Orzo Salad for a Crowd

Potlucks, BBQs and picnics usually mean you’re in charge of making a dish that can satisfy a crowd.  Instead of the expected potato salad, wow them with this orzo salad that incorporates all the flavors of  an antipasti plate.  Use whatever vegetables you have on hand to make this recipe your own and try grilling them if it’s just to hot for the oven.

 
Ingredients:
4 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
3 cups asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
8 oz. soppressata , cut into half inch cubes
4 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups artichoke hearts, chopped
1 cup black olives, chopped
1 1/2 cups parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp. red chili flakes
1 tsp. basil
1 1/2 cups shredded parmesan 
Juice of 1 lemon
3/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp salt
2 lbs. orzo

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Place quartered tomatoes on a large baking sheet.  Drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil and sprinkle on 1/4 tsp. salt.  Toss to combine and then spread out the tomatoes so that they are in a single layer on the sheet.  Place in the oven for 30 minutes, turning once half way through.  Remove and let cool.

Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl.  Then, in a large saucepan, bring water to a boil and add the asparagus for 1 and a half minutes.   Remove asparagus and promptly place in the ice bath to cool.  After 5 minutes in the ice bath, drain the asparagus and dry with clean kitchen towel.  Place asparagus on a baking sheet and drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil and season with 1/4 tsp. salt.  Toss to combine and then spread out the asparagus so that they are in a single layer on the sheet.  Place in the oven for 30 minutes, turning once about half way through.  Remove and add to the pan with the tomatoes.  Add the chopped artichoke hearts to the pan and toss to combine.

While the vegetables are cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Once water is boiling, add orzo.  Cook according to package directions making sure to remove the orzo when it is just al dente.  Drain pasta and stir in 2 tbsp of olive oil to prevent sticking.

Divide the orzo and vegetables evenly among two large bowls (due to volume) and combine.  Add equal amounts of the soppressata and olives to each bowl.  In a jar with a tight lid (or large mixing bowl), combine the parmesan, chili, parsley, basil, balsamic vinegar, 1/2 tsp salt to make the dressing.  Drizzle in 3/4 cup  olive oil.  Place the lid on and shake to combine.   Pour half of the dressing over each bowl of orzo.  Squeeze lemon into each bowl and sprinkle a little fresh black pepper.  Stir to combine well.  Cover and let sit in the refrigerate until ready to serve.

This recipe feeds a large crowd but can certainly be halved for smaller groups.

 
 
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