Risoni /orzo salad, filled with an unapologetically generous amount of your new favourite garnish – crispy salami bits! There’s a good stack of bright fresh vegetables in here too, all tossed up in a tasty Italian Dressing. A new big, bold, statement pasta salad to fall in love with!
The crispy salami bits!
Meet the star player in today’s line up – crispy salami. Literally just chopped up salami, fried in a pan until crisp.
Think, crispy bacon. With even more flavour!
Wait – what do you mean you’ve never fried up salami before??!!
OK, truthfully, I hadn’t either until I started down this “I want to make an interesting pasta salad!” warpath. A familiar state I find myself in pursuit of this (delicious!) life I have chosen sharing recipes with the world. 🙂
I had a vision of a pasta salad version of my Mega Italian Salad. I wanted big, I wanted statement, and I wanted something different to the usual “just add an Italian dressing and then you can call it an Italian pasta salad”.
Multiple iterations later – “mm, I mean, it’s fine but it’s just pretty ordinary, ya know?” – I arrived at today’s version. The crispy salami bits was the clincher!
Just briefly – orzo vs risoni
The little rice shaped pasta bits of pasta are a firm favourite. My pantry is never without multiple boxes! Called risoni here in Australia and orzo in most of the rest of the world (UK, US, Canada). But risoni is actually the correct name used in Italy because orzo means barley in Italian. And risoni is not made form barley, it’s made from flour like normal pasta!
So there you have it! Here in Australia, it’s labelled risoni in the mainstream grocery stores but in speciality grocers and Italian stores, I’ve also seen it labelled as orzo.
What you need for risoni / orzo salad
This is a big orzo / risoni salad filled with a medley of fresh vegetables, a handful of cheese, then tossed with an Italian dressing and the crispy salami bits.
1. Risoni / orzo
Find risoni /orzo in the pasta aisle, usually sold in small boxes. It costs around the same as spaghetti. Suggestions for alternatives below.
Substitute with cooked rice of choice (use 1 1/2 cups uncooked rice) – white, brown, basmati, jasmine – or quinoa (directions here). Other little pasta will work too – like ditalini, the really small macaroni or the novelty shapes for kids (dinosaurs! alphabet!).
2. The add-ins
The add-ins for this recipe are inspired by everybody’s favourite Mega Italian Salad. But there’s lots of alternatives – go wild with salad add-ins of your choice! Even the crispy salami bits, as much as I harp on and on about them, can be substituted with bacon, ham, prosciutto, or anything else that’s crispy/salty. Or nuts!
Salami – I use the deli pre-sliced rounds because I’m lazy and it means less chopping for me because the job is half done. Else, slice your own salami stick!
Substitutes – As noted above, anything fryable that goes crispy will work great as a substitute. And if you prefer no meat, add a handful of roughly chopped pistachios, pine nuts, or sunflower or pepitas.
Tomato – I like using cherry tomatoes because they hold up better if keeping this for a few days. However, you can use 3 large tomatoes instead. Scoop out watery middle then dice the flesh.
Rocket/arugula – My leafy greens of choice for ease of use (grab handfuls and rip into smaller pieces) and also because it holds up best in leftovers. But other leafy greens will work fine, chop into small(ish) pieces.
Capsicum/bell peppers – For crunch! Cucumbers would make a great sub. Oh, and you don’t HAVE to use green capsicum! 🙂 Yellow or red will be fine too….
Red onion – Substitute with something similar for oniony freshness. 1 large green onion stem finely chopped, or 1 eschallot (US: shallot ie the baby onions), or 1/2 a white onion.
Olives – I like using sliced olives here for better dispersion, though I was tempted to use whole ones so you can big meaty bites of olives. You choose!
Substitute with other briny things. I’m thinking: pickles, artichokes, fire roasted capsicum, other pickled veg. Just want something with tang to balance out everything else going on in this salad!
Cheese – What, you’ve never added a handful of shredded cheese into “rubble” type salads before? It’s so good! Instant flavour uplift. I used colby – a great all-rounder that works for melting in cheesy sauces (Mac & Cheese), on things (pasta bakes), on tacos, in burritos, in salads!
Substitute with cheddar, monetary jack, pepper jack, gruyere, swiss etc. Not mozzarella (not enough flavour) and not parmesan (too much flavour!).
3. Italian dressing
This is the same dressing from my Mega Italian Salad, minus the parmesan cheese – because we’re using a big handful of shredded cheese instead!
Extra virgin olive oil – The better the quality, the better your salad!
Red wine vinegar – Substitute with white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
Dried basil and oregano – Substitute with an Italian herb mix or dried parsley.
Chilli flakes – Optional, for the tiniest hint of warmth.
Sugar – Just 1/2 teaspoons. Cuts through the vinegar so you can get away with using less oil.
Garlic – Fresh please! Jarred stuff barely resembles the real deal, and is also weirdly sour. So wrong!
How to make risoni/orzo salad
Dressing – Shake the dressing ingredients in a jar. Always my preferred method to make dressings because it really combines the ingredients well. Plus, useful storage!
Risoni / orzo – Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water per packet directions. Drain, rinse then toss in a little oil (to keep it from clumping) then cool.
Crispy salami – Chop the salami into small pieces. Then cook it in a non-stick pan like you do bacon until it’s crispy. No oil needed, it will fry up in its own fat!
Drain on paper towels. It will get crispier as it cools. To preserve crispiness, keep it separate until just before serving.
Toss 1 – Toss all the salad ingredients together first without the dressing.
Dress then toss again – Then pour the dressing over and toss again. Why I do this: because otherwise certain ingredients (I’m looking at YOUR rocket!) tends to hog more than its fair share of the dressing.
Tumble everything into a large serving bowl. Sprinkle with reserved salami then eat!
Practical matters of Italian risoni/orzo salad
Some final words on this pasta salad!
Making ahead – If I’m making ahead intentionally (eg taking to a gathering), I’ll keep the components separate so it’s fresh and perky for serving. Especially the crispy salami! It does soften once it’s mixed through so keep it separate to preserve crispiness.
Shelf life once dressed – Still very good after 2 hours, good after 3 days. If I know I’m keeping it, I usually dial up the dressing slightly, and hold a little back so I can freshen it up with a little extra dressing.
Gluten free – As suggested above in the ingredients chatter section, switch the pasta for rice to make this gluten free. It’s literally perfect – similar size and shape.
Eat with a spoon – Perhaps a strange point to finish on but this is a characteristic of this that really appeals to me!! For some reason, I find it really satisfying that I can eat this pasta salad with a spoon. Convenience (eg multi-tasking: eat without taking your eyes off the TV, or in my case, moving around the kitchen while cooking something else!) and the ability to scoop up and eat big mouthfuls of it.
Are you judging me? 😂
Love to know what you think if you try this recipe. Especially, of course, the crispy salami bits!! – Nagi x
Watch how to make it
Italian Orzo Salad (Risoni) with Crispy Salami Bits
cold pasta salad, Main
Tap or hover to scale
Cook pasta – Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add orzo and risoni, cook per packet directions. Drain in colander, rinse, shake off excess water well. Transfer to large bowl. Toss with the olive oil then let cool.
Dressing – Shake in a jar.
Crispy salami – Put salami in cold large non-stick pan, with no oil. Turn onto medium high – as the pan heats up, the fat will melt so it cooks in its own fat. Cook for 3 – 5 minutes, stirring regularly, until light golden. Drain on paper towels. It will crisp as it cools.
Toss – Set aside 1/3 of the salami for topping. Put all remaining salad ingredients in with the risoni. Toss. Pour over dressing. Toss, toss, toss! Pour into serving bowl. Sprinkle with remaining salami. Serve!
2. Salami – I use the deli pre-sliced rounds because I’m lazy and it means less chopping for me because the job is half done. Else, slice your own salami stick!
Substitutes – Anything fryable that goes crispy, like bacon, ham bits, prosciutto. Prefer no meat? Add a handful of roughly chopped pistachios, pine nuts, or sunflower or pepitas.
3. Vegetable notes:
– Tomato: sub with 3 large tomatoes, scoop out watery middle then dice the flesh
– Rocket/arugula: holds up best it keeping leftovers, I find. But other leafy greens will work fine, chop into small(ish) pieces.
– Capsicum/bell peppers: cucumber could be substituted. Oh, and you don’t HAVE to use green 🙂 Yellow or red will be fine too!
– Red onion: Sub 1 large green onion stem finely chopped. Or 1 escahllot (US: shallot ie the baby onions), or 1/2 white onion.
4. Olives – Sub with other briny things. I’m thinking: pickles, artichokes, fire roasted capsicum, other pickled veg. Just want something with tang to balance out everything else going on in this salad!
5. Cheese – Sub with cheddar, monetary jack, pepper jack, gruyere, swiss etc. Not mozzarella (not enough flavour) and not parmesan (too much flavour!). Try to grate short rather than long strands – you get more pieces to litter throughout!
6. Leftovers keeps well for 2 to 3 days. If intentionally making ahead, keep all components separate then toss and dress just before serving. In particular, the salami softens once tossed through so preserve crispiness by keeping it separate!!
Nutrition per serving assuming 5 servings.
Calories: 612cal (31%)Carbohydrates: 46g (15%)Protein: 20g (40%)Fat: 39g (60%)Saturated Fat: 9g (56%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 4gMonounsaturated Fat: 23gCholesterol: 42mg (14%)Sodium: 2052mg (89%)Potassium: 589mg (17%)Fiber: 4g (17%)Sugar: 5g (6%)Vitamin A: 836IU (17%)Vitamin C: 39mg (47%)Calcium: 86mg (9%)Iron: 3mg (17%)
Life of Dozer
Somebody get Prince Edward Dozer Maehashi I some sunnies, stat! The morning sun is blinding him!
#RisoniOrzo #Salad #Crispy #Salami #Bits, 1688548023