Fresh Mediterranean herbs, zesty lemon, and salty feta cheese join forces in this easy-to-make and vegetable-heavy orzo pasta recipe.
In just fifteen minutes the intoxicating aromas of Greece and Italy (and all those other fabulously healthy Mediterranean countries) will be wafting from the kitchen, making quick weekday dinners that much more special.
Mediterranean Orzo Pasta Ingredients
The star of this pasta recipe is the pasta itself: orzo. Although resembling long grain rice, orzo is a form of short-cut pasta. It’s commonly used in soups, pasta salads, pilafs, risottos, or even baked into casseroles.
Like other types of pasta, orzo is great source of whole grain carbohydrates and fiber, iron, B vitamins, and protein. In fact, three ounces of cooked orzo pasta contains roughly nine grams of protein, or about the protein content of a single egg.
This Mediterranean orzo pasta is also filled with vegetable and herbs including zucchini, olives, and roasted red bell peppers. Zucchini, and other types of summer squash, are filled with vitamin C, folate, and antioxidants. Roasted red bell peppers are vitamin C-packed and easy to find in the grocery store year round. Look for an organic, glass jar of roasted red bell peppers for this recipe.
Olives, a staple in Mediterranean cuisine, contain healthy monounsaturated fatty acids, phytonutrients, and vitamin E. The fat in olives (and of course, olive oil) is associated with decreased inflammation and reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Look for organic olives in glass jars at the grocery store. Although they can be found both pitted and with pits in tact, pitted olives work best for this recipe – as they’re easier to cut!
Fresh herbs including parsley, basil, and oregano provide zest and flavor to this orzo pasta recipe. Incorporating fresh herbs is an easy way to reap major antioxidants and keeps the recipe fresh and simple. Fresh herbs grow like weeds in the summertime and can be found at the farmers market, grocery store, or in a pot in your kitchen window or backyard garden.
Adding feta cheese amps up the protein content and flavor of this pasta recipe even more. Look for an organic sheep or goat’s milk feta or swap for an almond or cashew cheese like Miyoko’s or Kite Hill.
With so many delicious ingredients and fresh flavors, this Mediterranean orzo pasta is sure to become a new summer favorite.
Mediterranean Orzo Pasta
- ½ pound orzo pasta*
- 1 zucchini, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, diced
- 1 cup roasted red peppers, sliced
- ¼ cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
- 4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
- 3 Tbsp lemon juice
- 2 Tbsp fresh oregano, roughly chopped
- 2 Tbsp fresh parsley, roughly chopped
- ¼ cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
- 1 cup arugula
- ½ tsp sea salt
- Fresh ground pepper, to taste
- ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
- Cook orzo pasta according to package directions.
- While pasta is cooking, heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add zucchini and garlic and lightly sauté for five minutes, or until soft. Stir in olives and roasted red peppers and gently sauté for three minutes, or until warmed. Remove from heat.
- Add cooked pasta to a large bowl along with sautéed vegetables, three tablespoons olive oil, lemon juice, fresh herbs, arugula, sea salt, and fresh ground black pepper to taste. Stir well until mixture is well combined and arugula begins to wilt.
- Sprinkle cheese on top and stir once more. Serve immediately and enjoy!
*If you can’t find orzo pasta, simply swap with an alternative type. Feel free to use a gluten-free pasta, bean-based pasta, or whole wheat version of pasta too.
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Photos by Kate Gavlick