Orzo Salad with Kale Pesto

Orzo Salad with Kale Pesto for #SundaySupper picnic! Cooking Chat recipe

Confession: I don’t actually do much cooking for picnics. A summer social gathering is more likely to be a cookout in our family. But I was eager to join another Sunday Supper event, having not done so yet this month, and the Big Virtual #SundaySupper Picnic was hard to pass up! Thanks to Jane of Jane’s Adventures in Dinner for hosting.

I often make some version of orzo salad for summer gatherings, and typically include my traditional basil pesto. Following last week’s Sunday Supper theme about healthy approaches for family favorites, I thought I’d try making my orzo salad with kale pesto for an extra boost of nutrition. That way I’d get to share something new with my Sunday Supper friends; and I’m happy to report this healthy recipe packs a lot of flavor! This dish is certainly fit for bringing along for your next picnic. It also makes a great cookout side–I served it alongside some Grilled Ribeye Steak with Garlic Cumin Rub, which just so happens to be something I served up for a previous Sunday Supper.

kale ready to be prepped for pesto.

For the Kale Pesto
3 cups kale, rinsed and thick stems removed
1 cup arugula
3 garlic cloves
1/3 cup walnuts, lightly toasted
generous pinch red pepper flakes
salt and  pepper to taste
1/2 cup (or a tad more) grated pecorino romano cheese
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Other Ingredients
2/3 of a large yellow or orange bell pepper, chopped into small pieces
8 ozs grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 15 oz can of cannellini beans, or other white beans would do
handful of sliced kalamata or black olives
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

extra cheese to pass at the table

Start a pot of water boiling for the orzo.

kale, arugula, walnuts and garlic ready to become pesto.

Make the pesto Add the kale, arugula and garlic to a food processor, coarsely chopping to create enough room for the other ingredients. Add the other ingredients and puree until it comes to a nice smooth consistency. Set the pesto aside while orzo cooks

Cook the orzo according to package instructions, taking care not to overcook. Strain the orzo when cooked to your liking. If you are making this to serve later, after draining the cooking water, leave the orzo in the strainer and rinse with cold water. This helps prevent sticking and further cooking of the pasta. Take care to thoroughly drain the water, then return the cooked orzo to a large mixing bowl. Skip the cold water rinsing if you are serving right away.

kale pesto getting stirred into orzo.

Stir the extra tablespoon of olive oil into the cooked orzo, then gradually stir in the pesto. Get the orzo thoroughly coated with the good green stuff, but don’t put all the pesto in right away. After you’ve got a good coating of pesto, stir in the peppers, followed by the beans, tomatoes and olives.

Orzo with Kale Pesto served with grilled steak. Cooking Chat recipe

The pesto has a good bit of kick, so once the orzo is nicely coated with it you might want to set some pesto aside for people to add some extra if they are so inclined. If you are serving this for a small number of people, as I was recently, you can also reserve some of the tomatoes and add that as an individual topping for a nice presentation. Of course, if this is actually being served at a picnic, you just want to toss all the ingredients in advance. Take the orzo salad out of fridge for 30 minutes or so to get it closer to room temperature when serving it for a salad or a cookout side. Toss in a bit of extra pesto and dash of olive oil to freshen it up right before serving.

2011 Tenuta di Gracciano della Seta Rosso di Montepulciano, Cooking Chat recommended #wine.

Wine Pairing: This salad can certainly be served as a main dish. Matching just to the salad, Sauvignon Blanc is a classic choice for pesto. I also like to serve pesto with Picpoul de Pinet. In this case, however, I wanted to pair a red that would work with the steak as well as the pesto. I thought a good Italian red might fit the bill, given pesto’s Italian roots. I went with a 2011 Tenuta di Gracciano della Seta Rosso di Montepulciano, which supplied enough depth to work with the steak along with some finesse to go with the orzo salad. 

Be sure to check out the other tasty #SundaySupper creations!






Sandwiches and Wraps


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