I can only think of two possible explanations why orzo exists:
1) Elaborate joke. “Look at this huge rice! But wait… joke’s on you. It’s not rice. It’s pasta. I just blew your mind!”
2) Elaborate mistake. Something went horribly wrong with the spaghetti machine and orzo happened.
Anyway, I’m glad that this joke and/or mistake happened at some point in history because orzo is one of my favorite ways to make pasta salad. This was one of my most recent versions of the dish that went over really well. It’s very fresh and reasonably healthy for a pasta salad.
1) For dressing, dice garlic clove and mash it together with salt in a small bowl to form a rough paste. Then whisk in lemon juice and olive oil and season with salt. You might not need all of the dressing.
2) Cook orzo according to package.
3) Dice all the veggies finely. Take your time to make sure they are even-sized. For the cucumber, be sure to scoop out the seeds and peel it.
4) Mix orzo with veggies and crumble in feta cheese.
5) Drizzle on dressing and stir well. Start with half the dressing and add more if you want. It should be very lightly dressed.
6) Stir in chopped avocado and sliced almonds and season with salt and pepper.
7) Serve room temperature or chilled!
Orzo. What are you?
I like to imagine that at some point in history there was an old Italian mother who learned how to make orzo by hand. She then promptly relegated the task to her children.
Whatever your job is, be thankful that it’s not making orzo by hand.
Luckily, orzo is much easier to cook than to make. Just boil it like you would any pasta, in a large pot of salted water. Check your orzo directions for cooking times, but you’ll probably want to cook it for around 8 minutes.
Be sure not to overcook the orzo or it will get really mushy. Mushy pasta is no good.
The Salad Ingredients
Besides the orzo, just a few simple vegetables and some feta cheese is all it really takes to make a great salad here.
I’ve given onion cutting lessons a few times on Macheesmo, but to review: The best way to cut an onion is to slice it in half down the root. Then lay it flat on a cutting board and cut off the stem end.
Remove the skin and slice the onion horizontally and vertically to form a grid.
Then you can easily turn the onion and dice it up.
Spend some time with the veggies in this recipe to make sure they are all chopped up evenly.
For the cucumber, be sure to scoop out the seeds and peel it.
Once your pasta is cooked and drained, toss it in with the veggies and stir everything together.
This is a good start, but it would taste a bit bland if you left it like this.
I recommend using a very light lemon and oil dressing for this salad. To start it, use the garlic technique from my ranch dressing recipe. Dice up the garlic finely and then mash it with the salt to form a rough paste.
Then just whisk in your lemon juice and olive oil and season it well with salt. You might not need all of the dressing for your salad. I recommend starting with half of the dressing and taste it. You can always add more, but it’s pretty hard to get dressing out of a pasta salad once it’s in there.
So go slow on it.
Some Good Add-ins
Besides the veggies, pasta, and dressing, I recommend tossing in some extra add-ins just to give the salad a bit more flavor.
First, feta cheese is a logical choice. It goes well with all the flavors and will give the salad some saltiness and creaminess.
Second, avocado. Who doesn’t love avocado?
Third, slivered almonds. They give the salad an awesome crunchy texture.
Stir this all together and serve it in a big old bowl.
You can serve this bad boy at room temperature or chill it.
It’s perfect as a side for a dinner party or you can make it and eat it for lunch during the week.
If you wanted to make a meal of it, you could grill some chicken or tofu and serve it on top of the salad. I think it’s a pretty filling salad as is though.
Give those orzo makers some business and give this a shot!