I’ve shared a lot of recipes so far on Love and Duck Fat, but I can’t believe it’s taken me THIS LONG to share this one. You see, my orzo salad recipe is legendary (in my small circle of friends and family). It has actually made an appearance once on my blog before in photos, but I never got around to posting the recipe. You can see it here at my son’s first birthday party.
Orzo salad is one of the recipes I make over and over. I serve it at parties, I pack it up for lunch, we eat it for dinner, late night snacks and even the occasional breakfast–and we never tire of it.
The inspiration for my orzo salad recipe first came from Whole Food’s orzo salad; which is good. When I lived in Boston, I regularly picked up a pint of it on my way to work. I decided to improve on their recipe, which is why this salad is so much better. I make sure that every bite has something fresh and yummy in it. The mix of tastes and textures make this orzo salad so much fun to eat. There’s feta cheese, toasted pine nuts, tomatoes, crisp cucumbers, baby spinach, artichokes, black olives, roasted peppers, balsamic vinegar and lots of good olive oil. I mix in fresh herbs like rosemary and mint and they really amp up the flavor.
Most of these ingredients are something I keep on hand in my pantry and refrigerator at all times, so it’s easy to make this salad whenever I want. It’s also easy to customize, adding or subtracting whatever you have on hand or desire.
Once made, this orzo salad keeps well too. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to three days and still be as good as when you first made it. Bring it to a pot luck or serve it at a barbecue this summer and see it disappear. Every time I make it, I get asked for the recipe, which is why I’m so happy to finally share it here with everyone on Love and Duck Fat.
If you do make this salad, I would love to hear how much you enjoyed it in the comment section below.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt to the water. Add pasta and cook until al dente (about 7 minutes). Drain pasta and add it to a bowl. Drizzle with a little olive oil and toss. Allow to cool completely.
Using a small skillet toast the pine nuts over medium-high heat until they are slightly brown and fragrant.
Toss the orzo with the pine nuts, tomato, onion, herbs, artichokes, olives, feta cheese, cucumber and red pepper.
Add the spinach leaves and vinaigrette. Toss again. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
This comforting pasta recipe with sausage, butternut squash, spinach and mascarpone cheese was created after a recent trip to visit family for Thanksgiving. The dish hit the spot after arriving home to an empty house (and refrigerator) the night before. Our anticipated 5-hour drive home stretched to 9 hours due to accidents on the turnpike. My 1-year-old son was too little to understand why he was strapped to a chair for so long, so much of our time was spent soothing and distracting him. We finally got home in the middle of the night, and dragged ourselves into bed.
After such a stressful night, we were happy to have a day to relax. But what was there to eat? I scoured my freezer and pantry and found the ingredients for this delicious recipe. I know most people don’t keep a tub of mascarpone cheese in the freezer, but I do. I like to freeze anything that may spoil when we go on a trip. Deli meats, cheeses (sliced and soft), fresh vegetables and leftovers all get frozen. The meats and cheeses defrost just fine, and the vegetables (like whole tomatoes) get tossed into a pasta sauce.
For this recipe, I was lucky to have a fresh, organic butternut squash. Add to that a pack of frozen spinach, Italian turkey sausage and cheese from the freezer. Then I found some pine nuts and pasta from the pantry and I was good to go.
I love the combination of flavors and textures in this pasta recipe. You get the slightly sweet, roasted butternut squash, then the savory spicy sausage. Crunchy pine nuts are the perfect counter to the creamy pasta and spinach. It just all works.
If you happen to have fresh spinach instead of frozen, please go ahead and us it. If you don’t have spinach, a good substitute is Swiss chard or broccoli rabe. Use your favorite type of sausage, preferably spicy or sweet Italian. I used spicy Italian turkey sausage.
Preheat oven to 425° F/220° C
Pour some of the oil on a baking sheet lined with foil. Add the squash, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Cook for 35-40 minutes, until the squash is soft and nicely browned. Remove from the oven and set aside.
While the squash is baking, heat a skillet and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pan. Add the onion and cook for 8 minutes over medium heat. Add the garlic and stir. Add the spinach and cook for another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Bring the pasta water to a boil. Season the water with salt and cook the pasta until al dente. Drain, reserving 1-2 cups of the pasta water to make the sauce.
Pour the hot pasta into a large pot or bowl. Add the mascarpone cheese and 1 cup of the pasta water (add more if necessary to thin the sauce). Allow the cheese to melt and toss. Add the squash, spinach mixture and pine nuts. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve with Parmesan cheese.
Appropriate for 8+ month babies without wheat/dairy allergies
I call this homemade baby food recipe “vegetable lasagna” because even though it’s a puree, it has the lasagna flavor that kids – and babies love. The addition of tomato paste adds a healthy dose of the powerful antioxidants lycopene and vitamin C. Plus, you can pack your vegetable lasagna full of healthy veggies, even the ones that baby usually doesn’t like. I like to add any combination of eggplant, carrots, celery, kale, spinach and zucchini to the mix, depending on what’s available. You can also add garlic, oregano and basil. Don’t skimp on the flavor, because even baby gets bored of bland food.
You can prepare this recipe differently according to your baby’s age. For younger babies, cook everything until it is soft, then puree until very smooth. For older babies who are accustomed to more texture, puree for less time. I don’t recommend this recipe for a finger food, because the tomato sauce is super messy. I learned this the hard way! As I’ve mentioned in past baby food recipes, I like to use my Cuisinart mini prep for this task. While it isn’t the best for a really smooth puree, I like that it takes up little counter space and is simple to clean. To get a fine puree, you can take the additional step of passing the puree through a mesh strainer.
Use your favorite pasta in this dish. It really doesn’t matter what shape, because you are blending it. You can use whole wheat or rice pasta. I used some organic cheese raviolis, which added a little extra flavor.
In a saucepan over medium heat, cook onion in olive oil until soft. Add garlic and oregano, stir. Add carrots, veggies, tomato paste and stock. Stir and bring to a boil. Add pasta. Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes until carrots are tender. You can overcook the pasta in this case, since it will be pureed. Once all of the veggies are tender, remove from heat and stir in the ricotta and Parmesan cheese. Allow to cool and puree until smooth, adding the cooking liquid a little at a time until you reach the right consistency.
This was one of those dishes thrown together for dinner one night. I’ve made the meatballs several times before and wanted to cook up all of the organic veggies I had in my fridge. It was so good (and healthy too), I had to share! This recipe for turkey meatballs, tagliatelle pasta, sun dried tomatoes and roasted vegetables can be made in a number of ways, just substitute your favorite roasted veggies and pasta. The beauty of this dish is that most of the components are cooked separately, and then combined at the end. What this does is keep the flavors from mixing, so every ingredient practically sings with flavor.
Yes, they sing. Trust me on this one.
Let’s talk pasta for a minute. I’m bordering on being called a “pasta collector”. On any given week, you’ll find a new bag or box in my pantry of some obscure Italian pasta in every shape you could imagine. I search out and find artisanal pasta made the old fashioned way, with bronze dies instead of a high-volume Teflon machine. The bronze dies create a rough surface on the pasta that the sauce will cling to.
It’s okay if you use the generic grocery store brand or something like Mueller’s or Barilla, but if you want really great food, look a little harder. It won’t cost much more and your taste buds will thank you. You can find great pasta at low prices in some surprising places.
These are my favorites:
Now onto the recipe:
You can roast the vegetables and meatballs at the same time or prepare one the day ahead.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mix together all of the ingredients in a bowl (doing it with your clean hands works best). When everything is just mixed, roll the meatballs approximately golf ball sized and arrange them in one layer on a sheet pan.
Cook in the oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown and cooked in the center. Keep warm.
Toss the vegetables in olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 20-30 minutes until tender and lightly browned.
In a large skillet, cook the onion in olive oil over medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, pepper flakes and stir. Add the chicken broth, white wine and sun dried tomatoes. Cook and reduce over medium-high heat for 10 minutes, until the liquid is reduced by half.
While the sauce is reducing, cook the pasta in boiling salted water according to the directions or until the pasta is just al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving ½ cup of the pasta water for the sauce.
Taste and season the reduced liquid generously with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat. Add the pasta, tomatoes, vegetables and basil to the pan and stir. If you need more liquid, add some of the pasta water to the sauce. Serve topped with meatballs and grated Parmesan cheese.
I buy a big bunch of Italian parsley nearly every time I go to the market. It’s one of those herbs that go in everything. I chop it to sprinkle on top of stews and soups; I toss it in salads. It’s a great nutritional addition to smoothies and juices, and when I end up with too much parsley, I make a pesto or a tabouli salad. This recipe for walnut, parsley and basil pesto is super-easy to prepare. Just throw the ingredients into a food processor, blend and you’re done. If you don’t have walnuts, you can substitute pine nuts, almonds or cashews.
This pesto is delicious on pasta, but have you ever used it as a spread on a sandwich? Try it with roasted eggplant, red pepper and mozzarella on crusty bread. It’s also a delicious topping on pizza or a fresh buratta salad. Pesto will keep for 5 days, but it’s best to use it right away if you want to preserve the bright green color.
This is one of those simple recipes that really benefits from the best, freshest ingredients. Try to use the best extra-virgin olive oil you can find. I used an unfiltered, cold press Italian olive oil and it really added flavor to the pesto. Fresh nuts are also important. If you find your walnuts are too bitter, poach them quickly in boiling water to remove the skins. Try not to skimp on the cheese either. A good Parmesan always tastes better than the canned kind.
I made this walnut, parsley and pesto recipe one night when I wasn’t in the mood for a meat dish for dinner. I gave a little bit to my 8-month-old son and he loved it. It was amazing to watch his little face light up each time he stuffed a handful into his mouth. The leftovers became his lunch for the next two days and I spent a lot of time cleaning up the messes. They were worth it though. He was thrilled to be feeding himself and had fun sucking the angel hair noodles into his mouth. I’m still trying to get the green stains out of his clothes!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Serving Size: 4
If you plan to add this pesto to pasta, cook until al dente and drain, reserving a few cups of pasta water. Add the drained pasta back to the warm pot, stirring in pesto and pasta water.
Pulse walnuts in the food processor until they have the appearance of sand. Add parsley, basil, parmesan and olive oil and process until blended. Season with salt and pepper.
I’ve been making an effort to cook eggplant more often. It’s one of those vegetables too often relegated to a single dish: Eggplant Parmesan.
Lately, in an effort to make eggplant my friend, I buy one every time I hit the market. The organic ones on my grocery shelf come wrapped in plastic. It helps them keep longer, and relieves me of the pressure to eat them quickly like tomatoes or spinach. This makes them friendlier, but I’m still wary of that “bitterness” people describe. Each time, I diligently salt and sweat my eggplant to remove this bitterness, but someday I just may try preparing it without.
Don’t let this extra step deter you from cooking eggplant more often. It is really easy to prepare and has a delicious texture when cooked – similar to mushrooms.
I used a jar of organic pasta sauce in this recipe to make it super easy and added fresh baby spinach to pump up the nutrition and flavor. You can also make your own sauce using canned or fresh tomatoes, just adjust the seasoning to taste.
First, cut your eggplant into large slices the long way, about 1 inch thick. Lay them on paper towels and sprinkle generously with salt on both sides. Allow to “sweat” for 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
Rinse the salt from the eggplant and cut into chunks. In a bowl, toss the eggplant salt, pepper and a generous swig of olive oil. Arrange eggplant in a single layer on a baking sheet and cook in the oven for about 20 minutes.
While the eggplant is cooking, sauté onion in olive oil until soft. Add garlic and chili flakes. Add tomato sauce and season to taste.
While your sauce is simmering, bring your pasta water to a boil. Season the water with salt and cook pasta until al dente. Drain pasta and toss it while it’s still hot with the tomato sauce. Now toss in your baked eggplant, spinach and basil. Serve topped with crumbles of Parmesan cheese.