Nothing says easy summer living like a colorful and flavorful orzo pasta salad!
This Mediterranean orzo pasta salad is all those things: tasty, with just the right amount of healthy veggies for color and crunch! Take along this Italian pasta salad to a picnic, a potluck, or even just the backyard and impress everyone! It’s the perfect side dish for instant pot ribs, smoked chicken breasts or sweet and sour spare ribs!
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What is Orzo Pasta Salad?
Orzo is actually a pasta shape made from semolina flour, even though it looks like a large grain of rice. In North America, it’s called orzo, but in Italy, it’s called risoni. The orzo in this pasta salad is firm enough to pair well with fresh-cut veggies and herbs, and the dressing is light and tangy.
Because of orzo’s uniform size, it’s easy to prepare, and it makes a great addition to soups and stews as well! One of our favorite sides is parmesan orzo with basil, and everyone always wants the (super easy!) recipe!
How to Cook Orzo for Pasta Salad
Bring water to a boil, pour in dried orzo, and cook about 7 to 10 minutes. For a cold pasta salad, cook until orzo is al dente, drain in a colander, and cool until ready to use. It’s ok to rinse it with cold water to help stop the cooking.
How to Make Orzo Pasta Salad
Prepping this delicious fresh salad takes no time at all! Remember, orzo pasta salad tastes best when it’s cold!
- Prepare orzo as directed. Place in a bowl in the fridge so it chills while the rest of the salad is being prepared.
- Whisk vinaigrette ingredients together and chill in refrigerator.
- Add cucumber, tomato, peppers, mozzarella cheese, and chickpeas to the bowl with the chilled orzo.
- Add just enough vinaigrette to achieve desired taste. Add chives, parsley, and basil, then toss to coat.
- Chill until ready to serve.
Orzo Pasta Salad Variations
Orzo pasta makes a great base for so many variations of this basic recipe! Firmer than rice, but smaller than other pasta shapes, orzo delivers just the right size and the right “bite” for so many variations!
- For a Greek orzo pasta salad, add some kalamata olives, feta cheese, and halved red cherry tomatoes. You can use our recipe for Greek dressing in place of the vinaigrette below if you like.
- For an Italian orzo pasta salad similar to a caprese salad, use fresh, diced tomatoes, and chopped basil tossed with an Italian dressing, and toss in some diced salami and boconcini!
- For a pesto version, stir cooked and cooled orzo into a pesto made by blending olive oil with basil, spinach, pine nuts, and grated Parmesan cheese (learn how to make the pesto in this pesto pasta salad recipe).
- Lemon orzo pasta salad can be made with freshly squeezed lemon juice mixed with apple cider vinegar, chopped tarragon, chopped sun-dried tomatoes, cubes of feta cheese, and some salt and pepper.
- Why not try adding shrimp, tuna, or chicken to the basic recipe and transform it into an entrée that can easily be scooped onto a bed of greens or tucked into a wrap for an easy grab-and-go lunch!
How to Store and Use Leftovers
Because orzo pasta is one of the firmer types of pasta, it will last longer in the refrigerator than other pastas like macaroni, or rotini. Store orzo pasta salad in a container with a tight-fitting lid in the refrigerator for about 4 days. To refresh the flavors, give pasta salad a stir, and add a few dashes of salt and pepper!
Orzo Pasta Salad
- 8 ounces orzo pasta just shy of 1 ¼ cups
- ½ English cucumber chopped
- 1 cup grape tomatoes halved
- 1 bell pepper chopped
- ½ cup mozzarella cheese diced, or bocconcini
- 15 ounces chick peas 1 can, drained and rinsed
- 2 Tablespoons chives or green onion, chopped
- 2 Tablespoons fresh parsley chopped*
- 2 Tablespoons fresh basil chopped*
- Cook orzo according to directions and set aside to cool.
- Add Vinaigrette ingredients to a small bowl and whisk until well combined.
- Add orzo, cucumber, tomatoes, bell pepper, mozzarella cheese, and chick peas to a large bowl. Toss to combine.
- Add half of vinaigrette and toss, adding vinaigrette to desired level of dressing. Add chives, parsley, and basil and toss to combine.
Nutrition information does not include optional ingredients or garnish and is an estimate. It may change based on actual ingredients and cooking methods used.
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Adapted from Food Network