A few weeks ago I wrote a recipe for a yummy Spinach Panzanella Salad – if you’ve not made it yet, go check it out! It’s a great end-of-summer salad as it has both cooked and raw elements, along with richer flavors that will be great in cooler weather.
At the same time I was suddenly very excited about orzo again. If you’ve not had orzo before, this is a great place to start. Orzo is tiny, rice-shaped pasta that can be used as a orzo pilaf tossed with vegetables, stirred into soup, and so much more. Here I’ve paired it with the same veggies as the Spinach Panzanella, for a fun twist. Basically, it’s the same set of veggies, served two different ways.
As the panzanella and the orzo are both grain products, be sure to find gluten-free/grain-free bread or pasta if that’s what you need to enjoy these simple vegan meals.
Here are some tips to make this recipe the best:
Find a good quality orzo, and read the cooking instructions. Taste the pasta while it’s cooking, to ensure the proper level of done-ness. Sometimes it cooks quicker on the outside than inside, and chewy orzo is not delicious in this salad. If anything, err on the side of slightly overcooked. Basically, what I’m saying is read the instructions for timing, taste anyway, and don’t walk away from the stovetop, as it cooks quite quickly!
I love using raw baby spinach here for its mild flavor, but this would be really good with some or all greens being replaced with arugula, or even some massaged kale (see my massaged kale tutorial here).
I LOVE sun-dried tomatoes for the rich, umami flavor and chewy texture. I buy dried sun-dried tomatoes and rehydrate with some hot water. Often I will fill a jar with the dried tomatoes, cover with water, and leave it in the fridge. This should stay fresh for about two weeks, giving you ample time to use them up. Pro tip: cut the tomatoes AFTER they have re-hydrated. They are a PITA to cut when dried. If you don’t have or don’t like dried tomatoes, of course fresh tomatoes would be GREAT! Chop up some multi-colored cherry or currant tomatoes and add those instead of (or in addition to) the dried tomatoes.
Easy Orzo Pasta Salad
2 cups orzo pasta
¼ cup olive oil
4-6 garlic cloves, minced finely
½ cup sun-dried tomatoes, soaked one hour in water
½ cup Kalamata olives (sliced or whole, optional)
½ cup chopped artichoke hearts
½ cup chopped, toasted walnuts
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
¼ tsp salt
Pinch of black pepper
1 cup fresh basil, sliced thinly
6 cups fresh spinach, sliced roughly
- Cook orzo according to package directions, then rinse in cool water and set aside to drain.
- In a small saucepan warm olive oil over medium-low heat. Add garlic, and cook until garlic is browned, about five minutes.
- To a large bowl, add sun-dried tomatoes, olives, artichokes, and walnuts. Pour on warm olive oil and garlic mixture, then add vinegars and salt and pepper. Toss to combine. You can let this marinate for an hour, up to overnight, or use immediately.
- Once ready to serve, to the tomato mixture, add the cooked orzo, basil, and spinach.
- Divide evenly among serving bowls. Serve as is, or add a splash of balsamic and olive oil, or a squeeze of lemon to serve.
- If serving later, keep all components separate until just before serving. Enjoy your salad al fresco while dreaming of Italian summers!
Yield: about 4 servings
I hope you enjoy this yummy vegan recipe!