Orzo w/ Zucchini, Cherry Tomatoes, Mozzarella & Basil

The truth is that sometimes, when I'm researching for a project, I can get so caught up that I forget about other responsibilities.  Rather, they are just delayed.  Forgetting to text back a friend, confirm an appointment, take out the rancid smelling trash, or to put on my pants.  You may just find me in my smelly apartment, on my bed, in my underwear, with laptop burn marks on my thighs.  It happens more than I'd care to admit.

Although I pride myself in being on time 80% of the time, that 20% is usually me being caught up in an internet landslide and then not giving myself the extra 40 minutes of additional leeway everyone in L.A. needs to be on time. "Traffic" is still a legitimate excuse for tardiness out here, but not if "traffic" becomes code for "chronically late individual."  Every Angeleno has one of those friends.


It's summer now and sometimes people throw potlucks and you agree to not only bring food, but to be early to assist with set up.  As a quick side note (which I'll just place right here in the middle of this sentence), if you have anything to do with hospitality for a living, your family and friends will prey on your expertise.  That usually requires leaving a few hours before the guest arrival time- so for their sake, I try to limit the kind of black hole of information that I could fall into on those days.  

Alas, that day did come last weekend and after falling deep into a New Yorker/ Nora Ephron reading tailspin, before I knew it, I had an hour to make a side dish, rinse off and get my face made.  Oof.

This is the dish you need when you fail miserably at time management.  Plus, it's nice to have a potluck provision that projects your burrowed responsibility, sensibility and seasonal chef charm. 



I made a similar version last year, when laziness played a starring role in my life and it served me well then just as it does now.  This incarnation adds quickly sauteed zucchini, leaves the tomatoes whole, and swaps mint for basil.  I suppose I could have called it Caprese Orzo, but the squash forfeited that prospect.  In my opinion, the zucchini totally makes it worth the energy of having it in there.



Orzo w/ Zucchini, Cherry Tomatoes, Mozzarella & Basil


  • 8 oz. orzo
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil (divided)
  • 3 medium zucchinis, cut into 1” pieces
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 scallions, thinly sliced (whites and light green only)
  • 8 oz. cherry tomatoes
  • 8 oz. pearl mozzarella
  • 2 tablespoons chiffonade of basil
  • kosher salt, to taste (and for pasta water)
  • black pepper, to taste

-Bring a large pot of generously salted water to boil.  Cook the orzo until done, following the instructions on the package.  Drain and toss in a bit of olive oil, just to coat.  Place in a large mixing bowl.

-In a sauté pan (this will have to be done in a couple of batches), bring the three tablespoons of olive oil to hot and add the zucchini in batches, making sure to leave enough space between pieces to allow browning.  When you see one side is golden,  use a spatula to un-stick pieces and quickly toss in pan to fully cook; add to bowl of drained orzo.

-Let pan slightly cool (you just don’t want it to be super hot), then add another 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Gently sweat the garlic until you can smell it and then add the scallions.  Turn off heat and mix everything to coat.

-To finish: add the garlic, scallion mixture to the bowl of orzo.  Add the cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, basil and season to taste with salt and pepper.