Tomato orzo pasta with feta yoghurt

Fresh tomatoes, orzo pasta & greens – this is summer on a plate!
Tomato orzo pasta on white plate, seen from above

Tomato orzo pasta with feta yoghurt

Fresh tomatoes, orzo pasta & greens – this is summer on a plate!
Tomato orzo pasta on white plate, seen from above

Vidar Bergum is a food writer and cookbook author based in Istanbul, Turkey.

A simple dish with tons of flavour and summer pleasure. The key here is the freshness of the ingredients, and the flavour combination of the sweet tomatoes, creamy and tangy feta yoghurt, and the fresh herbs. Delicious for lunch!

The Turkish tomato season is finally upon us. For each week that passes, the red fruits of all shapes and sizes become sweeter, juicier and tastier. And it’ll get better still. In a few weeks they can be eaten just as they are, like a fruit.

In the meantime, the tomatoes are plenty good enough for a decent chopped salad with a few other vegetables, and even fresh tomato sauces. With all due respect to the tinned varieties, some of which can be very good: Nothing can beat a tomato sauce from fresh, sun ripened tomatoes.

Tomato orzo pasta on white plate, seen from eye level

Today’s tomato-y lunch is one I’d set my eyes on a while ago. I recently visited London for the first time since departing for Istanbul in 2015. With a number of cookbooks from my favourite London restaurants having been released since last, I made sure I had plenty of room in my luggage to bring back a few. (I bought five…)

One of them, Ducksoup: The Wisdom of Simple Cooking, was perhaps the one for which I had the highest expectations. And it didn’t disappoint. Simple, seasonal cooking with good ingredients and clever flavour combinations allowing the ingredients to really shine through. Just the way I like it.

Photo: Bahar Kitapci

Huge meze spread seen from above
Photo: Bahar Kitapci
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This recipe is based on one of the dishes in that book. In the end, the flavours I desired were slightly different from those of Ducksoup’s recipe, but the core is the same: Plenty of tomato, orzo/risoni pasta and feta cheese. At the risk of stating the obvious: It was worth waiting for.

Half eaten plate of tomato orzo pasta on white plate, seen from above

Lots of tomato flavour. Fresh herbs. Tangy yoghurt. Salty cheese. Olive oil. What more do you need when the temperature outside is rapidly approaching, perhaps even exceeding, 30C?

So make this when the tomatoes where you live are at their peak. And if you can’t wait: Cheat by adding a teaspoon or two of good quality tomato paste to the tomatoes and source the best cherry tomatoes you can find.

The recipe serves two for lunch and is inspired by Orzo pasta, spicy tomato sauce & feta in the book Ducksoup: The Wisdom of Simple Cooking by Claire Lattin og Tom Hill, which I highly recommend.

Tomato orzo pasta on white plate, seen from above

Tomato orzo pasta with feta yoghurt

Yield: 2 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp pul biber (Aleppo pepper)
  • 500 g (18 oz) fresh tomatoes, peeled and cut into rough chunks
  • 1 tsp tomato paste + ½ tsp sugar (only necessary if your tomatoes aren’t sun ripened and full of flavour)
  • 125 g (½ cup + 2 Tbsp) orzo pasta (risoni/arpa şehriye) or other small pasta
  • 200 g (7 oz) fresh cherry tomatoes, cut into chunks at a diagonal
  • 25-30 large leaves of fresh basil, roughly torn
  • salt and black pepper

Feta yoghurt

  • 200 g (¾ cup) Greek yoghurt
  • 50 g (1 ¾ oz) feta cheese, finely crumbled
  • black pepper

Instructions

  1. Fry the onion in the olive oil in a thick based pot or pan over a low heat, stirring regularly, until soft but not brown, 8-10 minutes.
  2. Add garlic and pul biber. Continue frying for another 1-2 minutes, then add the chopped tomatoes. Mix and leave to simmer until the tomatoes have released their liquid and most of this liquid has evaporated, around 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Take off the heat.
  3. Simultaneously, boil the orzo pasta in plenty of salted water until al dente. You can also use other small pasta or even spaghetti broken into small chunks. Drain and mix into the ready tomato sauce.
  4. Make the feta yoghurt by whisking together the yoghurt and finely crumbled feta cheese with a fork. Season with black pepper.
  5. Mix the cherry tomatoes and torn basil leaves into the tomato sauce and pasta. Serve immediately, topping with the feta yoghurt and a good glug of extra virgin olive oil.

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Hey, there!

I’m Vidar. For the past few years, I’ve been exploring the foods of Turkey, the Middle East and beyond from my house in Balat, Istanbul. Let me show you around!

My books

I’ve published two books on Turkish and Middle Eastern food, available in Norwegian and German.

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Vidar Bergum on the front porch of his home, drinking tea, with a street cat eating something on the street in front of him