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Tuscan Recipes: Saffron Orzo Pasta Salad

By: Steve Keenan Journalist | Specialist in rural tourism

Francesco Romano

Francesco Romano, photographer

Francesco champions his Italian heritage by reproducing authentic recipes passed down from his grandmother. Born in Italy and now living in America, Francesco recommends recipes to get readers started on Italian cooking.

“In Italy, the cuisine is based on a few basic ideas — simplicity, freshness, and what is local and in season. We eat a lot of simply prepared vegetables, seafood and olive oil. We use poultry and fish in many dishes. Of course, a nice glass of Italian red with dinner has been a family tradition for centuries, and it is proven to be good for you!

“Authentic Italian food isn’t masked by fancy sauces; each component is treated like the star of the meal. For example, a tomato tastes like a tomato, and with the addition of herbs and spices, a basic tomato is elevated to a delicious accompaniment to a wonderful entrée. I hope you try this recipe and that it will give you a taste of what the Mediterranean and Italy have to offer.”

Saffron Orzo Pasta Salad


  • 10 oz Orzo pasta (by Barilla)
  • 6 cups low-salt chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon saffron
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 medium red onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup black oil-cured olives, sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh mozzarella, diced
  • 1 8 oz can Italian chickpeas
  • 1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, under oil, drained and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated
  • 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped

For the vinaigrette:

  • 1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


  1. Bring six cups of chicken stock to the boil.
  2. In a small bowl combine a teaspoon of saffron and two tablespoons of the hot chicken stock and stir to dissolve.
  3. Add the saffron to the chicken stock and stir.
  4. Add the orzo to the boiling chicken stock and let it cook for seven minutes.
  5. Drain the orzo, transfer to a bowl, drizzle two tablespoons of olive oil and set aside.
  6. Dice red bell pepper, red onion, mozzarella, and set aside.
  7. Slice the sun-dried tomatoes into 1/2-inch pieces and set aside.
  8. Slice the olives and drain and rinse the canned chickpeas.
  9. In a medium bowl, combine balsamic vinegar, extra-virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Add the diced onion to the vinaigrette and let it marinate for five minutes.
  10. Transfer all of the ingredients into the orzo and mix well; add the vinaigrette and toss well to coat.
  11. Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and fresh parsley just before serving.
  12. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate for later use.

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