Quick and easy to make this Orzo Pasta Salad is a summer favourite. This tasty pasta salad combines creamy feta with juicy cherry tomatoes, salty kalamata olives with orzo, and a very quick lemon and pesto dressing.
This orzo pasta salad, it's one of our favourite summer pasta recipes. It's especially good as a pack up lunch for picnics or great as an emergency dinner, I have been making this for some time now. It's quick and easy to make and can be made the night before to save even more time.
You can play around with ingredients if you like there are no rules for this one. We sometimes change the cherry tomatoes for sundried tomatoes or add some chopped courgette if we feel like more veg. The pine nuts are optional but I really like the toasty flavour they add. Feta works best here but a vegetarian parmesan-style cheese grated over the pasta works well too if you don't like feta.
Why This Recipe Works
- Quick and easy to make - it's ready in under 30 minutes
- Can be made the night before - great for busy weeknights
- Family-friendly recipe - it's packed with flavour and the kids love it too!
- That dressing - really delicious and easy to make!
- Adaptable recipe - add in more veggies if you want, or switch it up to suit your own taste buds.
What You'll Need
- Orzo - a small rice-shaped pasta. It's classified among pasta as "pastina", a category of tiny pasta shapes that are often used for soups. Orzo is great for pasta salad too. You should find it in most large supermarkets in the pasta section.
- Tomatoes - we love cherry tomatoes in this. Just make sure they are nice and ripe so that they are good and juicy. On the vine is great but not essential.
- Onion - I make this with finely chopped red onion. If you find that too strong you could switch it for spring onions/scallions instead.
- Feta - look for authentic Greek feta to get that lovely creamy salty taste. I buy it in blocks and cut it into cubes.
- Olives - Kalamata olives are perfect in this, save yourself some time and buy pitted olives. If you can't find kalamata olives then black olives work really well too.
- Pine Nuts - you can buy pre-toasted pine nuts or do it yourself. They add lovely nutty toasty flavour to this.
- The dressing - extra virgin olive oil, vegetarian green pesto, lemon juice, and salt and pepper, that's it, that's all you need for the dressing.
How To Make Orzo Pasta Salad
- Cook the orzo according to the packet instructions. Drain then rinse under the cold tap. Stir in a drizzle of extra virgin olive, then leave to cool.
- Add the olives, tomatoes, red onion, and feta to the orzo.
- Make the dressing by stirring the pesto, lemon juice, salt and pepper into the extra virgin olive oil.
- Pour the dressing over the pasta then add the basil and pine nuts and toss until it is all combined. Season to taste.
Tips For Making The Best Orzo Salad
- To cool the orzo quickly, drain it using a colander then run the cold over the pasta.
- Keep the orzo from sticking together by drizzling a little extra virgin olive oil over the pasta then stir it through.
- Don't over toss the salad, the last thing you want is for the feta to break up too much.
- If you are making this ahead, add the basil and tomatoes just before you serve it. The basil can wilt and the tomatoes may go a bit soggy if left in the dressing for too long.
What is orzo? Orzo is a small pasta shape that looks like rice, although it is not rice. It should be cooked the same way you cook all pasta. It is often used in soups but is great in pasta salads too. You should find it in most large supermarkets.
Can I make this ahead of time? Yes, you can make this the day before if you want. But I recommend not adding the basil and tomatoes until just before serving.
Can I make this vegan? Yes, you can. Omit the feta and make sure the pesto you use is vegan. You can add more veggies if you like.
More Veggies Lunch Inspiration
We love a good pasta salad, especially during the summer months, this Caprese Pasta Salad is bursting with flavour too and just as easy to make. If you're not fond of pasta salad then this Caprese Salad is lovely and fresh and great on its own or as a side dish. Before your pasta warm? Then try this tasty Red Pesto Pasta, this is really easy to make too.
Have you made this Orzo Pasta Salad Recipe? Rate it and leave me a comment below to let me know what you think!
Orzo Pasta Salad
- 180 g uncooked orzo (1 US cup + 1 tbsp)
- 1 ½ tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tbsp toasted pine nuts + more for serving (optional)
- 1 small red onion (80g or ¾ US firmly packed cup) finely chopped
- 12 kalamata olives pitted and sliced
- 100 g feta (1 US cup) cut into small cubes
- 150 g cherry tomatoes (5.5oz or 1 US cup) cut into quarters
- The juice of half a lemon
- 2 ½ heaped tbsp vegetarian green pesto
- Black pepper and sea salt to season
- A small handful of fresh basil chopped
- Cook 180g or 1 US cup of orzo according to the packet. Once cooked, drain in a colander then rinse under the cold tap. Stir in half a tablespoon of the extra virgin olive oil and leave the pasta to cool fully.Transfer to a large bowl or serving dish.
- Add 2 tablespoons of pesto to a small bowl, pour in 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and the juice of half a large lemon, stir well.
- Once the pasta has cooled add the chopped onion, cherry tomatoes, feta and the kalamata olives to the pasta.Pour the pesto dressing into the bowl then add the basil and pine nuts and toss carefully.
- Season with cracked black pepper and sea salt to taste. The serve immediately.
- Orzo - You should find this is the pasta aisle in all large supermarkets if you can't then any small pasta will work here, conchiglie or Anelli would be fine.
- Cherry Tomatoes - When not in season swap them for about 6 or 7 sundried tomatoes from the deli. Cut them into thin strips then add them with the rest of the ingredients.
- Feta - For best results, look for authentic Greek feta, also check that it is labeled vegetarian.
- Pesto - I use a vegetarian green pesto, traditional pesto is not vegetarian as it contains parmesan which is made using animal rennet. Check your label.
- Making ahead - This can be made a day ahead, just store it in the fridge in an airtight container. I recommend not adding the basil or the tomatoes until you are ready to serve.
- Nutritional Information - is approximate and is calculated using an online nutrition tool.
- Weights and measurements - For US readers, I use Cuisipro measuring cups and spoons, these are the industry standard. Cup/spoon volumes can differ from brand to brand, for accuracy, I recommend weighing all ingredients if possible.
*This recipe was first published on Sep 7, 2018. It has now been updated with new photos, expert tips and more nutritional information.