This quick and easy recipe for orzo pasta salad makes an elegant and enticing garden-fresh salad that is loaded with bright, summery color and flavor – making it the perfect summer side dish.
A sophisticated pasta salad that looks and tastes like one of those fancy gourmet deli salads, this one is miles ahead of that rubbery tri-color pasta salad we’ve all seen again and again.
This no-mayo pasta salad is also safe for picnics, beach trips, boat rides and relaxing backyard BBQs with friends and family. Kid friendly too!
You can even make this one ahead as it holds up well once assembled.
Try this orzo pasta salad for your next summer fete and see if you don’t get rave reviews!
This orzo pasta salad is one of my go-to recipes when I need to bring a summer salad or side dish to an outdoor event. Easy to make and beautiful to serve, this one is always a hit.
The recipe calls for orzo pasta, a small rice-like pasta that holds up exceptionally well in cold salad and absorbs the flavors of the dressing and the other ingredients without getting mushy or chewy. Ripe but firm cherry tomatoes bring a sweet summery taste. Use plenty of fresh basil and parsley for color, subtle flavor and brightness. Small bits of crumbled feta cheese add a welcome saltiness that perfectly suits the al dente pasta. A light toss with a good quality Greek vinaigrette dressing is all your need to bring the flavors together and keep the dish moist and delicious. Enjoy!
1 lb. ( a box) of orzo pasta
6-8 oz. of organic feta cheese (avoid the processed crumbles for best flavor)
A very large handful (2 cups) of gently torn fresh basil leaves, (don’t cut it or it will bruise and turn dark)
A large handful (1 cup) of fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley, rough chopped.
A pint of cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
1 cup of a good quality Greek vinaigrette, home made or bottled, with extra as needed.
Plenty of fresh-cracked black pepper
1 heaping tablespoon of salt for the pasta water
Rinse the herbs and the tomatoes and set on paper towels or linen to dry completely.
Put a large pot of water (4 quarts) on to boil. Place a small-holed collander in the sink.
While the water is heating… tear the basil by stacking the leaves, same side up, and gently tearing off thumb-size pieces from the stack. If the leaves are small, use them whole. Set aside.
Rough chop the parley leaves and set aside. Discard the stems.
Slice the tomatoes in half and set aside.
When the pasta water is at a rolling boil, add a generous tablespoon of salt and drop in the orzo. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Cook according to the package directions until just al dente (still firm).
Drain the orzo in a collander and immediately rinse with plenty of cold running water to stop the cooking process and rinse off any starch from the pasta. Drain well.
Place the drained pasta in a large bowl and gently toss with 1/2 cup of the Greek dressing until thoroughly mixed. The flavors in the dressing will be absorbed by the still-warm pasta as it cools. The oil in the dressing also keeps the pasta from sticking together.
Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap down over the pasta in the bowl. Allow to cool completely in the fridge.
When the pasta is cold, add the tomatoes, the basil, and the parsley.
Cut the feta into 1/4 inch slices and then use your fingers to crumble the feta into pea size bits. It’s a messy process but worth it to use the non-processed feta! Add plenty of fresh-cracked black pepper and toss well until everything is nicely incorporated. Adjust the amounts of the ingredients to your taste. You shouldn’t need to add any salt as the feta is very salty and the pasta has been flavored during cooking.
Add the remaining 1/2 cup of dressing and toss well. If it is too dry, add more dressing, a splash at a time and stir it in well. Greek dressing is quite strong and it should just compliment the subtle flavors of the salad, not overwhelm it. Don’t drench the salad in dressing. It should be moist but not soggy.
Transfer to your serving bowl or plastic container and cover with a lid or plastic wrap. Keeps well in the fridge up to a week.