This Orzo Salad with Kale Pesto recipe can serve as a side dish, vegetarian main course or a contribution to a summer picnic or potluck. We originally shared this recipe for a #SundaySupper event focused on picnic food, and had it with some grilled steak the first time we served it. We came back through in May of 2016 to update the post with new photos and text updates after making the dish as a main course paired with a with for #ChardonnayDay. Read on for more detail, or click here to jump directly to the 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.
Orzo Salad Serving Notes
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 them 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 a dash of olive oil to freshen it up right before serving.
Wine Pairing for Orzo Salad with Kale Pesto
Kale Pesto Recipe Variations
The orzo salad with kale pesto recipe shared here uses my original kale pesto recipe, which uses some arugula and walnuts. My standard kale pesto recipe has evolved to use pumpkin seeds instead of walnuts, for a nut-free kale pesto that works for food allergy concerns. We also generally just use kale for the greens now, though if we have extra arugula on hand we add that for some additional flavor. So depending on your taste and what’s available, you can use the kale pesto recipe below or check out our updated version. The post with the updated recipe also has a bunch of ideas for ways to use kale pesto.
Orzo Salad with Kale Pesto
Orzo salad tossed with kale pesto, tomatoes, peppers, white beans and olives. Can be served as a side dish or a vegetarian main course.
- Prep Time: 15 mins
- Cook Time: 15 mins
- Total Time: 30 mins
- Yield: 5 servings 1x
- Category: Side or Main
- Method: stove top
- Cuisine: Italian
- Diet: Vegetarian
- FOR THE KALE PESTO
- 3 cups kale, rinsed and thick stems removed
- 1 cup arugula
- 3 garlic cloves
- ⅓ cup walnuts, lightly toasted
- generous pinch red pepper flakes
- salt and pepper to taste
- ½ cup grated pecorino romano cheese
- ⅔ cup extra virgin olive oil
- OTHER INGREDIENTS
- ⅔ 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, sliced
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lb orzo
- Start boiling a pot of water for the orzo.
- 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.
- Stir the extra tablespoon of olive oil into the cooked orzo, then gradually stir in the pesto. Get the orzo thoroughly coated with the kale pesto, then set aside the remainder to pass at the table.
- After you’ve got a good coating of pesto, stir in the peppers, followed by the beans, tomatoes and olives.
- Serve the orzo salad, passing extra kale pesto at the table. Enjoy!
Keywords: kale pesto, summer salads, orzo salad, pasta salad