This Gluten Free Caprese Orzo Salad is the perfect summer dinner or a great dish to feed a crowd at your next gathering.
With so many gluten free products on the market, one rarely needs to utter, “I really miss having…….”. But my kids have really missed orzo. If you are not familiar with it, orzo is a small, almost rice-like pasta. It cooks up nice and tender and is a great addition to soups and salads.
Pre gluten free living, I used to make a delicious orzo salad. It was filled with tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella. I remember picking up the recipe from somewhere, and it soon became a family favorite. Well, my kids have been asking me to make it, but I have been unable to find gluten free orzo at the store.
Gluten Free Orzo
I finally found gluten free orzo on Amazon! I was a bit skeptical because this looked different than traditional orzo. But, I was willing to give it a try.
I love just about anything Caprese. Fresh tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella are just about the perfect trifecta!
I take some liberty in this recipe to customize my Caprese. This salad morphs from a side dish to a meal with the addition of cooked chicken. The addition of baby spinach adds both a punch of color and a nutritional boost. Add red onion, cannelini beans, and sundried tomatoes, and you have a pasta salad like no other.
But, There Must Be Cheese!
I am convinced that my family is either from Wisconsin (land of cheese ) or are part rat. If it were up to my boys, cheese would be part of every single meal they eat. I must admit, though, I can’t imagine this salad without cheese. I’ve finely diced fresh mozzarella to add to the salad, but perhaps the best part is the addition of shredded cheese.
For this recipe, I used 4C Homestyle Shredded Cheese. It is not in the refrigerated section.
If you can find it, I highly recommend their Parmesan, Asiago, and Romano blend. It really adds great flavor!
Lots of Lemon Flavor
The homemade dressing for this salad packs a pretty significant lemon pucker. And while a taste of the dressing may leave you thinking that you have far too much lemon in there, trust me. All of that lemony goodness will be distributed throughout the entire salad. In the end, you will be left with a salad that has just the right amount of lemon! I promise!
Can I Half the Recipe?
A quick glance at this recipe and you may think that you will be making a salad for a crowd. Well, that was my thinking. I am confident that in the days and weeks to come, we will be enjoying summer cookouts, barbecues, and celebrations. You will want a great tasting dish to bring along, one that everyone will love (and no one will know or care is gluten free).
Having said that, you can easily cut this recipe in half to make it more manageable.
Should I Serve Gluten Free Caprese Orzo Salad Hot or Cold?
I have found that this salad tastes best when it is served at room temperature or straight from the fridge cold. In the recipe you will see that I tell you to drain the cooked orzo then run it under cold water until the pasta is cooled. This is an important step. This extra rinse will prevent the orzo from sticking together and allow it to cool quickly.
Gluten Free Caprese Orzo Salad
serves 10 dinner portions
24 ounces uncooked gluten free orzo pasta
4 cups cooked grilled chicken, chopped
1/2 cup fresh chopped basil
1 cup finely diced red onion
1 – 15oz can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
5 oz. fresh baby spinach, chopped
1 pint yellow or red cherry tomatoes, halved
1 pint red grapes tomatoes, halved
8 oz. mozzarella, cubed
1 cup shredded homestyle parmesan cheese (I used 4C Homestyle Parmesan, Asiago, and Romano blend)
1/2 cup finely diced sundried tomatoes
1 lemon, zested
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
1/2 cup good quality mayonnaise
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup dried Italian seasoning
2 teaspoons honey
Place all of the ingredients for the dressing into a blender. Blend until smooth and emulsified. The dressing will be quite lemony. This will be distributed throughout the salad and will not taste quite so lemony at that point. Set aside. (you can also whisk all of the ingredients together instead)
Cook the orzo according to the package instructions. Drain. Rinse in cold water until the pasta is cooled. Shake colander to allow water to drain thoroughly. Place into a large bowl (with a lot of room to spare. I used a stock pot to stir everything together).
Stir the lemon dressing into the orzo.
Prepare all of the stir-ins. Chop the cooked chicken into small chunks. Finely dice the red onion. Finely chop the fresh basil. Half the tomatoes. Drain and rinse the beans. Finely chop a 5 oz. clam shell container of baby spinach. Zest one lemon. Chop the sundried tomatoes.
Stir the chicken, onion, basil, tomatoes, beans, spinach, lemon zest, and sundried tomatoes into the bowl with the orzo.
Add in the diced mozzarella, salt, and shredded cheese. Stir together until all of the ingrdients are mixed well.
At this point you can cover the salad and refrigerate it until ready to serve, or you can serve it immediately at room temperature. Either way is delicious. If you do opt to refrigerate the salad, you will find that the salad appears drier the longer it sits. This is due to the pasta absorbing the dressing. The salad does not taste dry.
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