A simple orzo salad with fresh summer produce — zucchini and tomatoes, tossed together with chickpeas, basil and parmesan cheese. Delicious and healthy!
What is Orzo?
Orzo, also known as risoni or kritharáki (in Greece), may resemble a grain of rice, but it’s actually a short, rice-shaped pasta. Just like standard pasta, most orzo is made with durum semolina wheat flour, but if you’re lucky, you may be able to find whole wheat orzo at your local organic food store. Either are an excellent choice for this recipe.
Well, first of all its salad. And we all know I love salads. But when summer rolls around, I love to enjoy really fresh market vegetables and not just in a green salad. And that’s why I choose to make a substantial salad with a small amount of pasta (only 250 g!) and my go-to legume… chickpeas. I love chickpeas in pasta dishes! Speaking of which, have you tried my ravioli and chickpeas recipe? The second thing I love about this orzo salad is fresh raw zucchini. Yes, raw. Raw zucchini is terrific in salads. And if you have chance, pick up a small yellow and green zucchini. This is exactly the time to enjoy summer squash. The lemon and parmesan really highlight them, making the dish deliciously fresh and summery, while the roasted pine nuts add a nice crunch and extra flavour.
There are a number of variations worth making. Here are just a few ideas:
- Use feta cheese in place of grated parmesan.
- Substitute toasted slivered almonds for the pine nuts.
- Add other vegetables…a handful of shredded spinach, other herbs or maybe roasted red peppers.
- Skip the cheese to make it vegan and some capers.
Let me know what variations you try in the comments!
Orzo Salad with Zucchini and Chickpeas
For the salad:
- 250 g orzo pasta (risoni)
- 1 x 400 g can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 250 g grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 small zucchini, very thinly sliced (or 1 medium zucchini, sliced into super thin half moons)
- 35 g freshly grated parmesan cheese
- generous handful fresh basil leaves, slivered
- 30 g pine nuts (ca 3-4 tablespoons)
For the dressing:
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, or more to taste
- 2 shallots, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare the pasta according to the instructions on the package, cooking until al dente. Drain well and run under cold water.
Meanwhile, toast the pine nuts: In a dry skillet over medium heat, warm the pine nuts until they’re turning lightly golden on the sides and fragrant (be careful not to let them burn). Transfer them to a bowl to cool.
In a large serving bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, shallot, garlic, salt and several twists of black pepper until combined.
Add the couscous to the bowl and toss to coat with the dressing. Top the couscous with the toasted pine nuts, chickpeas, tomatoes,, zucchini. Toss add parmesan, pine nuts, and basil. Stir to combine.
Season with salt and pepper to taste, and add an extra tablespoon or two of lemon juice if it needs more brightness. For the best flavour, refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving. This salad will keep well, covered and refrigerated, for up to 4 days. Enjoy!
- If you stumble across summer squash at your local market, this is a great salad to combine both yellow and green zucchini. Instead of a medium zucchini, use one small green one and a small yellow one.
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