I have had some great picnics and cookouts this summer. And while they are fun, my friends always seem to make the same pasta, potato, or bean salads. With Labor Day fast approaching I told my friends I would make a fun salad for our cookout. While not a traditional picnic salad, my Toasted Orzo and Pancetta salad will be something everyone will love. Who doesn’t like cheese, Italian bacon, toasty pasta and a good vinaigrette? This pasta salad will look like it took you forever to make but it is really simple. So enjoy your salad and enjoy your long weekend.
1. Wash your hands.
2. For this recipe you will need measuring cups and spoons, a wooden spoon or heat proof spatula, a large bowl, a knife and cutting board, a large sauté pan, a sauce pan, a colander, a blender, and the stove.
If you are not allowed to use a knife, the stove, or blender by yourself you can ask an adult for help.
ChefElla’s Toasted Orzo and Pancetta Salad (10-12 Servings)
16 oz. Orzo Pasta
8 oz. Pancetta, Medium Diced
-You can find pre-diced pancetta at the store. If your store does not carry it, have the deli thick slice (1/2 inch) the pancetta for you. Cut the slices into ½ inch stick and then dice.
2 Cups Fennel, Julienne (about 1 medium sized bulb)
-Cut off the green stalks. Save one tablespoon of the fronds (dill like tops) for the dressing. Thinly slice the root end to remove any dead or discolored parts. Stand the fennel bulb up on its flat base and cut the bulb in half. Cut each half in half again. Lay the pieces flat. Starting at the stalk end thinly slice the fennel. The fennel slices will fall apart into julienne pieces.
8 oz. Fresh Mozzarella, Medium Diced
-If you prefer you can purchase Bocconcini (bite sized mozzarella balls)
2 ea. Roma Tomatoes, Medium Diced (about 1 ¼ cups)
8 ea. Basil Leaves, Large, Thin Sliced
-Stack the basil leaves and then roll them up. Slice the roll into thin strips.
2 Cups Spinach Leaves, Cut into Strips (about two handfuls)
-Stack the spinach leaves and then slice into strips.
1 - 2 Tbl. Olive Oil
1 Med. Shallot, Cut Into Quarters
5 Tbl. Balsamic Vinegar
10 Tbl. Olive Oil
1 Tbl. Fennel Fronds
1 tsp Garlic, Fresh (about 1 medium clove)
3. Heat your sauté pan on the stove on medium high heat. Add 1 Tbl. of olive oil and pancetta to the pan. Turn the pan to medium heat and cook the pancetta stirring occasionally until the pancetta looks like nicely toasted bacon. This should take about 7-8 minutes.
4. Remove the pancetta from the pan with your spoon and put into your large bowl. Leave the pancetta oil in the pan and add your fennel. Cook the fennel stirring occasionally until the fennel begins to brown and look a little opaque (see through) about 3-4 minutes. The fennel should look like cooked onions.
5. Remove the fennel with your spoon and put into the bowl with the pancetta. You should still have plenty of oil in the pan. If not add 1 more tablespoon of olive oil. Return the pan to the stove and add the dry orzo to the pan and mix so that the oil coats the pasta.
6. Stir the pasta occasionally. The pasta will begin to turn brown and look toasty. As the pasta begins to brown stir more frequently. When the pasta is a nice golden color remove from the heat.
7. Fill your sauce pan with water and bring to a boil on the stove. Add the toasted orzo and cook following the manufacturers recommended cooking time.
8. When the pasta is cooked strain in your colander. Run cold water over the pasta to stop the cooking.
9. Add all of your dressing ingredients to the blender and blend until the ingredients are smooth.
10. Add all of your ingredients to your large bowl and mix thoroughly with the dressing.
Serve your toasted orzo salad as a meal or as a side dish. Try this dish with any of your favorite ingredients like kale, sundried tomatoes, olives, roasted peppers, parmesan, or even toasted pine nuts to make your own favorite recipe.
ChefElla’s helpers can help by:
Measuring the ingredients
Layering the basil or spinach
Adding the ingredients to the blender
Mixing the salad
Older helpers can help by:
Cutting and cooking the ingredients