Basil Lemon Vinaigrette:
1T Dijon mustard
1 T lemon zest
¼ cup lemon juice
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 T Basil chiffonade
Salt and pepper
4T olive oil
4 oz. diced pancetta
1 medium yellow or red onion finely diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 box (1 pound) Orzo
4 cups baby spinach leaves, torn into pieces
1cup toasted walnuts, broken into pieces
8 oz. Feta cheese, crumbled
1. Vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard and lemon zest and juice. Slowly add the olive oil in a steady stream, whisking constantly until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in basil. Set aside.
2. In a medium sauté pan over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the pancetta and cook until brown and crispy. Using a slotted spoon, remove the cooked pancetta from the pan and place on a paper towel lined plate. Allow the pancetta to drain and then place in a large bowl. Set aside.
3. Remove any remaining fat from the pan. Place the pan back on the heat and add 2 tablespoons of the pancetta fat or more olive oil if necessary.
4. Sauté the onions until soft, about 4-6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook an additional 1-2 minutes. Add to bowl with the pancetta and set aside.
5. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon salt. Add the orzo and cook as per package directions.
6. Drain the orzo and place in the bowl with the pancetta and onion mixture. Add the spinach. Toss with the hot pasta.
7. Add the vinaigrette and continue tossing until the spinach has wilted. Add the feta cheese and nuts, and toss till combined. Season with salt and pepper.
8. Place salad on platter and serve warm or at room temperature.
TIPS & TRICKS
• Vinaigrette can be made ahead. Just add the basil at the last moment.
• You can substitute bacon for pancetta.
• Almonds or pecans can be substituted for walnuts.
• Goat cheese and blue cheese are fantastic and can really change up the taste of this salad.
• This salad is wonderful the next day.