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orzo with red cherries & basil

Summer produce is in full swing. We’re in that magical sweet spot where raspberries are bountiful, blackberries are just beginning to make an appearance, peaches are getting sweeter, nectarines are juicy, and there are even a few straggling strawberries left to be picked.

And then there are cherries. Sweet, juicy cherries with that gorgeous blood-red color that screams summer. But what to do with them that’s new and inventive? I recently had a mind-blowing orzo salad at my Aunt’s house that I couldn’t stop thinking about. I thought it would be fabulous with a few red cherries and tons of sweet basil. A savory use for cherries? It’s just what August ordered.

To make it, you’ll also need balsamic vinegar, olive oil, good quality grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese (throw that green can of Kraft out the window. Please.), and some pine nuts. Most better grocers carry orzo (a rice-shaped pasta) on the pasta aisle.

Bright red cherries are truly summer in a bowl.

And sweet basil? My favorite herb, hands down.

To begin, cook the orzo according to package directions. Drain and place in a heat-proof bowl.

Stir in the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Let cool, then place in the refrigerator to chill.

Right before you’re ready to eat, pit the cherries and chop into sixths.

Chop the basil. Your kitchen will smell heavenly.

Toss the cherries, basil, pine nuts and cheese into the pasta. Stir, and adjust the seasonings to taste (I added a few pinches of salt and a little extra vinegar).

Serve. It’s such a pretty summer salad, and would be fantastic next to grilled pork, chicken or salmon.

So easy to make, so flavorful, so summery. Happy August!

Orzo with Red Cherries & Basil adapted from Bon Appetit      printable recipe

This summery pasta salad can be made in advance and pairs well with grilled pork, chicken or salmon. Prep time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 10 minutes plus time to refrigerate.

  • 1 lb orzo
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 1/4 c balsamic vinegar, plus more to taste
  •  1/2 lb red cherries
  • 2 oz basil to yield roughly 1/2 c chopped
  • 1/3 c grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
  • 1/4 c pine nuts
  • salt and pepper to taste
1. Cook the orzo according to package directions. Drain well and place in a heat-proof bowl. Stir in the olive oil and balsamic vinegar, stir well and allow to cool. Cover and place in the refrigerator until chilled.
2. Pit the cherries and cut into sixths. Remove basil leaves from stems and chop.
3. Right before serving, toss the chilled orzo with the cherries, basil, cheese and pine nuts. Season to taste with salt and pepper and additional vinegar if desired.