Red pesto orzo bake with basil, tomatoes and mozzarella


I will be glad when this launch that I have been working on is over next week. Particularly if it goes well of course. It's been fun but very intense. I had a dream last night that I was launching French sausages and it was the night before the launch when I realized there was no English text on the packaging. Merde. Luckily I am not launching saucissons and the packaging definitely has English text.

We've also been doing some media training in case we get opportunities. It's been a while since I have done any media interviews. I used to do quite a few early in my career when I was looking after the Easter egg range for a large confectionery company. It was a shitty product category, seasonal products, Christmas and stuff. No one wanted to do it. Imagine you get your timings wrong and miss your dates by a week. Not good. Anyway, I was often interviewed around Easter about the latest trends in Easter egg toys etc. I even once made it to the national TV, they wanted me to present our latest brainwave, finger puppets! Proud moment.

There were some tricky interviews as well. I remember one from a religious magazine about a little plastic raccoon sitting next to a barrel seemingly happily drunk. Apparently not appropriate for children. But ingeniously I turned the question around. Maybe the inappropriateness was in the eyes of the beholder, because clearly looking at it with the innocent eyes of a child it was a barrel of honey and the raccoon had just overindulged a little. Ever heard of Winnie the Pooh you dirty old bigot. I didn't say that last bit. Because I had been rigorously media trained, you see. Lesson one - don't call the journalist names.

So last night I was very glad to wind down and make husband proper dinner. I haven't been a completely useless wife this week, I made him really lovely chickpea and courgette burgers one evening, I might even blog the recipe at some point. And one evening I followed a recipe that promised to be the best ever lentil soup. It was really good, but I didn't realise that yellow lentils expand quite so much more than red lentils. I had to keep adding water. It reminded me of the story that dad told about the time he cooked rice for the first time in his student days. Had no idea that they would expand, ended up with enough to feed a Chinese village. Anyway lentil soup was nice and fed us for several nights and there is a good portion in the freezer.

The b(igg)est ever lentil soup

Our Friday dinner is a special thing and often I opt for fish. This time I had some lovely slightly smoked salmon fillets which I baked and made this orzo, basil, pesto, tomato and mozzarella bake. It's a tasty little side dish that I invented. I'm sure some one has thought of chucking these same ingredients together before me. It's not the most out there combination, the ingredients kind of all belong together naturally. There is nothing stopping you having it as a main. Side or main, or just cold from the fridge the following morning while waiting for your husband to wake up for breakfast - very yammy.

Beautiful heirloom toamatoes, the big green one was tough as old boots, but doesn't it look lovely.

Red pesto, tomato and mozzarella orzo bake (serves 2)

200g orzo
3-4 spring onions
1 small clove of garlic
2 large or 10-15 small tomatoes (heirloom for extra pretension)
2 tbsp of red pesto (or green)
Bunch of fresh basil (about 1/3 cup chopped)
1/3 cup grated parmesan
Salt and pepper
Ball of mozzarella (about 125g)

Pre-heat oven to 200C.

Cook the orzo in salted water until almost done, but still slightly al dente. In the meanwhile chop the spring onions and tomatoes and mince the garlic, Heat oil in a frying pan and saute the vegetables for a couple of minutes until the tomatoes have softened a little.

Drain the pasta. Add the vegetable mix, pesto, parmesan, salt (not too much because there is salt in the pesto and parmesan), black pepper and chopped fresh basil (leave some for garnish) to the pasta. Mix well and check the seasoning, add salt and pepper, if necessary. Pour the mix into a baking dish. Slice the mozzarella and place the slices on top.

Bake uncovered for about 15 minutes until the mozzarella has melted and the top has got some colour. Garnish with basil.

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