato Wedges

Makes: 4 servings

Time: 30 minutes, largely unattended

Think of this as a Greek pasta salad; it’s bright and light and has the perfect mix of Mediterranean flavors. After you finish cooking, let it sit for a bit before serving so that the bulgur and bowties soak up the flavors and the arugula wilts a little; it works equally well served warm or at room temperature.

I cook the bulgur with the pasta here, which makes things easier, but it means you must use a strainer, not a colander, to drain the water. If you don’t have one, cook the bulgur separately. And for an earthier spin, try doubling the bulgur and reducing the quantity of pasta.


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small red onion, chopped

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 cup mixed olives, pitted and roughly chopped

Juice of 1 lemon

4 ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into thick wedges

1⁄2 cup crumbled feta cheese, or to taste

Black pepper

1⁄4 cup bulgur

8 ounces bowtie or other cut pasta, preferably whole wheat

3 cups torn arugula leaves

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Put the oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in the olives, then add the lemon juice, tomatoes, and feta. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook until the tomatoes are just heated through. Turn off the heat.

2. When the water comes to a boil, add the bulgur. Let the water return to a boil, then add the pasta. Cook the bowties until tender but not mushy (start tasting after 5 minutes). Reserve some of the cooking water, then drain in a strainer to trap the grains with the pasta.

3. Toss the pasta and bulgur with the tomato mixture, adding some of the cooking water if necessary. Stir in the arugula and taste and adjust the seasoning. Let the dish sit for up to 15 minutes. Stir again and serve.

From the award-winning champion of conscious eating and author of the bestselling Food Matters comes The Food Matters Cookbook, offering the most comprehensive and straightforward ideas yet for cooking easy, delicious foods that are as good for you as they are for the planet. The Food Matters Cookbookis the essential encyclopedia and guidebook to responsible eating, with more than 500 recipes that capture Bittman's typically relaxed approach to everything in the kitchen.