Pasta, Salads, Vegetarian
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Mediterranean Orzo Pasta Salad

Mediterranean Orzo Pasta Salad with Artichokes, Red Pepper, Zucchini, Olives, Sun-dried Tomatoes and Feta

Nothing beats a good orzo pasta salad recipe and this one is goooood. Quick and easy to make, I particularly love this recipe because not only is it packed full of fresh and tasty ingredients, it also makes for fantastic leftovers. You could really call this a “deliberately-made for leftovers” pasta salad. The next day, it’s that good. Dressing this salad while it’s warm definitely helps give the flavors a chance to mingle, but overnight in the fridge, let’s just say, they have a party. All those tasty flavors mix and mingle and make friends with one another.

I called this a Mediterranean orzo pasta salad because the most obvious inspiration is the classic Greek salad, except I subbed out fresh tomatoes for sun-dried ones, and zucchini for cucumber. Plus, I added sweet pointed red pepper and artichokes, because I love them so much and I couldn’t let this salad be without them. I usually pick up fresh marinated artichoke hearts from my favorite local delicatessen but there are also fantastic fresh ones sold in organic/natural food supermarkets, packaged and marinated in herbs (I get mine at Alnatura).

Mediterranean Orzo Pasta Salad Bowl with Artichokes, Red Pepper, Zucchini, Olives, Sun-dried Tomatoes and Feta

Mediterranean Orzo Pasta Salad with Artichokes, Red Pepper, Zucchini, Olives, Sun-dried Tomatoes and Feta

Mediterranean Orzo Pasta Salad with Artichokes, Red Pepper, Zucchini, Olives, Sun-dried Tomatoes and Feta

You can serve the salad right away or chilled, since it can be made ahead of time… y e s … huge bonus. And like I said, it will taste even better the day after the flavor party. Just cover and keep in the fridge — it will keep in refrigerated for 2-3 days.

Perfect for lunches, you could even jump on the because-they-are-fun-to-eat-out-of Mason jar trend for a ready-to-go transportable lunch. What better than a Mason jar for maintaining the three R’s (reduce, reuse and recycle)? :-)

For leftovers (a.k.a lunch), I sometime add chopped Napa cabbage (Chinese cabbage) — it has a delicate taste and is a nice change from conventional greens — or a handful of baby arugula leaves is also a great choice. Enjoy!

Mediterranean Orzo Pasta Salad
Serves 4

For the salad:
2 cups dried orzo pasta (400 g)
dash of extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium zucchini, diced
1-2 sweet pointed red pepper, finely chopped
1 small red onion, finely chopped
6 sun-dried tomatoes (packed in olive oil), finely chopped
150 g marinated artichoke hearts (preferably fresh from a delicatessen), drained and coarsely chopped
10-12 mixed olives (pits removed), coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano (if available, use 1 tablespoon fresh)
100 g sheep’s feta cheese, crumbled (about half a package)

For the dressing:
4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

METHOD:
1. Fill a large pot with cold water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat and add the orzo. Cook according to packet instructions, until al dente, drain and set aside.

2. Meanwhile in a small skillet heat a little olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the zucchini, season with salt and pepper and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a large salad bowl.

NOTE: I cook the zucchini just ever so slightly, and remove it from the heat before it starts to really soften.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, garlic, vinegar, salt, pepper and parsley. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until well combined.

4. Add the orzo to the salad bowl along with the red pepper, red onion, sun-dried tomato, artichokes, olives and oregano. Gently mix together.

5. Toss the dressing with the salad. Sprinkle with feta cheese and enjoy!

TIP: If time allows, set aside for 20 minutes and serve at room temperature. This will allow the flavors time to meld together.

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