Friday 9 November 2012

Speedy orzo chicken and pesto salad

Let me introduce you to my new favourite pasta, although I'm sure you are all long acquainted and I've just been left out of the party.

I've been mildly aware of orzo pasta for a while now. I've seen the dinky little packages holding equally dinky pasta on the deli shelf. But I thought that such tiny little pieces wouldn't, or couldn't satisfy a serious appetite.

But I was proved wrong. I watched an episode of "Nigellissima"(that if I'm totally honest made me cringe a bit...partly because of the name...but that never-the-less I couldn't stop watching) in which she made an orzo risotto in practically no time at all. I reasoned that if you can make something, that quickly, that would satisfy the less than tiny appetite that I'm sure Nigella would be the first to admit she has, then it was worth a try.

But not risotto, on the look out for  new lunch box ingredients I found that orzo is perfect, a great alternative to quinoa, couscous or rice salads. Another vehicle for lovely textures and flavours that cooks in just seven minutes, giving you an extra four or five precious minutes on busy mornings.

This is one of those quick put together salads.  The kind that's good to make with fridge leftovers from supper the night before. I  used chicken thighs that I de-boned, flattened, seasoned and then quickly panfried whilst the pasta was cooking to make this, but left over chicken would work fine. I used cheats  store bought green pesto and a bag of salad leaves...all for speed.  I haven't even put any quantities for the ingredients...just do it to taste, remembering that the orzo double's in size. This combination works really well together.

Chicken and Pesto orzo salad:


orzo pasta
red pepper
spring onion
pesto sauce
salad leaves
balsamic vinegar
sea salt
black pepper
olive oil


  1.  Boil a kettle of water, pour into a saucepan, add a pinch of salt and the orzo pasta, remembering that it will double in size. Reduce to a simmer and leave to cook this just takes seven minutes.
  2. Meanwhile if using a fresh piece of chicken, quickly debone if necessary. Place on a board and flatten, cut into bite size pieces, season and then pan fry in a little olive oil.
  3. Prepare any other vegetables, wash and slice?cut into small pieces.
  4. Drain the pasta when cooked and put into a bowl. Add the chicken and vegetables and good couple of heaped tablespoonfuls of pesto.  Check the seasoning and a little balsamic vinegar if you think it needs it. 
  5. Place in a lunch box and then top with some salad leaves. I used lambs lettuce and baby beetroot leaves.
This salad was a big thumbs up. The pasta wasn't too heavy and there was plenty of crunch with all the crisp salad vegetables, sweetness from the peppers and chicken, nice earthy flavour from the pesto that was all balanced with a little sweet balsamic vinegar.

I wonder if you have any good lunch box ideas to share?



  1. Looks heavenly! I like recipes that are simple and easy to switch out an ingredient. I'll have to try this sometime next week :)

  2. Yummers! Thank you so much for the recipe. Looks perfect for our busy days. Thanks. Can't wait to try it.

  3. I love orzo, it is one of the few pasta's I can eat that doesn't make my blood sugar go nuts!
    I would love to hang out with you Debby and just watch you cook, you always prepare the most lovely dishes for your family.
    I hope you have a fun filled weekend.

  4. Your cooking always looks so healthy!