Bacon And Spinach Orzo Salad

6 strips bacon (uncooked)

½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for the cooking water

1 large shallot

½ cup white wine vinegar or champagne vinegar, or more as needed

1 tablespoon plus 1½ teaspoons honey

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed

12 ounces dried orzo pasta (may substitute another small shaped pasta)

8 ounces baby spinach (about 6 packed cups)

1 large jarred roasted red pepper (may substitute 10 grape tomatoes)

One 2-ounce block Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (optional)

Line a plate with paper towels. Lay the bacon slices in a large skillet. Cook over medium-low heat for 8 to 10 minutes total, until its fat has rendered and the bacon is crisp, turning it over halfway through. Transfer the bacon to the plate; once it is cool enough to handle, crumble it into small bits.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Cut the shallot into 1/4-inch dice, to yield about 1/2 cup.

Reduce the heat to low. Add the shallot to the bacon fat in the skillet and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the vinegar, honey, the 1/2 teaspoon of salt and the black pepper, whisking to form a blended dressing.

Add the orzo to the water and cook until al dente, 6 to 7 minutes. While that's cooking, coarsely chop the spinach. Cut the roasted red pepper into 1/4-inch pieces. Shave or grate the cheese, if using.

Drain the pasta well and transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the chopped spinach, roasted red pepper and half the dressing. Stir gently until the spinach is slightly wilted. Drizzle with the remaining dressing, add the bacon and the cheese, if using, and stir to incorporate.

Taste, and add an extra splash of vinegar, as needed. Season generously with more black pepper. Serve warm.

Note: Allow leftovers to come to room temperature before serving.

Serves 4 to 6

Nutrition (based on 6 servings) | Calories: 360; Total Fat: 11 g; Saturated Fat: 4 g; Cholesterol: 15 mg; Sodium: 380 mg; Carbohydrates: 55 g; Dietary Fiber: 2 g; Sugars: 6 g; Protein: 11 g.

(Adapted from

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