Topped with a delicious homemade vinaigrette, this orzo salad is so fresh and loaded with fantastic flavor. Such a healthy and filling side dish recipe for summer!
Orzo pasta salad
This orzo salad is so tasty and such an easy side dish to whip up quickly. It has become one of my favorite pasta salad recipes and a dish that guests love. It’s so fresh, vibrant and has all of those classic Mediterranean flavors that taste so delicious. We love serving it alongside grilled salmon or grilled chicken kabobs for the perfect summer meal.
I adapted this recipe from Giada’s cookbook. The main thing that I changed was that I only made half of the dressing, used less onion and more tomatoes. She also adds fresh mint to hers and I did try it with fresh mint (which definitely adds a nice touch), but I don’t think it’s necessary to buy it just for this recipe. If you have it in your garden, definitely add some in. So delicious!
How to cook orzo for pasta salad
Orzo is a short-cut cooked pasta that looks relatively similar to rice, although it’s a little bit bigger in size. It works amazingly in pasta salads because the smaller pieces of pasta absorb the flavors really well. It doesn’t need to cook long, only about 7 minutes or so. I like mine cooked a little past al dente, so that it remains tender without getting mushy.
I also like to cook the orzo in chicken broth (instead of water) to give the pasta an extra boost of flavor. Once it’s tender, drain the pasta under cold water and let it cool completely before assembling the salad. You don’t want the veggies to wilt from pasta that’s still warm!
Along with the fresh veggies and herbs, the dressing helps give this dish it’s delicious flavor. It’s an easy vinaigrette made with olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, honey and salt and pepper. It’s super customizable and is easy to tweak to your taste. Feel free to add in a sprinkle of Italian seasoning or a little bit of dijon mustard for more flavor. You can also use a homemade Italian dressing or Greek dressing. Either would taste delicious!
- Add fresh mint for even more flavor
- Use parsley instead of basil
- Add extras like feta cheese, sliced olives, bell peppers, cucumbers or spinach
- Add chopped grilled chicken or shrimp to bulk it up even more
- You could always swap the orzo for cooked quinoa, rotini or penne
Storing + make ahead
You can easily make this dish the night before or morning of if preferred. Prepare as directed, but make sure to reserve some of the vinaigrette to toss into the salad right before serving. This keeps it from drying out. Then cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. After serving, any leftovers will stay fresh in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
More summer salad recipes:
- Pesto chicken salad
- The BEST cucumber tomato salad
- Mediterranean quinoa salad
- Greek pasta salad
- Caprese pasta salad
- 4 cups chicken broth , or vegetable broth
- 1 to 1 1/2 cups orzo , uncooked
- 15 ounce can garbanzo beans , drained and rinsed
- 1 pint grape tomatoes , halved
- 1/2 cup chopped red onion
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
- Heat the broth in a large pot over high heat. Add the orzo and cover slightly with a lid. Cook for 7 minutes, or until cooked. Drain and allow to cool completely.
- Whisk together (or shake in a jar) the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, honey, salt and pepper for the dressing. Add more salt and pepper, to taste.
- Toss the orzo with the beans, tomatoes, onion, basil and enough vinaigrette to coat. If serving later in the day, reserve some of the dressing to toss into the orzo pasta right before serving. Refrigerate orzo salad until ready to serve.