Orzo Salad with Baked Vegetables and Basil Pesto

orzo pesto.jpgIf you are a fan of pesto you will just love this salad. Make it a couple of hours before serving time (or even longer) and the flavors will have a chance to develop more. I make my own pesto but you could substitute with store bought. Serve at room temperature with fresh mozzarella and you’ve got a vegetarian main, or a fantastic starter.

For the salad

  • 500 grams orzo pasta or any other small shaped pasta like shells or farfalle
  • 3 large aubergines, sliced in approximately 3 cm cubes
  • 3 courgettes, sliced in 5mm slices
  • 30 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 3-4 thyme sprigs
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 250 grams fresh mozzarella, torn
  • 2 Tbs parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 Tbs toasted pine nuts to garnish

For the basil pesto (You can substitute 2-3 Tbs store-bought pesto)

  • 25 grams pine nuts
  • 25 grams grated parmesan
  • 50 grams basil leaves
  • 50 ml olive oil
  • ½ garlic clove
  • a pinch of salt

Method

Preheat oven to 230 C. In a large baking tray put the aubergines, courgettes and cherry tomatoes. Mix the olive oil with the garlic and drizzle over the vegetables. Add the thyme and season with salt and pepper. Mix everything with a large spoon or use your hands. Bake vegetables for 30 minutes, stirring once.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the orzo and cook until al dente. Drain and rince with plenty of cold water to stop the cooking. Put in a large bowl. Add the baked vegetables and leave to cool.

Make the basil pesto. Toast the pine nuts in a small saucepan over medium heat, until slightly browned and fragrant. Throw the pine nuts in a blender together with the parmesan, basil leaves, garlic and a pinch of salt. Blend on high speed while slowly adding the olive oil in a steady stream, utnil everything is emulsified.

To serve mix the orzo and vegetables with 4 Tbs of the pesto (keep any left over pesto in a closed jar in the fridge, covered with olive oil). Adn mozarella and grated parmesan. Garnish with the pine nuts and serve.

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