Asian Orzo Pasta Salad

Inspired by Asian flavors, this recipe makes a good warm dish or cold pasta salad. After having time to sit overnight in the fridge, I thought it tasted even better. It uses few ingredients, and is easy to execute. It works well for a cookout, picnic, road trip cooler, camping trip, simple meal, or lunch. And while it wasn’t the goal, it ended up looking pretty good. Sometimes, in the pursuit of flavor, you end up with an attractive pasta salad.

If you want to take this simple recipe to the next level, add some diced up marinaded tofu (prepackaged or homemade) and/or some crunchy chow mein noodles. They add interesting textures, deepen the flavor and make the dish feel like a hearty meal.

If you don’t have access to a grill, you can still make this recipe. Simply roast the mini sweet peppers and snow peas in the oven. Slide the oven wrack into the lowest slot, and then, place a lined cookie sheet loaded with the dressing-coated veggies in the oven. Roast 400ยบ F for ~7-10 minutes or until they achieve a char that looks good to you. Always keep an eye on them. The snow peas don’t take long to cook!

Asian Orzo Pasta Salad

1 lb dry orzo pasta

2 garlic cloves

1 1/2 Tbsp fresh ginger root, peeled and chopped

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/3 cup olive oil

1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp rice vinegar

2 Tbsp sesame seed oil

3 Tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce

1 lb mini sweet peppers

1 cup snow peas

1 tsp maple syrup

2 scallions, diced on a bias

Sesame seeds, to top – optional

1. Add water to a large pot, cover and bring to a boil. Add the orzo pasta and boil for 9 minutes (or follow the instructions on the package of orzo). Drain, rinse with cold water, and set aside.

2. Add the garlic cloves, fresh ginger root, garlic powder, olive oil, 1/4 cup rice vinegar, 1 Tbsp sesame oil and 2 Tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce to a food processor. Blend until smooth.

3. In a large mixing bowl, add the mini sweet peppers and snow peas. Pour 1/2 the dressing over the vegetables and toss to coat.

4. Line a grill-proof pan with non-stick aluminum foil. Spread the vegetables out in an even layer. Grill for ~7 minutes (flipping the peppers 1/2 way through) or until the vegetables are grilled to your liking.

5. Remove from the grill. Allow to cool. Remove the stems from the mini sweet peppers. Chop the vegetables into bite-size pieces and add to the same mixing bowl that you coated the vegetables in.

6. Add the rest of the dressing to the bowl with 2 Tbsp rice vinegar, 1 Tbsp sesame oil, 1 Tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce, maple syrup, orzo pasta and the scallions. Mix together with a spoon. Taste and make adjustments to the flavor (more sesame oil? more soy sauce? more maple syrup?). Top with sesame seeds, if using. Serve warm or cold.

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