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Cookbook author Ina Garten is my hero. I discovered her years ago on her Food Network program, The Barefoot Contessa, and was immediately captivated not only by the delicious-looking food she prepared, but also by her warmth and hospitality. So many cooking programs give you the impression of having been invited into the host’s kitchen to learn a cooking tip or two; with Ina, you get the sense that she’d invite you to stay after—not to help her clean up, necessarily (although I’d gladly do so), but to chat over coffee and dessert. A decadent, incredible dessert.

The first Ina Garten book I ever purchased (there are four on my shelf) was Barefoot Contessa Parties!. I’ve made my favorites from this book so often that the dog-eared, stained pages have retained their place-memory. The recipe I’m sharing here is found on page 174, and I’d like to thank the publisher, Clarkson Potter/Random House, for giving me permission to do so.

With farmers’ markets opening up for the season, this is the perfect time—and the perfect way—to enjoy the bounties of your region. This is truly one of my favorite dishes to make, and it garners raves each time it appears on my table. (The dressing is so delicious and easy to prepare that it has become my default salad dressing.) I promise you: if you’ve never tried one of Ina’s recipes, this one will get you hooked. You’ll soon start your own collection of Barefoot Contessa cookbooks.

Orzo with Roasted Vegetables
Copyright © 2001 by Ina Garten. All rights reserved. Used with permission of the publisher.
—Serves 6

1 small eggplant, peeled and 3/4-inch diced
1 red bell pepper, 1-inch diced
1 yellow bell pepper, 1-inch diced
1 red onion, peeled and 1-inch diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup good olive oil
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound orzo

For the dressing:
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/3 cup good olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

To assemble:
4 scallions, minced (white and green parts)
1/4 cup pignolis, toasted (see note below)
3/4 pound good feta, 1/2-inch diced (not crumbled)
15 fresh basil leaves, cut into chiffonade

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Toss the eggplant, bell peppers, onion, and garlic with the olive oil, salt, and pepper on a large baking sheet. Roast for 40 minutes, until browned, turning once with a spatula.

The vegetables, all minced and seasoned and ready to roast

Meanwhile, cook the orzo in boiling salted water for 7 to 9 minutes, until tender. Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl.

Add the roasted vegetables to the pasta, scraping all the liquid and seasonings from the roasting pan into the pasta bowl.

For the dressing, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper and pour on the pasta and vegetables. Let cool to room temperature, then add the scallions, pignolis, feta, and basil. Check the seasonings, and serve at room temperature.


To toast pignolis, place them in a dry sauté pan and cook over medium heat for about 4 minutes, until evenly browned, tossing frequently.