It’s a little warm where I’m at right now and when the weather gets like this I don’t like to have anything heavy. This Balsamic Chicken and Orzo Salad is a light meal that’s packed with nutrition and flavor.
I really like orzo. It might look like rice, but it’s actually pasta and a quick cooking pasta at that. That means this dish comes together fairly quickly. You can speed it up to stealth cooking pace if your chicken is already cooked or you use a rotisserie chicken.
I like the simplicity of a pasta salad. There are so many elements and flavors, but they all come together. It’s a nice fake-out for those who don’t like their food to touch.
So, what’s in this dish anyway? Well, you know I just wrote a cookbook called Live to Eat Well and it is based on Mediterranean cooking. In the summer, especially on those really hot days, I want and I crave this type of food. The freshness of Mediterranean cooking cuts right through the feelings of ickiness that the heat brings on…and when you don’t have air conditioning, anything that can make me feel better about melting in my house, I’ll take it.
I only added “balsamic dressing” to the ingredients list. Even though I like to make my own dressing, I don’t assume that you want to or have the time to make your own. There are really good store bought dressings (yes, I’ve tried them). Look for the ones made with olive oil for the best flavor and nutritional value.
I hope you try this balsamic chicken and orzo salad. Maybe if you try it once, the next time, you can turn it into lemon chicken and orzo salad, or parmesan chicken and orzo salad. The possibilities are endless with the vinaigrette option!Print
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup dry orzo pasta
1/4 cup balsamic vinaigrette dressing, made with olive oil
2 big handfuls baby spinach
1 small yellow bell pepper, diced
2 roma or vine ripe tomatoes, diced
Extra dressing on the side
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (optional, if your dressing is low/no sodium)
Preheat oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with foil
Place chicken on foil, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and Italian seasoning – roast for 35-40 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part measures 165°F.
Cook orzo according to package directions and drain. Immediately transfer to a large bowl and mix with spinach and vinaigrette – the hot pasta will absorb the vinaigrette and wilt the spinach.
Add the diced bell peppers and tomatoes and stir.
When the chicken is done roasting, cut into bite sized pieces or shred and add to orzo. Taste – if it needs more salt, add in 1/4 teaspoon at a time.
Serve warm or at room temperature with extra dressing on the side.