Whole Wheat Orzo with Arugula Pesto and Garlicky Shrimp

I found this recipe for arugula pesto in Food & Wine Magazine (August 2011) and from there I went off on my own. I will admit that I love the idea of all these flavors together, but somehow there was something missing. Don’t get me wrong – this is a simple and lovely dish, but I felt it could use some punching up. Why include it here? It’s a great start and I’d love to see what you all do with it. Does it need more cheese? Another layer of flavor? Let me know in the comments if you make the dish, enhance it and like it.

  • Kosher salt
  • 6 cups packed arugula
  • 1-1/2 cups whole wheat orzo
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced and divided
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 pound Key West pink shrimp
  • 8 large basil leaves, julienned

  • Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Drop the arugula in the water for just a few seconds, then very quickly scoop it out with a slotted spoon. Place it into a colander and rinse it with cold water to stop the cooking. Allow it to drain, then use your hands to wring out the remaining water. It should be very dry before proceeding.
  • Return the cooking water to a boil.¬†Cook the orzo according to package directions for al dente. Drain, then toss with in a large bowl with a splash of olive oil to prevent sticking.
  • To make the pesto, place the arugula, 1/2 cup olive oil, pine nuts, 4 sliced garlic cloves and the cheese in a food processor. If you have a mini food processor, you can easily use it to make this pesto (which will be just enough for the recipe. If you are doubling the recipe, use a larger food processor). Process until uniform, but not yet smooth. The pine nuts should be finely chopped but there should still be some texture to the pesto. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Warm the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add the remaining 4 sliced garlic cloves and cook until fragrant and lightly browned. Add the shrimp to the pan and cook just until done, no more than a couple minutes.
  • Toss the orzo with the pesto, then divide among plates. Top with the cherry tomatoes, shrimp and garnish with julienned basil.
  • Quick Tips
  • 1. I get Key West pink shrimp in the frozen section at Whole Foods. They are uncooked, but they are pink and appear cooked. Don’t be fooled! It’s a little harder to tell when they’re done because they don’t go from grey to pink like regular shrimp. Take care not to overcook them. They should only take a couple minutes if the pan is adequately hot.
  • 2. I am still thinking about what this dish needed. Maybe a bit of strong cheese, such as feta? Or maybe a dusting of breadcrumbs for crunch?

Preparation time: 30 minute(s)

Cooking time: 15 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

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