When it’s too hot to turn on the oven, we often turn to bright and zesty salads to keep us fueled up in the summer. Giada de Laurentiis has tons of summer salad recipes that have become regulars on our menu, and she knows that one of the things that can make or break a salad recipe is texture. That’s why, in this vibrant antipasti salad, she ditches the croutons in favor of a uniquely crunchy topper: crispy fried orzo.
We’re used to having a box of orzo languishing in our pantry after using a few tablespoons to make pilaf or waiting for cold weather to come around again so it can take its place in our soups, so this new summery use for the tiny, rice-shaped pasta is more than welcome.
Basically, you take par cooked orzo (orzo that’s cooked halfway through, but still firm in the center) and fry it in hot olive oil until it’s golden brown and crispy. You can par cook the orzo ahead of time and keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to fry it up.
The salad itself is a refreshing melange of crunchy lettuce, sweet roasted red peppers, savory provolone cheese and genoa salami, and fragrant shaved fennel. The salad dressing is bold and bright, too: it has a green olive tapenade base, and Calabrian chili paste brings the heat.
Top your serving with a generous scoop of crispy fried orzo, and you’ve got a hearty summer meal that pairs beautifully with crisp white wine, ice cold beer, or a tall glass of bubbling seltzer on the rocks.
What to do with leftover crispy fried orzo (if there is any!)? We wouldn’t be above tossing it with one of our favorite spice blends (like za’atar) and eating it straight up as a snack, but we imagine it would make for a show-stopping soup garnish, too. Either way, once you try this trick we have a feeling that the box of orzo in your cupboard will be used up in no time.
Check out more of Giada De Laurentiis’s pasta recipes in the gallery below: