Orzo Salad with Pesto and Tomatoes

I mentioned  I spent Monday night whipping up batch after batch of basil pesto- yum! So of course pesto made an appearance on the dinner menu this week. After getting home from the gym last night I through together this super quick and easy Orzo Pasta salad for dinner.
I started by grabbing a container of pesto from the freezer that I made on Monday. I left it sitting on the counter while I headed to the gym. NEVER defrost your pesto in the microwave. It will wilt the basil and cause the oil and parmesan to separate from the basil. Below is the pesto recipe I used.
Basil Pesto
2 cups basil leaves
¼ cup toasted pine nuts
1 clove garlic
½ cup grated Parmesan (use the real stuff)
Scant 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon pepper
Toast the pine nuts on a baking sheet at 350 degrees until lightly brown, about 5-6 minutes (make sure you watch them-pine nuts are way too expensive to chare). Add all ingredients and half the olive oil in a food processor. Blend together and then drizzle in the remainder of the olive oil while the food processor is running. Blend until smooth. I usually have to stop and scrap down the sides with a spatula once. Adjust the salt and pepper to your taste. I typically add about ¼ teaspoon more salt.
Now for the Orzo…
Orzo Salad with Pesto and Tomatoes
2/3 cup orzo
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
4-5 tablespoons basil pesto
2 cups fresh spinach
2 cups romaine (or lettuce of your choice)
1 cucumber, rough chopped into bit size pieces
Cook the orzo according to the package’s directions. While the orzo to cooking, wash your vegetables and prepare the base for your pasta salad. I made a bowl of salad for dinner and another bowl for lunch the next day. Toss your lettuce and spinach together and then top with the chopped cucumber.
When the orzo finishes, drain the water and then add the pesto and tomato halves to the orzo. Give it a stir, add more pesto as needed and test your salt and pepper. When you are ready add a scoop of the orzo to the top of your salad and voila- instant dinner (plus lunch for tomorrow)!
I think this would also be delicious to either sauté the tomatoes with garlic before adding them into the pasta, or to use sundried tomatoes.

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