The bright tang of lemons really make this Lemony Orzo Salad shine. It’s one of those side dishes that works well for a summer picnic, or a potluck. It can be made in advance, served at room temperature or cold fresh from the fridge. I love to serve it with fish or chicken where it really shines.Jump to Recipe
You start by infusing the olive oil with the subtle hint of garlic, red pepper flakes and fresh lemon juice. Infusing olive oil sounds complicated and tough but it’s very simple and requires only a few minutes. You gently heat the olive oil over medium heat. You don’t want it to get too hot. Then toss in crushed garlic cloves that are still mostly in tact. You just want the garlic cloves to brown subtly. YOU DO NOT WANT TO BURN THEM. Sorry for yelling, but it’s necessary. It only takes five minutes or so to brown the garlic then you discard them. Five minutes of your time. That’s it. It’s worth babysitting the stove to make sure you don’t burn the garlic or you will have to start over. After that step the rest is downhill. See not so tough!
After the garlic is removed you add in the red pepper flakes and lemon juice. This will simmer as the liquid from the lemon juice cooks off and leaves you with an intense lemon reduction. Add in the lemon zest and the spinach and cook for a few minutes more until it’s wilted. Toss with the warm pasta then add in the tomatoes. Allow it to all cool for about 15-20 minutes then add in the mozzarella pearls or Ciliegine so they don’t melt. You can then either serve the Lemony Orzo Salad, or put it in the fridge covered to cool.
Lemony Orzo Salad
- 1 lb orzo pasta
- 1/4 C olive oil
- 5 oz fresh spinach
- 1 pt grape tomatoes
- 2 lemons zest & juice
- 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 1/4 tsp kosher salt Morton’s
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and slightly crushed
- 8 oz fresh mozzarella pearls or Ciliegine (small balls of fresh mozzarella)
- Boil your pasta according to package directions. While pasta is boiling heat olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add in the garlic cloves. Keep a watchful eye over them turning every minute or two. You want them to brown nicely and NOT to burn. This takes about five minutes. Once brown, remove them from the olive oil and discard. Zest the two lemons and set the zest aside. Add the red pepper flakes and juice from the two lemons into the skillet. It will boil violently for a little bit. Stir this around in the skillet for about one minute.Add in the lemon zest and cook for about 30 seconds. Then add in the spinach leaves. Cook until just wilted then pull off the heat. Drain your pasta and add it to a large bowl. Toss with the olive oil spinach mixture. Add in the salt and tomatoes. Stir well and allow to cool for 15 minutes or so. Add in the small mozzarella balls and toss some more. Serve warm, at room temperature or allow to cool in the fridge.
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