Guys, I’ve got a terrific and a little-out-of-the-ordinary pasta salad for you today. It’s just perfect for bbq’s, picnics and other warm weather shindigs. Now we just have to actually get that warm weather. Here in the Northeast, it’s been rainy and downright cold for days and days—I know I sound whiny but I actually wore my winter jacket yesterday—what is up with that!?? And it’s cold and wet again today. Yikes! I want my spring! So I’ve decided to stop looking outside and go by the calendar instead and look what came out of my kitchen?This summery Orzo, Chickpea and Radicchio Salad! Hopefully it’s warm and sunny where you are but if it’s not, let’s will in the warm weather together!!
Are you a huge pasta salad fan? It’s generally not what I’d go for on the picnic table but that may be because a lot of them are swimming in mayo or heavy on the olives and deli meat (sorry just can’t go there) but this one, this one I love. It’s simple and light but has such an interesting combination of flavors.
First off, there’s the orzo and how can you go wrong when there’s pasta that sort of seems like rice?!! It’s the best of both worlds, right?
Then there’s the radicchio, which in addition to adding a bright splash of color to the salad, also adds a crunch and slight bitterness, balancing out the starchy sweetness of the orzo.
The chickpeas add that earthiness and a bit of texture.
And the Pecorino-Romano cheese and balsamic vinaigrette coat everything, giving it all such an addictive zing! YUM!
It’s also super easy to whip up—a boon when temps are climbing (fingers crossed that they will.)
And as much as I’ve been hawking this as a party dish, the fact is that it’s been great having around for quick lunches and afternoon instead-of-a-cookie pick me ups too! So you can add versatility to its many charms as well.
Now, if it would only stop raining…maybe a batch of ice cream or popsicles would help do the trick!! C’,mon, help me cook in the warm weather! Please!
Orzo, Chickpea and Radicchio Salad
Makes 10-12 servings
Prep Time: About 1 hour but much of this is waiting for the pasta to cool down
1 pound box orzo
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus extra for vinaigrette
8 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 garlic cloves, minced
One 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 small head radicchio, chopped finely
1 cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the orzo and the 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and cook according to the package directions, stirring often, until al dente. Drain in a colander and pour onto a rimmed baking sheet. Toss with 2 tablespoons of the oil and let cool completely, stirring to help it cool down. This should take about 20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile make the vinaigrette. Whisk the remaining oil, vinegar, garlic and a generous pinch of salt and pepper together in a small bowl.
3. Add the chickpeas, radicchio, Pecorino or Parmesan and the cooled orzo to a large bowl and toss. Pour the vinaigrette over it and toss again. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. You can serve this right away, but it’s better if it’s had a chance to sit for a little while to let the flavors develop. Give it about 30 minutes if you can, toss again and serve. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Note: Recipe adapted from Vegetables Illustrated by Cooks Illustrated. I tinkered a lot with this—left out the basil and upped the proportions so I wouldn’t be left with half a box of orzo and half a head of radicchio.