This dish is near perfect.
At least in my book.
It’s hard not to love a recipe that’s elegant, the definition of comfort food, and comes together in 30 minutes.
Creamy Balsamic Orzo
The comfort food quality of this meal comes in large part from the orzo.
Orzo is pasta. But it’s shaped like large grains of rice. When cooked, orzo gets exceptionally creamy. This natural creaminess is enhanced by the sauce you mix into the orzo.
In this recipe, the sauce is my Creamy Balsamic Dressing.
My Creamy Balsamic Dressing is inspired by a balsamic that California Pizza Kitchen used to serve. When CPK took it off the menu, I knew I had to create something similar at home.
My Creamy Balsamic Dressing is the result. It’s just as delicious over a bed of greens as it is in this orzo.
Tomatoes, chickpeas, and parsley round out this easy, flavorful dish.
Keep it vegan by stopping here. Or, add some fresh mozzarella on top of each serving.
The mozzarella gets slightly warm, but not enough to melt or become stringy. The dish stands alone without the mozzarella. But it’s an amazing textural component that adds even more flavor, if you’ve got it.
I recommend using the small mozzarella balls packed in olive oil, like these from Galbani. I cut them into quarters and lay them on top of each serving.
But you could also just dice up a block of mozzarella, about 2-4 ounces, depending on your preference.
Make Creamy Balsamic Orzo!
Whether it’s a busy weeknight or an elegant weekend meal you’re looking for, this Creamy Balsamic Orzo fits the bill.
High quality olive oil is important in homemade dressings. Here’s my favorite, PJ KABOS, on Amazon [aff. link], straight from the olive groves of the Panagiotopoulos family in Greece.
You can also find PJ KABOS olive oil in my Amazon store here.
Creamy Balsamic Orzo
For the creamy balsamic dressing:
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tsp sea salt
- 1 pinch of pepper
- 3 tsp maple syrup
- 3 tsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 ½ Tbsp Vegenaise, (or mayonnaise)
- 1 pound orzo
- 10 oz cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 15 oz can chickpeas
- 2-4 oz mozzarella, sliced or cubed to ½ inch pieces (omit to keep this meal vegan)
- 2 Tbsp fresh parsley, minced, plus more to garnish
Make the orzo
- Make the orzo according to package instructions. Be sure to salt the pasta water. (I add 1 tsp sea salt per 12 cups of water.)
- While the orzo cooks, you can prepare the tomatoes, mozzarella (if using) and make the balsamic dressing.
Make the balsamic dressing
- To a small mixing bowl, add the garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil, Vegenaise (or mayonnaise), maple syrup, and balsamic vinegar. Whisk everything together with a fork.
- Keep whisking until the dressing emulsifies. There should be no separation between the oil and the other ingredients. This could take a minute or two. Just keep whisking until you get there.
Put it all together
- Once the orzo is done, drain it, and put the orzo back in the pot you cooked it in.
- While the orzo is still warm, add in the halved tomatoes, followed by the drained chickpeas, then the parsley. Gently fold them into the orzo.
- Now mix in the Creamy Balsamic Dressing. Start with about ¾ of the dressing. After it's completely mixed into the orzo, taste, and add the remaining dressing, if desired.
Serve and enjoy!
- Garnish each serving of Creamy Balsamic Orzo with mozzarella and parsley, and serve.
I’m not one for drowning my salad in salad dressing either. I usually just prefer just a simple balsamic and olive oil dressing too. But I love the sound of your creamy balsamic dressing. And this looks like a really delicious pasta dish. Great for a weeknight meal!
Thank you so much Neil!!!! Totally agree, simple salads are always the best, aren’t they? For sure, this is a great weeknight meal! Thank you so so much for your kind comment, hope you have a lovely weekend!
What a great looking salad. Shannon, I really like your site, it reminds me of the old TCM series “Dinner and a Movie” (I think that’s what it was called). Orzo is soo good in so many dishes, but in a salad like your Creamy Balsamic Orzo. I’m not familiar with California Pizza Kitchen, but that dressing looks wonderful.
Thank you so so much for your kind comment Ron! Such a compliment, you’ve made my day! Totally agree, orzo is so amazing and versatile. A great way to dress up pasta dishes!
HOW DID I MISS THE CPK COPYCAT DRESSING?!?!?! Sometimes I buy pints of it from CPK because I’m obsessed with it. I’m going to try this ASAP!!! Looks amazing!
Yessss!!! Isn’t the CPK balsamic dressing the BEST?! I am so picky about dressings, and this one is definitely my favorite. Always satisfies my CPK craving. 😋 Hope you enjoy it!
the perfect summer recipe A++!
Brought this to a summer potluck. It was a hit!
I’m obsessed with the sauce! I put it on salad, too
That’s awesome, thanks for commenting Emily!