Orzo salad with pesto, tomatoes & knockalara cheese

Another day, another gorgeous recipe from the Ballymaloe Cookery Course Cookbook, all in the hope of raising money for the World Food Programme’s efforts in Lesotho. If this is your first time hearing of it, briefly:

Chez Pim has announced Menu for Hope 4 – her annual fundraising event. Inspired by the Tsnuami 5 years ago, in 2006, Menu for Hope raised US$62,925.12 to help the UN World Food Programme feed the hungry. I applaud her for this effort and would like to spread the word by directing you to her blog. This year, she is again supporting the UN World Food Programme.

More on how to buy a raffle ticket and prizes here, for now – back to food.

This cookbook hasn’t failed me yet. This recipe is very simple and quick, perfect for today’s lunch. It’s the litle details that really make it – sprinkling some sugar and balsamic vinegar on the cut tomatoes preserves and enhances their lovely flavour. I love the texture and flavour of orzo, a pasta grain with a delicate bite which absorbs other flavours beautifully. It’s great in salads and soups and makes a nice change when substituted for noodles/pasta in noodle soups or minestrone.

A note on Knockalara cheese – as I’ve mentioned it on the blog before, this is a cheese made local to where I grew up in Cappoquin, Co Waterford. I bought it from their stall in Dungarvan Farmer’s Market (which I promised I’d blog but still haven’t, I will eventually!). There are so many wonderful irish cheeses, I always bring some back with me when I go home, but this for me is particularly good. It’s a sheep’s milk cheese, the one I had was a mature one and had a strong flavour, almost reminiscent of a blue cheese, really very good. If you can’t get Knockalara, substitute another sheep’s cheese like a good feta.

I made a change to the recipe, adding more tomatoes as I had many, so instead of Darina’s 12 I had about 20 – 10 red, 10 yellow. I also cut the cheese smaller as mine was quite strong. I think I will add more pine nuts next time I make it as I like the taste and texture. It would be lovely as a side dish, or as I had it, for lunch with some leaves. Delicious!


225g orzo pasta
2 tbsp pesto
20 cherry tomatoes (half red/half yellow if possible)
a splash of balsamic vinegar
a pinch of sugar
25g pine nuts
75g knockalara cheese/similar


Rocket, to serve (not essential)


Cook the pasta for 10-12 minutes until al dente.

Run under a cold tap in a colander until cool.

Chop the tomatoes into quarters, season with S&P, and, sprinkle some balsamic vinegar and the sugar. Stir through, but be delicate so as not to disturb their shape.

Toast the pine nuts in a hot frying pan until brown, take care not to burn them, it won’t take long. Allow to cool.

Chop the cheese into approx 1cm cubes.

Stir the pesto through the orzo. Add the pine nuts, tomatoes & cheese and toss. Be gentle as you don’t want to mash them.
Serve with some leaves, like rocket, if you have any.

For information on how to donate and enter a raffle to win this book, please see the Menu for Hope – Raffle announcement & prize post.



Written by Niamh
Cooking and travelling, and sharing it all with you.