A bonus quick meal for this week, from Giada De Laurentiis's new cookbook, "Weeknights With Giada'"; this one's vegetarian. The simple step of charring the cherry tomatoes in a hot, dry skillet before they're blended in a sauce is a good takeaway lesson in this recipe. It imparts a slight smokiness in minutes, without a grill or smoker.
The dish involves little prep, so it's easy on the hands, and good for beginner cooks.
Serve with a salad of mixed greens.
- Kosher salt, for the pasta cooking water
- 12 ounces dried orzo pasta
- 1 pound (2 pints) cherry tomatoes
- 1/2 cup (5/8 ounce) packed fresh basil leaves
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 to 3 teaspoons smoked salt, plus more as needed
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
- 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add a generous pinch of the salt, and then the pasta. Cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl.
Meanwhile, stem the tomatoes as needed. Place the tomatoes in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook for about 10 minutes, shaking the skillet occasionally, until the tomatoes are just short of deflated and the skins are charred in spots. Remove from the heat.
While the tomatoes are cooling a bit, tear the basil leaves, letting them fall into a blender. Add the slightly cooled tomatoes, vinegar, oil, honey, the smoked salt and the pepper in a blender. Remove the center knob from the lid to allow steam to escape and cover with a dish towel or paper towel. Puree to form a smooth vinaigrette.
Pour over the pasta and toss to coat evenly. Sprinkle with the cheese and toss lightly to incorporate.
Taste the orzo and adjust the seasoning as needed (with smoked salt and pepper). Serve warm.
Adapted from "Weeknights With Giada," by Giada De Laurentiis (Clarkson Potter, 2012).
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
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