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Pesto orzo with fried zucchini and chickpeas

  • Author: Mansee
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Category: Main
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian


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 1/2 lemon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese + more for serving
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup neutral oil (canola, grapeseed, etc.) for frying
  • 2 medium zucchini, cut into 2-inch strips
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed


  1. 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.
  2. 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 1/2 teaspoon salt. Pulse until the basil and garlic are finely chopped. 
  3. On low speed, slowly stream in 1/2 cup olive oil and mix until everything is combined and you have a loose pesto. Stir in 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese by hand. 
  4. When orzo is done, drain and immediately mix with 1/2 cup pesto. Stir to coat all the pasta, adding more pesto as needed. Set aside. 
  5. Heat 1/2 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 1/2-inch of oil and a smaller pan will use less oil!
  6. 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.
  7. 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. 
  8. 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!

Keywords: orzo, pesto, fried chickpeas, pasta salad