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Dorothy Dean presents: Orzo pasta salad

Audrey Alfaro for Dorothy Dean: orzo pasta salad (Audrey Alfaro / Audrey Alfaro)
Audrey Alfaro for Dorothy Dean: orzo pasta salad (Audrey Alfaro / Audrey Alfaro)

Orzo means “barley” in Italian, but it’s actually a short-cut pasta in the shape of long grain rice.

Orzo can be used in soups, salads, pilaf, risotto, even casserole dishes. It’s versatility makes it a regular in my pantry.

This dish offers endless options in terms of the ingredients that can be added to it. Cucumbers, olives, onions, artichoke hearts, dill – the list goes on.

Served either hot or cold, this orzo pasta salad pairs well with fish or chicken, or makes a refreshing, light main dish on its own.

Orzo pasta salad

2 cups orzo pasta, uncooked

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon garlic, minced

6 cups fresh spinach, chopped

1 cup feta cheese crumbles

1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

2 cups tomatoes, diced

1/3 cup sliced almonds

1/4 cup Italian dressing

1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Juice from half a lemon

Salt and pepper, to taste

Garlic powder, to taste

Cook orzo pasta according to package directions. Then strain, toss with olive oil and set aside.

Drizzle olive oil in a large skillet and saute garlic over medium heat until softened. Add orzo pasta and spinach. Toss until spinach is just wilted. Remove from heat.

Fold in feta, basil, tomatoes, almonds, Italian dressing, balsamic vinegar and fresh squeezed lemon juice. Season to taste with salt, pepper and garlic powder.

Transfer to serving dish. Can be served hot or cold.