Favorite Winter Orzo Salad

September 16, 2012
3 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 6 to 8
Author Notes

I love fall's flavors ... especially roasted butternut squash. Combined with an orzo pasta and some microgreens -- your choice of watercress, arugula or any dark green, and you have the lushness of a roasted fall veggie with the lightness of a summer salad. I use fresh sage leaves when roasting the squash and a rich Maytag blue cheese to complement the dish, but you could sub a mild chevre or leave it off for a vegan side dish. This salad holds well and is as good at room temp as it is warm, or even cold from the fridge. If transporting, just add the cold blue cheese when ready to serve. —lorigoldsby

What You'll Need
  • 2 pounds butternut squash, cut into bite-sized cubes
  • 1/4 pound orzo
  • 2 ounces Maytag blue cheese
  • 1/4 cup oil (scant)
  • 1 bunch fresh sage leaves
  • Fresh cracked pepper and coarse kosher, sea, or alder salt
  • 1 bunch watercress, arugula, or any microgreen
  • 1 ounce roasted pepitas
  1. If you didn't purchase the precut butternut squash, then peel and cube the squash. If you did purchase the precut squash, give it a good rinse and pat dry.
  2. Drizzle the butternut squash with a good quality oil. Salt and pepper to taste. If you have some smoked salt (like alder), you can substitute a pinch of it for regular kosher salt.
  3. Arrange clusters of sage on top of squash. Reserve 2 to 3 sage leaves. If you don't have fresh sage, you can substitute some dried "rubbed sage" -- sprinkle liberally like salt.
  4. Bake at 450 F for 30 to 40 minutes (depending on your cube size) or until golden caramelization and deliciousness occurs.
  5. Cook orzo according to package directions. At my farmer's market there is a vendor that sells an "autumn blend" of tricolor orzo. Boil in approximately 4 cups salted water for 15-17 minutes (normal orzo will probably take much less time -- check your package to be sure). Drain and chill.
  6. Combine cooked butternut squash, pepitas, and orzo and toss. (The leftover oil in the roasting pan will serve as your "dressing" -- use leftover oil in pan to minimally coat orzo). Personally I don't think you need any acid (like lemon or vinegar) because of the "tang" of the blue cheese -- but if you are omitting the cheese, you may want to try a few splashes of a good balsamic vinegar.
  7. Add crumbled blue cheese (or feta or chevre or omit cheese) and choice of greens. Add a few chiffonaded strips of fresh sage as a garnish.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Adrienne
  • lorigoldsby
  • Hannah Mark
    Hannah Mark
  • Robin O'D
    Robin O'D
  • abunnybabe

Recipe by: lorigoldsby

I learned to cook with my Gran. I can still see her reading a recipe and figuring out how she would make it better. She was fearless about substituting ingredients--but also knowledgeable. She approached food in the same way she built her antique business--appreciate quality ingredients and workmanship, but don't be a snob. I think I carry those same beliefs in my approach to cooking. I love family style dinners, I love a fancy ladies' luncheon with my wedding china, or a backyard seafood boil to celebrate my husband's birthday...I love to share food with others.

14 Reviews

Adrienne October 25, 2017
At first glance this recipe seems a little unremarkable but I encourage you to try it. It works together in the both beautifully autumnal way. I can’t way to play with it in the weeks to come to. It’s certainly added to my weeknight rotation (but would be perfect for a potluck or vegetarian side dish too).
ashley.siemon November 4, 2016
We make this all the time. Highly recommend adding dried cranberries.
lorigoldsby April 9, 2015
Thanks for your lovely comments Hannah. Those are marvelous substitutions! You should post your recipe for the corn fusili. (You can give me inspirational credit!LOL)

Your post made my day. Haven't been on the site much lately. Was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, been a tough year but only one surgery left, hope to be posting again later this summer.
Hannah M. April 9, 2015
Oh, and one last thing: I've used just about every type of pumpkin/squash for this and even sweet potato - all are great! Not sure yet about carrot, but I'll try that one next :)
Hannah M. April 9, 2015
So I've started using this salad as a springboard for various versions because it's so delicious, versatile and forgiving. The last two versions I remember were:
1. Corn fusilli instead of orzo (for my gluten free sister), crumbled parmesan instead of blue cheese and a dressing of olive oil and apple cidre vinegar
2. A mix of sorrel and rocket for the greens, a dressing of olive oil and mustard and feta as the cheese (no pumpkin seeds).
Both times I roast the pumpkin with ground cinnamon, coriander, smoked paprika, thyme, garlic and ginger. I use half the sage for roasting the pumpkin and half for the salad itself.
That may sound like a lot of changes - it is! It's the perfect salad to make your own! If anyone is hesitating to make this, please don't - you won't regret it.
lorigoldsby December 30, 2013
I've noticed this year the precut butternut squash is quite a small dice...are you cooking with oil on a metal baking sheet?
Lauren W. December 30, 2013
Have made this a few times, but I must be doing something wrong with the squash as it burns before it cooks to anything approaching caramelization and the sage burns to a crisp as well. Convection oven is set to 375. Should I be covering this?
lorigoldsby December 6, 2013
Glad you enjoyed it @robin. We also sub goat cheese when we are out of blue or guests are finicky. Love the idea of pommegranate seeds! Thanks for your comment.
Robin O. December 6, 2013
We made this salad tonight and loved it! We did make a few changes based on items we already had in the fridge. We used goat cheese instead of blue cheese, added some blanched haricots verts, added a small amount of dressing and topped with pomegranate seeds. Sooo good!
abunnybabe October 9, 2013
I'm making this tonight. I have already cut cut butternut squash leftover from cutting a GIANT squash and making the butternut and miso soup last night!
lorigoldsby January 12, 2013
Thanks for your note Amy. I think the crunch of the pepitas with the creaminess of the blue cheese provides nice textural contrast.
Amy G. January 12, 2013
This salad was great, I used arugula for the greens and blue cheese and sprinked extra pepitas on top, The flavors blended very well.
lorigoldsby January 9, 2013
I think the kabocha pumpkin would contrast nicely with the savory blue cheese ( or other cheese available in your market). Good luck! Let us know how it works, and if you use any herbal notes other than sage/thyme.
BoulderGalinTokyo January 8, 2013
This looks delicious. Sadly so many recipes on food52 have butternut or acorn squash and none to be had in the stores or markets here. Would kabocha pumpkin work, or too sweet?