This dish is somehow elegant AND total comfort food at the same time! The creamy balsamic is my new favorite dressing, and it compliments the orzo and tomatoes here perfectly!
Creamy Balsamic Orzo
Somehow, this Creamy Balsamic Orzo manages to be utterly elegant and total comfort food at the same time! This dish is a new favorite in our house. Maybe it’s the orzo that makes this meal both ritzy and comforting?
Have you ever cooked with orzo? Orzo is pasta, it’s just a super cool, rice-like shape. I find that orzo gets really creamy when cooked. As such, orzo always feels super special and decadent whenever we have it for dinner. And orzo is the perfect vehicle for my new favorite dressing: my Creamy Balsamic Dressing!
We are not salad dressing lovers in our house, generally speaking. If we dress a salad, it’s usually with simple balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Most of the time, we just eat our greens plain. (Note: I am obsessed with homemade or restaurant ranch dressing, but generally as more of a dip for French fries !!!!!!!!!! and other snacks, not necessarily on greens.)
In fact, the only salad dressing I’ve ever gone completely nuts over is the balsamic dressing at California Pizza Kitchen that they use on their fabulous Tricolore Pizza Salad (I believe this is now a “secret menu” item at CPK.) Do you know the dressing I’m talking about?!!!! It’s to DIE for, and I’ve been trying to recreate it for years. And with my Creamy Balsamic Dressing, I finally succeeded! I absolutely love this dressing, and you’ll see it appear in a few near future recipes, so stay tuned!
This Creamy Balsamic Orzo also incorporates one of my favorite veggie combinations: caramelized onion and tomatoes. YUM!!!! Seriously, so amazing and so so easy! I love cooking onion and tomatoes together—the onion gets sweet and caramelized, and the tomatoes break down and release their juices. It’s a match made in heaven!
My favorite tool for keeping all those luscious juices in the skillet while flipping the veggies is this little spatula [aff. link]. I use this spatula every day! It’s smaller than your average spatula, which makes it super easy to work with. Designed for taking cookies off the cookie sheet after baking, I’ve found this spatula to be the perfect size for cooking as well. I am in control of where the food goes when I flip with this spatula! If you’re like me and are always looking for ways to keep whatever you’re cooking in the pan, then this is the spatula for you. Take a look at this handy little tool on Amazon [aff. link]!
Oh, and did I mention this meal comes together quickly? From start to finish, this dish takes me no longer than 40 minutes to prepare. Pretty amazing for a homemade, elegant, and comforting meal!
With orzo, caramelized onions and tomatoes, chickpeas, fresh parsley, melted mozzarella (omit to keep this dish vegan!), and my Creamy Balsamic Dressing, I am sure this meal will make its way into the weekly rotation at your house, just like it has at mine!
Creamy Balsamic Orzo
For the creamy balsamic dressing:
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp sea salt
- ¼ tsp pepper
- 2 tsp maple syrup
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 Tbsp Vegenaise, (or mayonnaise)
For the veggies:
- 10 oz cherry tomatoes, halved
- ½ red onion, cut into thin half moons
- ¾ tsp sea salt
- ¼ tsp pepper
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp butter, or additional Tbsp olive oil to keep this meal vegan
- 1 pound orzo
- 1 15 oz can chickpeas
- 2-4 oz mozzarella, cubed to 1/2 inch cubes (omit to keep this meal vegan)
- 1/3 cup fresh parsley, minced
Make the veggies
- In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and butter (or additional Tbsp olive oil) over medium heat until the butter melts. (Or for 30 seconds if using all olive oil.)
- Add the onion, and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes, until the onion begins to release its juices and turn translucent. Now turn the heat down to medium low and cook for another 7 minutes.
- Turn the heat back up to medium, and add the tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Cook over medium heat for another 3 minutes, then once again, turn the heat down to low. Continue to cook the tomatoes and onions for another 10 minutes over low heat. The tomatoes will release their juices and smell heavenly. Veggies are done!
Make the orzo
- Make the orzo according to package instructions. While the orzo cooks, you can cube the mozzarella (if using) and make the balsamic dressing.
Make the balsamic dressing
- In a small bowl, add the garlic, salt, and pepper, followed by the olive oil, Vegenaise (or mayonnaise), maple syrup, and balsamic vinegar. Now simply whisk everything together with a fork.
- Keep whisking until the dressing emulsifies. (Or comes together completely and there is no separation between the oil and the other ingredients.) This could take a minute or two, so don’t worry, just keep whisking until you get there. Dressing is done!
Put it all together
- Once the orzo is done, drain it, and put the orzo back in the pot you cooked it in. (Save a dish!)
- While the orzo is still warm, add in the onion and tomato mixture, followed by the drained chickpeas, then the parsley. Gently fold them into the orzo.
- Now mix in the creamy balsamic dressing. Start with about 1/3 of the dressing, then add more to taste. I generally use just about all of the dressing. Like literally 7/8ths! Just mix the dressing into the pot with everything else.
- Finally, add the mozzarella cubes (if using), and fold them into the warm orzo so they melt a bit.
Serve and enjoy!
- Garnish each serving of this Creamy Balsamic Orzo with parsley, and serve with a side of your favorite greens and meat substitute, if desired. Enjoy!