Orzo Pasta Salad with Fresh Ricotta, Arugula, and Citrus Vinaigrette
Try to find whole milk ricotta cheese for this healthful take on a chilled pasta salad. It adds a rich, creamy texture that balances the peppery bite of fresh arugula leaves and the brightness of the zippy lemony dressing. In the summer, I like to add halved local cherry tomatoes as a sweet seasonal addition. Serve as a light lunch on its own or with a pan roasted protein, like tilefish or chicken thighs, to make this salad into a main course. Serves 6
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon lemon zest
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup walnuts
8 ounces (1 cup) orzo pasta
2 1/2 cups fresh arugula, stems removed
1/2 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
For the vinaigrette, in a small bowl, combine the shallot, garlic, lemon zest and juice. Whisking vigorously, slowly pour in the olive oil until well blended.
Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Set in the refrigerator to chill, while preparing the pasta salad.
Set the oven at 400 degrees. On a rimmed baking sheet, toast the walnuts for 7 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the orzo. Cook for 8 minutes, drain in a colander, and transfer to a serving bowl. Set aside to cool.
Add the arugula and the ricotta cheese. Toss well to combine.
Pour in the vinaigrette, gently stirring the pasta mixture until everything is coated and the arugula is slightly wilted.
Roughly chop the walnuts, and sprinkle on top of the pasta salad. Add more salt and pepper, then serve.