If you are looking for a healthy, zesty, delicious dish, this Mediterranean orzo is for you. Beautiful, delicate al dente pasta, tossed with amazingly fresh and full-of-flavor ingredients, make this the perfect side dish or even main course for a no-guilt meal. Exclude the salami and it is also a delicious vegetarian option.
I’ve been making orzo this way since my boys were little. It is my take on the spinach orzo pasta that Romano’s Macaroni Grill used to serve. I had it once and was so hooked I had to go home and try to re-create it. I see it is no longer on their menu, but it is still featured occasionally at my house!
One of the bigger differences between my version and the one from Macaroni Grill is the addition of the salami. That is why I list it as optional. Since I try to live low-carb, whenever I indulge, I try to add as much fiber and protein as I can. The salami adds the protein. I love salami, it fits the flavor profile, and it adds another layer to a dish enriched with layers. But make yours with or without, as you prefer.
And the best thing about this dish (after the amazing flavor, that is) is how quickly it comes together. Delicious, fast, and easy? Where do we line up?
Let’s Make Some Mediterranean Orzo with (or without) salami
How can you go wrong with a list of ingredients like that? And they look just like me too, don’t they? Just looking at the picture makes my mouth water.
I have seen recipes for this dish that call for onions as well. I love onions, as you can probably tell from some of my other recipes. But because they add sweetness when cooked, I prefer to exclude them here. I want this dish as savory as it can be, so I avoid any hint of sweetness, other than the sun-dried tomatoes.
Another thing I avoid from other recipes is lemon zest. I have seen recipes that call for quite a bit of it. Me? I stick with lemon juice to add some brightness at the end, but avoid the zest. I find that the zest overpowers any leftovers when they are reheated, turning the dish a little bitter.
You will want to start by cutting the spinach and radicchio into 1/4-inch ribbons, coarsely chopping the olives and sun-dried tomatoes, dicing the garlic, and cubing the salami slices (if including) while your water boils for the pasta.
When your water is boiling, add some salt and drop in your orzo and stir well. Cook according to the package instructions for an al dente pasta, which my box told me was about 9 minutes.
About halfway through cooking your pasta, heat a large skillet to medium and sauté the garlic in the olive oil just until tender and very fragrant. There should be no browning.
Then add the radicchio, sun-dried tomatoes, and olives.
The radicchio goes in now because it is a very firm and somewhat bitter leafy vegetable that will soften and mellow out the longer it is in the heat. I like to add the sun-dried tomatoes and Kalamatas at the same time so that their flavors are infused into the cooking oil and the other ingredients, as opposed to being isolated tastes in the finished dish.
Cook, stirring frequently, just until the radicchio has wilted.
The orzo should be ready about now. Strain the pasta and add it, along with the spinach, to the skillet.
Stir to distribute everything evenly.
Salt and pepper to taste.
Toss the contents of the pan just until the spinach starts to wilt.
Then turn off the heat and remove the pan from the burner.
At this point, I add the lemon juice and stir. Then I add the Parmesan and stir. And finally, I add the salami and stir.
Then take all that gorgeous mix of savory deliciousness to the table!
I transferred mine to a serving dish for your benefit only. At home, we serve ourselves right out of the pan.
Look at those colors and layers! And the aroma! It looks like a bunch of gorgeous, delicious-smelling food confetti. And every little piece contributes it’s share to the flavor. It’s savory, luscious, rich and tangy, all bound together with the velvety olive oil.
All this under 30 minutes. You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to taste! So, get going and make yourself some Mediterranean orzo. I promise you won’t regret it!
- ¾ cup orzo
- 2 tablespoons quality olive oil
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1½ cup (1 very small head) radicchio leaves, cut into ¼-inch ribbons
- 3 tablespoons Kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
- 3 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, coarsely chopped
- 4 cups (4 ounces) baby spinach leaves, cut into1/4-inch ribbons
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- ⅛ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 10 deli slices of dry Italian salami, in ¼-inch squares (optional)
- In a medium-sized pot, boil lightly salted water for the orzo.
- Cook according to package instructions for al dente pasta, which is about 9 minutes.
- Halfway through cooking the orzo, sauté the garlic in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook just until the garlic is softened and very aromatic, but not browned.
- Then add the radicchio, sun-dried tomatoes, and Kalamata olives. Cook just until the radicchio is wilted.
- Strain the orzo, and add it to the skilled along with the spinach.
- Stir to evenly distribute all the ingredients, adding salt and pepper to taste.
- When the spinach is just wilted, turn off the heat and remove the pan from the burner.
- Add the lemon juice and stir, then the Parmesan cheese and stir, and finally the salami (optional) and stir.
- Serve warm.