I know I recently said that this barley salad is perfect for summer picnics, but Orzo with Grilled Shrimp and Pesto is equally perfect. (Ok, it might be one of my favorite pasta salads of all time.) I scrambled to make this on my lunch break so it could chill before a picnic later that night, but most of the preparations can be done the day before.
To make things easier, I used frozen, pre-cooked shrimp I already had in the freezer. You'll get bonus points for making your own pesto (just blend basil, toasted pine nuts, salt, pepper, Parmesan cheese and garlic in a food processor; stream in olive oil), but using store bought pesto is completely acceptable. Also, don't be afraid of a little salt. Add some when you first combine the ingredients, then taste the mixture after it has had a few hours to chill and add salt accordingly. The flavors are greatly enhanced if it's salted properly. Just add slowly, combine, and taste. Repeat as needed.
Orzo with Grilled Shrimp and Pesto
Adapted from Bon Appétit | June 2008
3 cups orzo
6 ½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar, divided
2 medium zucchini or summer squash, cut lengthwise
1/4 cup store-bought pesto (or more/less, depending on your preference)
2 cups large shrimp (the recipe has you grill them, but I saved time and thawed pre-cooked shrimp)
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 8-ounce ball fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into ½ inch cubes
1/3 cup thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
Juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste
Cook orzo in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite (about 8 minutes), stirring occasionally. Drain. Rinse with cold water; drain well. Transfer to large bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon oil. Allow orzo to come to room temperature before tossing with other ingredients.
Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Whisk 2 tablespoons oil and 2 tablespoons vinegar in small bowl. Brush zucchini and bell pepper with oil mixture, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill for 3 minutes per side and let rest. Cut into ½ inch pieces and set aside.
If grilling shrimp, sprinkle with salt and pepper and brush with olive oil, then grill for 2-3 minutes per side. Otherwise, thaw frozen shrimp in warm water for 5 minutes. Cut off tail and cut shrimp into ½ inch pieces. Add shrimp to bowl with zucchini.
Add remaining vinaigrette, pesto, tomatoes, sliced basil, zucchini, shrimp (if using), lemon juice and mozzarella to orzo; toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 hours ahead. Cover; chill.
Garnish with basil sprigs and serve cold or at room temperature.