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Orzo Salad with Basil and Heirloom Tomatoes

This simple side dish depends on the quality of the ingredients, so buy fresh vine-ripened tomatoes and a fine extra-virgin olive oil.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. mixed heirloom tomatoes of various sizes, including cherry tomatoes
  • Salt, to taste, plus 1 1/2 tsp.
  • 3 cups orzo pasta
  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, snipped into small pieces, plus 4 to 6 whole leaves for garnish

Directions:

Cut large or medium tomatoes into 1/2-inch cubes. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the orzo. When the water returns to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and cook until the orzo is al dente, about 9 minutes or according to the package directions. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. (The orzo can be prepared up to 6 hours in advance; toss it with a small amount of olive oil to keep it from sticking, cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.)

Add the tomatoes, the 1 1/2 tsp. salt, the olive oil, vinegar and pepper and stir gently until well mixed. Add the snipped basil and stir again. Garnish with the basil leaves and serve at room temperature. Serves 6 to 8.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Entertaining with the Seasons (Free Press, 2010).