Five things you might not know about orzo (but really should):
1) Orzo is a type of cut pasta; it is most definitely not a grain, but it is made from a grain (wheat).
2) Most orzo is made with semolina flour, which is made from denser parts of the wheat berry that give the pasta a more toothsome, firm texture.
3) If you're on a gluten-free diet and get depressed reading features about wheat-based pasta, you can use DeLallo's Gluten-Free Corn/Rice Orzo in all (yes, every single one) of these recipes.
4) "Orzo" is Italian for "barley" and gets its name for it's grain-like shape.
5) A 2-ounce serving serving of orzo contains about 200 calories and 2 grams of fiber. Make it whole wheat, and the amount of fiber jumps to about 6 grams per serving.
Orzo Salad with Tomatoes and Pine Nuts
If you're the kind of cook with a basic herb and veggie garden (even a simple box garden setup), you'll be able to rip out this easy orzo salad without having to run to the grocery store for any ingredients. Substitute or add whatever fresh green herbs you have in abundance (dill is always a great addition). Get our Orzo Salad with Tomatoes and Pine Nuts recipe.
Greek Orzo Salad
You'll run across countless variations of this salad (see also: Mediterranean orzo salad) because 1) it's delicious and 2) orzo has a natural affinity for Greek/Med ingredients like feta, kalamata olives, artichoke hearts, cucumber, and lemon. If you want to turn this side dish into a meal, stuff the salad into cored, halved, and steamed yellow or red bell peppers. Get the recipe here.
Roasted Shrimp & Orzo
You could toss this herb-packed orzo combination with cheap canned tuna and it would impress, but the Barefoot Contessa knows best: oven-roasted, lightly seasoned shrimp make it memorable. Get the recipe here.
Celery and Olive Orzo Salad
If you fear the standard, limp-vegetable, mayo-slicked pasta salads of yore, the flavorful crunch and light, punchy dressing in this orzo salad will change the way you think about pasta salad. If you're feeling crazy and have it on hand, substitute olive salad (the stuff you spread on a muffaletta) for the celery and olive. It's the same combination with a few more ingredients (garlic, roasted peppers, giardiniera) that deliver a lot more flavor. If you go this route, skip the mint and adjust the seasoning, adding dried oregano or red pepper flakes to taste. Get our Celery and Olive Orzo Salad recipe.
Manouri, Eggplant and Orzo Salad
There's way more to Greek cheese than feta, which you'll discover when you start using manouri, a semi-soft, tangy fresh sheep's milk cheese. It's less salty than feta but much creamier, and you'll find it in most Middle Eastern and Mediterranean markets. It's an outstanding addition to this orzo and eggplant salad. Get the recipe here.
Smoked Salmon with Orange Orzo Salad
When it's too hot to even think about cooking, orzo is one of those ingredients you can boil in bulk and hold in your refrigerator for up to 5 days. Toss the chilled pasta with chopped, cold-smoked salmon or flaked leftover grilled salmon and a bright citrus vinaigrette for this easy, healthy orzo salad. Get the recipe here.
Poached Chicken and Pomegranate Orzo
Although this salad was meant to be served as a warm/room temperature main dish, based on reader comments, we'll also recommend serving it cold. The pop of pomegranate seeds lends a bright, unexpected zip to the salad. If you serve this orzo salad cold, taste before serving and adjust the seasonings (salt, pepper, vinegar) – chilling tends to mute the flavor. Get our Poached Chicken and Pomegranate Orzo recipe.
Watermelon and Feta Orzo Salad
Sweet, juicy watermelon, briny, crumbly feta and crisp watercress tossed with al dente orzo – these bright, light, refreshing, the ingredients only seem like strange bedfellows. The lemon-shallot vinaigrette ties it all together. One bite and this salad will become your go-to, backyard barbecue summer staple. Get the recipe here.
Parmesan Orzo with Smoked Salmon
We're using the word "healthy" lightly here because shredded Parmesan cheese and sour cream (even the reduced fat kind) hardly seem to fit the description. But Fitness magazine gives it a thumbs-up, so who are we to doubt? Whole wheat orzo boosts the fiber, and you'll never hear us complain about adding heart-healthy cold-smoked salmon to any dish. Get the recipe here.
Colleen Rush is a food and travel writer who eats, drinks, cooks, and writes mostly in New Orleans, but also ... everywhere else. She is the author of "The Mere Mortal's Guide to Fine Dining" (Broadway Books, 2006), and coauthor of "Low & Slow: Master the Art of Barbecue in 5 Easy Lessons" (Running Press, 2009) and the upcoming "Low & Slow 2: The Art of Barbecue, Smoke Roasting, and Basic Curing" (Running Press, 2015). Follow her on Twitter or Instagram.