Looking for a way to use up your summer squash and basil? Great as a main dish or side, this past dish is the perfect summer meal. Warm orzo is tossed with fresh pesto and fried zucchini and chickpeas. This will be added to your summer picnic rotation for sure!Print
Looking for a way to use up your summer squash and basil? Great as a main dish or side, this past dish is the perfect summer meal. Warm orzo is tossed with fresh pesto and fried zucchini and chickpeas. This will be added to your summer picnic rotation for sure!
- 1 cup dry orzo
- 2-3 oz basil leaves (about 4 cups)
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice (or about ½ lemon)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese + more for serving
- ½ cup olive oil
- ½ cup neutral oil (canola, grapeseed, etc.) for frying
- 2 medium zucchini, cut into 2-inch strips
- 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, drop in 1 cup orzo and cook according to package instructions. You want them to be fully cooked, so don't worry about pulling them when it's al dente.
- While the orzo cooks, prepare your pesto-like sauce: In a food processor or blender, combine 2-3 oz basil leaves, 2 garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and ½ teaspoon salt. Pulse until the basil and garlic are finely chopped.
- On low speed, slowly stream in ½ cup olive oil and mix until everything is combined and you have a loose pesto. Stir in ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese by hand.
- When orzo is done, drain and immediately mix with ½ cup pesto. Stir to coat all the pasta, adding more pesto as needed. Set aside.
- Heat ½ cup neutral oil over medium high heat in a heavy skillet or dutch oven. If you don't want to use that much oil, use a smaller pan. You want about ½-inch of oil and a smaller pan will use less oil!
- When oil is hot, add zucchini in a single layer. You don't want to crowd the pan so you'll likely have to do this in batches. Cook, flipping occasionally, until zucchini is deeply brown and starts to get a little bit crisp. Remove to a paper towel lined plate and immediately sprinkle with salt. Repeat with remaining zucchini.
- Once all zucchini is fried, dry your chickpeas and add to the pan. Throw in a few sliced cloves of garlic and the zest from one lemon. Let fry, stirring occasionally, for 6-8 minutes or until chickpeas are golden brown and crispy. Remove from pan and season with salt.
- Add friend zucchini and chickpeas to orzo and toss to combine. Add more parmesan cheese, if desired, and a lot of freshly ground pepper. Enjoy warm or at room temperature!
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
- Category: Main
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Italian
Keywords: orzo, pesto, fried chickpeas, pasta salad
VERY excited to share this pesto orzo with fried zucchini and chickpeas today! I mean, the title says it all. Pesto! Orzo! Fried! It's all there!
For someone who grows neither zucchini nor basil (nor anything else for that matter #apartmentlife), I sure do act like I am completely inconvenienced by an abundance of zucchini and basil.
Oh, the horror of all the squash and herbs I BOUGHT MYSELF.
Good news is we have this amazing dish to use it up. Click here for the cooking details!
No idea. I'm just having a moment with orzo. And by moment, I mean years. I love the little rice-like pasta, and swear it goes with just about anything. I happen to really love it with zucchini or any sort of roasted vegetable. I also have every intention of making a dreamy creamy orzo & cheese situation very very soon.
With that said, if orzo isn't your thing, feel free to use penne or bowtie or macaroni! I think any small-shaped pasta will work just fine.
Summer sauce aka pesto!
We've talked about pesto before. As you know, my pestos will never be traditional as I don't put nuts in mine (three more nut-free variations right here!), so this is really more of a pesto-like sauce. "Pesto" if you will.
Aside from the lack of nuts though, it's still pretty straight-forward stuff. Basil + garlic + lemon + olive oil + parmesan. Mix that up however you need (notes above and below!) and you've got sauce to mix with that warm pasta. But, of course, if you happen to have a regular ol' pesto around please use that!
And then you just let that goodness sit while you fry (YES FRY) zucchini and chickpeas. It feels like a lot, but I promise it's worth it.
How to make pesto orzo with fried zucchini and chickpeas
- First thing's first: Cook your orzo! Don't worry about keeping them al dente - no need here. Just cook them until it's done.
- Meanwhile, make the "pesto:" Finely chop your basil and garlic in a food processor, and combine with salt and lemon juice. Slowly stream in your olive oil until everything comes together. Lastly, stir in the parmesan cheese by hand for the best texture!
- Don't have a food processor? You can make pesto in a high-speed blender or use a mortar and pestle if you have one! None of that jiving with you? Use store-bought!
- Once pasta is done: drain and put orzo in a large bowl. Immediately toss with about ½ up of the pesto. You want to do this while the orzo is warm so it really soaks up the flavor. Yesss. Then you can set that aside while you fry up your zucchini and chickpeas. Don't be scared!
- Heat your oil: The amount of oil you need will pretty much depend on the size of the pan or pot you want to fry in. You won't be deep frying or anything, but you do want their to be about a ½-inch of oil. For a 12-inch pan, that's about ½ cup.
- Cut the zucchini into 2-inch strips (I like to do this by cutting each one in half or thirds, slicing into wide planks and then cutting into strips). Fry in batches, flipping occasionally, until squash is a deep golden brown. Don't forget to season with salt as soon you pull them out.
- When the zucchini is done, add your drained and dried chickpeas and let those babies go for 6-8 minutes until they are nice and crispy. All the hallelujha hands!
- Put it together: Add the fried zucchini and chickpeas to your pesto orzo and toss to combine. Add more pesto if you'd like and serve either warm or room temperature.