We’re not making just any old salad today. Fresh spinach, chewy orzo, sharp cheese, toasted pecans, drizzled with a sweet and tangy vinaigrette for an easy salad that whips together quick.
While the water is boiling for the orzo and during the cooking time, you can prep your other ingredients. Then, by the time the orzo cools, everything will be ready to assemble.
Have you ever had orzo? Fun little fact, orzo means barley in Italian. I describe it to people as a mix between rice and noodles, but it’s actually a pasta shaped like rice. I was a bit skeptical of adding it to my salad at first, but it helps to balance out the salad. So what’s the difference between orzo and rice? They both had a different texture and because of this a different cooking time too.
I got the recipe from my Aunt Eileen. She brought it to one of our many family parties. It was so good I had to have the recipe. Ever since then, the salad (or a variation of it) always makes an appearance at our parties. It’s always nice to have something somewhat healthy to eat!
While the recipe calls for Gorgonzola cheese and dried cranberries, you can substitute a different cheese and dried fruit. Choose your favorite kind or whatever you have on hand. I usually serve the salad as an appetizer or side dish. If you’re looking to make this into a meal, you easily could by adding shredded chicken or beans.
This salad is best the first day, but it’s also good the next day. Most salads get soggy the next day, but adding the orzo helps to soak up some of the dressing. if you are planning on eating it multiple days, pour only about 1/3 of the dressing and let guests put on more if they’d prefer. That way the spinach won’t be too soggy the next day.
Spinach Orzo Salad
Freshly chopped spinach, chewy orzo, sharp cheese, toasted pecans, drizzled with a sweet and tangy vinaigrette.
- 1 cup orzo
- 6 ounces spinach spinach
- 3/4 cup dried cranberries
- 4 ounces Gorgonzola cheese
- 3/4 cup pecans, toasted
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
- 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- Cook orzo according to directions on box.
- While orzo is cooking, finely chop the spinach.
- Whisk all dressing ingredients in a small bowl.
- Place spinach, cranberries, cheese, and pecans in a large serving bowl. When orzo is cool, add to the salad.
- Mix to combine everything.
- Drizzle salad with 1/3 of the dressing. Save remaining dressing for guests to use more, if needed.
images and text © North Coast Eats
adapted from Aggie's Kitchen