I made this recipe a few months ago with my mother. It is from the Barefoot Contessa’s Parties cookbook. It is a wonderful cookbook. In fact, it is probably my favorite. There is not a single thing in it that I have made that has not been delicious, and this recipe is no exception.
When I first read through the recipe with my mom, I didn’t think I would like it. While I do enjoy eggplant, I have not always had the best of luck cooking it. Also, I’m generally not a fan of bell peppers. However, there is something about the way that all the vegetables roast together that is just magical. The vegetables all caramelize and melt together, making a fabulous, chunky sauce for the tiny pasta.
And then once the pasta is mixed with the fabulous vegetable concoction, you add green onions, pine nuts, basil and feta. There are so many wonderful things in this recipe and they blend together into the best pasta salad on the planet. It can be served as a main dish or a side. Great for when you are feeding your vegetarian friends. And if you leave out the feta, it is even vegan. (I think anyways, depending on your pasta.)
When I make this recipe, I follow the recipe exactly with two exceptions. First, I like to put a pint of halved cherry tomatoes in with the roasting vegetables. I think it makes the final result a little saucier and roasted tomatoes tend to make everything better. And secondly, the recipe says to serve at room temperature. And that is great, but I also like it as a hot dish. Oh! And one time I made it with bowtie pasta and it was just as delicious and really cute. Use the basic recipe, but feel free to make it your own.
Orzo with Roasted Vegetables
Recipe from The Barefoot Contessa’s book, “Parties!”
1 small eggplant, peeled and 3/4-inch diced
1 red bell pepper, 1-inch diced
1 yellow bell pepper, 1-inch diced
1 red onion, peeled and 1-inch diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup good olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound orzo or rice-shaped pasta
For the dressing:
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/3 cup good olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 scallions, minced (white and green parts)
1/4 cup pignolis (pine nuts), toasted
3/4 pound good feta, 1/2-inch diced (not crumbled)
15 fresh basil leaves, cut into julienne
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Toss the eggplant, bell peppers, onion, and garlic with the olive oil, salt, and pepper on a large sheet pan. Roast for 40 minutes, until browned, turning once with a spatula.
Meanwhile, cook the orzo in boiling salted water for 7 to 9 minutes, until tender. Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl. Add the roasted vegetables to the pasta, scraping all the liquid and seasonings from the roasting pan into the pasta bowl.
For the dressing, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper and pour on the pasta and vegetables. Let cool to room temperature, then add the scallions, pignolis, feta, and basil. Check the seasonings, and serve at room temperature.
Photographs by Jessica Yager
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