Orzo is making a comeback. Overshadowed for years by its smaller, cuter cousin couscous, orzo is looking to regain the title of everyone's favorite tiny pasta. Inspired by spinach and artichoke dip, this vibrant green orzo spinach salad is an easy hit. A welcome departure from the standard pasta salad, this dish makes a delightful addition to picnics and potlucks. All by itself, the salad makes for a light, but substantial lunch. At gatherings and dinnertime, it serves as a distinctive, yet versatile side dish. It’s also a great vegetarian dish to have in your repertoire.
Using freshly steamed artichoke hearts will give the dish nutty, buttery depth, but if that’s too much work, canned artichokes are just fine—simply rinse and drain before using. You may also be able to find prepared hearts in the fresh-packed area of the produce section.
To really emulate the flavors of artichoke dip, substitute Gruyere for the fontina and consider topping with freshly toasted breadcrumbs. For a hearty meal, pair with grilled poultry or pork, soup, or sandwiches.
- 1 head garlic
- 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (plus extra for roasting garlic)
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt (plus more for seasoning)
- 8 ounces orzo pasta
- 5 ounces baby spinach (divided)
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice (fresh squeezed, divided)
- 6 ounces artichoke hearts (cooked, roughly chopped or broken into bite-size pieces)
- 3 ounces fontina cheese (cut into 1/4-inch cubes)
- 1/3 cup parmesan cheese (grated)
- 1/4 cup parsley (chopped and loosely packed)
- Black pepper (to taste)
Gather the ingredients.
Roast the garlic. Slice off the top of the garlic bulb, exposing the cloves. Drizzle lightly with oil and roast in an oven or toaster oven at 350 F for about 30 minutes, or until the cloves are lightly browned and tender. Once cool, peel the garlic cloves.
While the garlic is roasting, bring a pot of water to boil (2 quarts is plenty) and add about kosher salt. Add the orzo and cook, stirring a couple of times to prevent sticking, until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Place half of the baby spinach, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, and 4 tablespoons of the olive oil into a food processor and puree until smooth.
Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small saute pan over medium heat. Add the remaining spinach and saute to wilt, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.
In a large bowl, fold the spinach puree into the cooked orzo. Add wilted spinach, artichokes, roasted garlic cloves, cheeses, parsley, and remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Toss to combine and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve immediately or cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.