By: Steve Keenan Journalist | Specialist in rural tourism

Tuscany Now & More joins Italian chef and founder of Honest Cooking, Francesco Romano, as he shares his recipe for Saffron Orzo Pasta Salad. 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.

Orzo pasta salad with salted vegetables

“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

Serves 4 - Cook in 30 minutes


Saffron Orzo Pasta Salad

- 280g Orzo pasta 

- 6 cups low-salt chicken stock

- 1 teaspoon of saffron

- 1 red bell pepper, diced

- 1 medium red onion, finely diced

- 90g black oil-cured olives, sliced

- 112g fresh mozzarella, diced

- 220g canned chickpeas, drained and washed

- 18g cup sun-dried tomatoes, under oil, drained and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces

- 3 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated

- 15g fresh parsley, finely chopped


- 142g Extra-virgin olive oil

- 76g white balsamic vinegar

- 1 lemon, juiced

- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

- 1/2 teaspoon pepper


Step 1 

Begin by bringing 6 cups of chicken stock to boil. In a small mixing bowl, combine the saffron with 2 tablespoons of hot chicken stock and stir. Add the saffron mix to the chicken stock and stir well. Add the orzo to the boiling chicken stock and stir, allowing it to cook for 7-10 minutes.

Step 2

Drain the orzo, transfer into a serving bowl, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of Extra-virgin olive oil and set aside. In a bowl, mix together the red bell pepper and mozzarella, and set aside. In another bowl mix the sliced olives with the drained and rinsed canned chickpeas. Prepare your vinaigrette: combine balsamic vinegar, Extra-virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Add the diced onions to the vinaigrette and marinate for 5 minutes.

Step 3

Transfer all the ingredients into the orzo (red bell pepper, black olives, chickpeas and sun-dried tomatoes) and mix well. Add the vinaigrette and toss well to coat evenly. Before serving add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and fresh parsley. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate for later use. Buon Appetito!

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