A really fun variation of pasta salad that feels so fresh for summer! This orzo salad has lots of fresh summer veggies and herbs, toasted pine nuts, feta cheese, and is tossed in a simple lemon vinaigrette.
I love make-ahead summer side dishes, and since this one gets even better after it’s sat for a few hours, it’s the perfect thing for cookouts and potlucks.
WHAT IS ORZO?
Orzo looks like rice, but is actually a tiny pasta. You can find it at larger grocery stores with the dried pastas. It’s so fun to eat!
Plus, since it’s so small, it soaks up lots of whatever dressing or sauce it’s in. It makes for a really flavorful pasta salad!
HOW TO MAKE ORZO SALAD
So easy! There is lots of chopping, but nothing difficult. And, since you can make this ahead, you can fit in all that chopping whenever works for you. If you like to cook with people and give everyone something to chop, this is the perfect thing!
- Cook the orzo.
- Make the vinaigrette.
- Chop the tomato, cucumber, onion, spinach, basil, and mint.
- Toss everything together.
HOW TO COOK ORZO FOR PASTA SALAD
Three important things to remember for the perfect orzo for a salad:
- Salt the water. A crucial step in seasoning the noodles for pasta salad, so be generous.
- Aim for noodles that are a little bit past al dente. Since they won’t be going into a simmering sauce AND noodles firm up when chilled, it’s best to err on the side of slightly overcooking versus slightly undercooking the orzo.
- Rinse with cold water after draining. This will rinse off some of the excess starch, cool the noodles quickly, and prevent them from cooking any more after draining.
SERVE THIS WITH
I really love this as a main dish or an easy meal prep lunch, but it’s such a great side dish that can go with so many things! Here are some ideas:
- Any and all grilled meats.
- You can eat it on a bed of lettuce for a really delicious and filling salad.
- Soups (cold summer soups or hot are both good!)
- Sandwiches (grilled cheese, cold cuts, summer finger sandwiches.)
- Fresh fruit
- Grilled veggies
I highly recommend making this at least a few hours before enjoying. Not only will it make your mealtime more relaxed to have a side dish ready to go, but this gets so extra delicious as it sits and all the flavors meld and the orzo soaks up some of the vinaigrette. YUM.
While it can be made right before eating, it’s best if it sits 3-8 hours in the fridge first. Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Mediterranean Orzo Salad
- 1 pound orzo
- 2/3 cup olive oil
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
- 1 English cucumber, chopped
- 1/2 medium red onion, chopped
- 1 cup baby spinach leaves, chopped
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
- 1 cup feta cheese crumbles
- 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts, (optional)
- Cook orzo according to package directions in salted water. Drain well and rinse with cold water to cool.In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Combine the prepared orzo, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, spinach, basil, mint, feta, and pine nuts (if using) in a large bowl. Pour in the vinaigrette and toss to coat.