Orzo Pasta, Nasturtium Leaf Pesto, Pan Fried Chicken and Garlic and Greek Basil Roasted Heirloom Tomatoes

Orzo pasta is so versatile. It has a great texture in the mouth and is a great pasta for coating with sauces as it covers well and doesn’t clump together like rice would. For this recipe I used a pesto that I came across while wandering and meandering through the Clonakilty farmers market one Friday.

I feel terrible that I didn’t note the name of the producer and there is no name on the pot, but either way I am sure to bump into them again!  I would say that making a nasturtium leaf pesto is not the hardest thing in the world to if you know how make pesto!  Just substitute the (traditional) basil for nasturtium leaves and hey pesto (groan…)!  The resulting taste is something not dissimilar to wild garlic pesto but that is due no doubt to the heady amount of garlic in the pesto mix.  The producer said to me that they prefer to use the nasturtium leaves rather than wild garlic because it’s not as watery and holds together better when heated.  On testing it out, I discover he was 100% correct!

This recipe calls for deboned chicken thighs with the skin on.  This is because, personally, I prefer the brown leg meat from chickens because it has more flavour, and by taking out the bone it cooks much more quickly even than a chicken breast.  Also, leaving the skin on gives an extra crispy texture to the dish as well as imparting some extra flavour into the meat and the finished dish from the cooking juices.  I have also used greek basil here, but if you can’t get hold of this then you can of course use the normal basil – you just won’t need as much of it.  I also have used local, organic heirloom tomatoes from Devoy’s Organic Farm and locally smoked West Cork Garlic – just heavenly!  But if you haven’t access to any of these then you can use cherry tomatoes (but make sure they are ripe and sweet) and normal garlic or Elephant Garlic if you can get it as it has a more delicate flavour.

Ingredients (serves two):

  • 4 x chicken thighs, skin on, deboned (this is easy enough to do at home without asking a butcher; just cut from underneath with a sharp knife and keep as close to the bone as possible).
  • 1 cup of orzo pasta
  • 4 tbsp of nasturtium leaf pesto (goes without saying that you could substitute this for basil pesto, or even aubergine pesto.  If you use tomato pesto you might want to choose a different accompaniement than the heirloom tomatoes though!)
  • 250g heirloom tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cloves of smoked garlic, smashed in their skins
  • Greek basil
  • Olive oil
  • Smoked sea salt
  • Plenty of freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 tbsp grated peccorino cheese


  • Heat the oven to 180 degs celsius.
  • On a baking try pour some olive oil, garlic, smoked sea salt, black pepper and greek basil.
  • Add the tomatoes and toss in the oil and herb mix to cover well.
  • Place in the oven to cook for apx 15 minutes.
  • Set a well salted pan of water on a high heat, bring to boil and add the pasta.
  • Set a frying pan on a medium high heat.
  • Season the chicken with some olive oil, salt and pepper.
  • When the pan is very hot, add the chicken skin side down and press down for a couple of minutes with a spatula.  This will help to make the skin crispy.
  • When the pasta is cooked (yielding with a slight bite), drain and cover generously with the pesto.  Cover and set aside.
  • Shake the tomatoes.
  • Turn the chicken to cook through on the other side.
  • When everything is ready, spoon a generous amount of pasta onto warmed plates.
  • Top with the crispy chicken.
  • Pour any chicken juices from the pan onto the tomatoes and give a quick stir.
  • Spoon the softened tomatoes ontop of the chicken and spoon a generous amount of the chicken and tomato juices over everything.
  • Finish off with a final grind of black pepper, some grated peccorino cheese and a couple of fresh greek basil leaves.

Serve immediately with some garlic bread and…Enjoy!

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