Refreshing Orzo Salad

Growing up, one of my favorite meals that my mom would make was Grecian orzo salad.  Recently, I was in the mood for orzo salad and I decided to try to replicate hers.  Thinking back, my mom’s orzo salad included Feta cheese, kalamata olives, and red peppers.  Well, I don’t like Feta cheese and I always dug around it in the salad bowl (sorry, mom!), and my grocery store didn’t have any organic red peppers.  Without those two, the kalamata olives just seemed a bit out of place.  So the Grecian orzo salad idea went out the window, and I decided to try my own orzo salad concoction.  Mine is fresh, light and simple – like my mom’s – but it’s not “Grecian.”  Ah, well, the best laid plans…

This was still pretty darn delicious.

Refreshing Orzo Salad with Shrimp

~2 cups cooked orzo pasta, chilled
1 long English cucumber, large dice
2 green bell peppers, large dice
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
~1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste
steamed shrimp

  • Combine orzo, cucumbers, bell peppers, and cherry tomatoes in large salad bowl and mix well.
  • In a separate bowl, vigorously whisk oil and lemon juice until the mixture emulsifies.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Pour dressing over salad and mix thoroughly until the pasta and veg are coated completely.  Add additional oil sparingly, and only if needed.
  • Serve with steamed shrimp (I tossed mine in lemon-pepper seasoning).

Source: Inspired by my mom!

Nota Baker: This pasta salad recipe makes a TON.  You will not, I promise, finish this in one day.  That’s intentional!  It makes a fantastic lunch for the next week or so.  I’m nothing if not thrifty!

Orzo with Sausage, Peppers and Tomatoes


This dish encompasses some of my very favorite things: adorable pastina, chicken sausage, and peppers.  It’s also easy… ridiculously easy.  You just start browning the sausage at the same time as you put the orzo’s water on to boil, and by the time the orzo is done, you have your sauce ready to go.  It doesn’t get much simpler than that, and the flavors are unbelievable, with sweet, crisp-tender peppers, tart fresh cherry tomatoes, and spiced sausage bits in every bite.

Orzo with Sausage, Peppers and Tomatoes

1/4 box orzo
1 package fresh sausage (I used garlic and tomato chicken sausage)
2 peppers, cut into strips
1/2 package cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered (depending on size)
salt and pepper

  • Start water to boil for the orzo.  When water is boiling, season with kosher salt, add orzo and cook according to the package directions.
  • Meanwhile, begin browning the sausage in a nonstick pan.  If the sausage is still in its casing, squeeze it out so that it is in a mass in the pan.  Break it up with a wooden spoon and distribute it so it browns in small chunks.
  • While the sausage is browning, cut the peppers into strips and prepare the cherry tomatoes.  After the sausage has made some good progress, add the peppers and tomatoes and stir to distribute them.  Continue to cook the sausage, peppers and tomatoes together, keeping a careful eye on the orzo.
  • When the orzo finishes cooking, drain it and add it to the pan with the sausage and vegetables.  Mix together and serve.


Yield: Serves two or three for a main course, four to six as a side.

Source: Adapted from Giada’s Kitchen, by Giada de Laurentiis

Note: The original recipe actually called for roasted red peppers in a jar, cut into strips.  This is usually a standard pantry item for me, so I didn’t even give it a second thought when I made my grocery list and it turned out that when I went to look for them in my pantry or fridge, I was out – who’d have thought?  Instead, I used sweet Hungarian peppers from my farmer’s market.  However, I think this recipe would work equally well with sauteed red, orange and/or yellow bell peppers, or with roasted red peppers from a jar.

Wine Pairing: Hubby and I are trying to work through the bulk of our wines these days, because we are preparing for a trip to Napa in about a week and a half, and we’re going to be bringing quite a bit home!  For this dinner, we poured Pinot Grigio from Doukenie Winery in Purcellville, Virginia.  Doukenie is our favorite winery in the region – we are actually members of the wine club there, which requires simply that we buy twelve bottles per year (easy; their wines are delicious).  Pinot Grigio is normally not my choice.  I once received a bottle as a gift and it had oxidized.  Ever since then, I have been turned off by Pinot Grigio and will almost always choose Sauvignon Blanc or a more obscure white instead.  But Doukenie’s PG is very nice, crisp and yet smooth, with mellow fruit aromas.  It’s making headway toward changing my mind about Pinot Grigio, and I think it worked well with this dish.  I’d also recommend a northern Italian white, or a lighter-bodied Italian red such as Barbera d’Asti.  If you substitute pork sausage for the chicken or turkey, you could pair it with Chianti and it would be delightful.  Enjoy!

Herbed Orzo


I came up with this herbed orzo to act as a simple foil to the flavorful balsamic roasted chicken I made on Saturday night – but it came close to stealing the show, at least if you ask me.  The smooth flavor of extra-virgin olive oil and the green bite of parsley and dill are perfect against orzo, my favorite pastina.  Sometimes it’s the low key side dishes that taste the best.

Herbed Orzo

1/2 cup dried orzo (0r other pastina)
1 1/2 tablespoons (approx.) extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped Italian Parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped dill
salt and pepper

  • Cook the orzo according to the package directions.
  • Drain the orzo and transfer to a large bowl.  Add remaining ingredients and toss to combine.  Season to taste and serve alongside roasted meat or chicken.

Source: Covered In Flour