Orzo Pasta Salad with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes, Basil & Ricotta Salata
Pasta salad with the classic flavors of basil, cheese, and tomatoes but turned up to 11 with loads of crunchy vegetables, olives, and oven roasted cherry tomatoes. Feel free to vary this salad to your taste: roasted corn kernels or zucchini could be a good addition, the ricotta could be omitted for feta or small balls of fresh mozzarella, the kalamatas swapped out for a different olive, other herbs, like mint or parsley, added to the vinaigrette. Omit the cheese to make this vegan. Use a gluten-free pasta if you prefer – I especially like the fusilli from Bionaturae. And add a half cup of cooked chickpeas if you like a little more protein.
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Total: 45 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
- 1 pint (heaping)basket cherry tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- splash balsamic vinegar
- salt and pepper
- 1/2 pound dry orzo (I used whole wheat) or other small pasta such as fusilli
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small cucumber, peeled if the skin is tough or bitter, seeded and diced
- 1 small sweet pepper (such as bell or gypsy), seeded and diced
- 3 tablespoons finely diced red onion
- 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
- 3-4 ounces ricotta salata
- 1 large or 2 small cloves garlic
- 1 cup packed basil leaves, plus a few pretty leaves for garnish
- 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon salt, to taste
- 2 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
Position a rack in the upper-center of the oven and preheat to 400ºF.
Wash, dry, and stem the tomatoes. Place them in a shallow roasting pan or 10" oven-proof skillet, and drizzle with the olive oil, vinegar, a big pinch of salt, and a good grinding of fresh black pepper. Roast until the tomatoes have split, are collapsing, and oozing juices, about 30 minutes. Let them cool to warm in the pan.
Meanwhile, cook the orzo according to the package directions in well-salted water until al dente. Drain, rinse with cool water, and drain well. Place the orzo in a large bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil.
Add the cucumber, sweet pepper, onion, olives and ricotta, and toss to combine, seasoning with a big pinch of salt and a good grinding of black pepper. Set aside while you make the vinaigrette.
With a mortar and pestle, mash the garlic and salt to a paste. Work in the basil a little at a time until fairly smooth. (If your basil is old and tough, better to whizz everything together in a small food processor or blender.) Blend in the vinegar, then the olive oil.
Toss the salad with the vinaigrette. Gently lift the cooled tomatoes out of their juices (sop up the juices with a bit of bread for a treat) and scatter them atop the salad. Carefully spoon the salad into serving bowls or plates, and garnish with small basil leaves.
I like this salad when freshly made, but it keeps well, chilled, for up to a few days.
Nutritional values are based on one of six servings.
Calories: 316kcal | Carbohydrates: 35g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 7mg | Sodium: 496mg | Potassium: 400mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 27.2% | Vitamin C: 55.9% | Calcium: 6.6% | Iron: 8.3%