~ Necessity is the mother of invention ~
I honestly think this is how most recipes are created. The fridge is near empty, save for a mish mash of leftovers. There’s a half empty box of pasta in the pantry and a container of ricotta cheese that is approaching its expiration date. And those two remaining semi-stale hot dog buns? Well yes of course those can be tossed into the food processor and turned into bread crumbs! Bottom line: your family is starving and food must appear soon or else.
Then in one magical moment, out of chaos, these ingredients come together into something splendid and behold, a recipe is born.
And so it came to be last month when all I had in my refrigerator were some ingredients leftover from a spinach salad I had prepared for New Years Eve (spinach, toasted walnuts and feta cheese) and a box of Barilla Orzo pasta. Keep in mind these ingredients happen to fall into that category of “things I could eat every day forever and be completely happy.”
All it needed was a touch of garlic and a splash of lemon zest and a drizzle of olive oil at the end to complete. The flavor and texture combination: amazing. The possibilities: endless. Serve as a hearty, meatless entree or if you’re in the mood or some protein, serve as a side with grilled chicken or top with some sauteed shrimp. Leftovers taste great chilled for lunch.
This, to me, is what cooking is all about: working with fresh ingredients, creating, reinventing. If necessity is the mother of invention, then necessity is indeed a very good thing.
Lemon Orzo Pasta with Spinach, Walnuts and Feta Cheese
1 cup Barilla Orzo pasta
5 cups baby spinach, lightly packed
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted (see Note>)
2/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 TBS extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
1 tsp fresh lemon zest
Kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper
- Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add Barilla orzo pasta and cook until just al dente per directions; drain pasta and set aside.
- Heat 1 TBS olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and saute approximately 30 seconds until fragrant. Add spinach and a pinch of salt. Toss gently with tongs until spinach is just starting to wilt, about 1-2 minutes.
- Return orzo to the pan. Stir in walnuts and then feta cheese. Add some additional salt if necessary and a few grinds of black pepper. Toss gently to coat. Then just before serving, drizzle a little olive oil over and sprinkle with lemon zest. Give it one more toss then serve.
Serves 4 as a main dish or 6 as a side
Note> For the freshest nuts, try the bulk section of your grocery store. You can buy just as much as you need, save some money and chances are they are infinitely fresher than the packaged nuts in the baking section.