This next weekend we're kicking off America's final summer holiday: Labor Day. In lieu of traditional mayonnaise-laden and calorie-packed macaroni and potato salads, why not make something lighter, fresher and equally delicious?
This recipe, which I adapted from the NYT Cooking section, calls for a whole pound of orzo. Online reviews said that a pound was way too much pasta and after making it, I agree. A half-pound of orzo is just right. You get less starch and more colorful vegetables in every bite. I also reduced the 1/4 cup of olive oil in the NYT recipe to 1 Tbsp. to keep calories and WW Points low.
Adding cannellini beans or chicken breast makes this a complete meal, The beans and chicken are ZERO WW Points. Whether or not you're a Weight Watcher, you'll appreciate the fullness factor you get from the added protein.
8 oz. orzo
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
3 large red, yellow and/or orange bell peppers,
chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1 fresh thyme sprig
1 Tbsp. garlic, minced
1 medium tomato, diced into 1/2-inch pieces
1 (15-oz.) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish
1/2 cup reduced-fat feta cheese, crumbled
Lemon wedges for serving
Cook orzo in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain, saving 1/4 cup of pasta water. Allow to cool while preparing peppers.
In a large skillet, heat olive oil. Add onion, bell peppers and thyme and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in garlic until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomato and cook, stirring occasionally, until broken down and juices release, about 3-4 minutes. Add the reserved pasta water and the cannellini beans.
Transfer vegetable and bean mixture to a large bowl to cool slightly. Add cooled orzo, lemon juice, basil and feta cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix well and garnish with more basil. Serve with lemon wedges. The more lemon, the better!