blog feature image

Nonna’s Recipe for Orzo with Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

We were packed yesterday at our weekly Tuesday Lunch, and you should have heard the comments!  (All outstanding.)  Part of our menu included this sun-dried tomato orzo which made a terrific match with Seared Atlantic Salmon, Spring Greens with Sunshine Vinaigrette, Herbed Crackers and Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing. Yum. Serve this colorful dish warm or at room temperature.  It makes a beautiful side dish, or fan grilled chicken across the top of a mound and call it dinner.  Use the best olive oil you have as the flavor will come through in this simple and hearty dish.  

Nonna’s Orzo Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

Orzo Pasta

  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 2 cups basil, fresh, washed
  • 2 cloves garlic, fresh, whole
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Dash of freshly ground black pepper
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • ¾ cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated


  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • ½ pound orzo pasta, dry
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 cloves garlic, fresh, peeled, chopped
  • ½ cup sun-dried tomatoes, fresh, sliced (may be substituted with
  • tomatoes prepared in oil)
  • ½ cup basil pesto
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the pesto, preheat oven to 325 degrees.  On a large rimmed baking sheet arrange pine nuts in a single layer.  Place in oven and roast until the nuts brown. (You’ll know its’ close when you can smell the pine nuts.)   Remove from oven.  In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, add nuts, basil, garlic, salt, and pepper.  Puree until well combined, scraping sides as needed.  While motor is running, add oil in a thin, steady stream and blend until emulsified.  Turn off motor and add cheese.  Pulse mixture briefly to incorporate cheese, being careful not to over-mix.  Transfer pesto to a bowl and cover with a sheet of plastic wrap.  Place in refrigerator for up to 1 day or until ready to use.  (Pesto may also be kept in freezer for several months.)

For the pasta, in a large stock pot add water and salt.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Add pasta and cook for 8 to 9 minutes or to “al dente”. Remove from heat and drain in a colander.  Immediately spray pasta with cold tap water to stop the cooking process. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of the oil over top of pasta.  Using large tongs, gently toss to coat well. Set aside.  In a saucepan heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat.  Add garlic and cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until it starts to turn golden brown, stirring constantly to prevent burning.  Immediately add tomatoes and pasta to stop garlic from cooking further.  Add pesto, salt, and pepper.  Using large tongs, gently toss until well combined.  Transfer to a large serving bowl.  Serve warm.  Makes 4 servings.

ETC: In a pinch, walnuts may be substituted for the pine nuts in this recipe.  The result will be slightly different, but still very tasty. ~~~~~~~~~~~

Find this and other CCKC favorite recipes in our cookbook – “The Culinary Center of Kansas City’s BEST RECIPES – SECOND EDITION.” â„¢ Available for purchase on-line at www.kcculinary.com and in our retail store – “The Kitchen Shop.”™  

Share this post