Ready in under 30 minutes, this Orzo Pesto Pasta Salad is satisfying and easy to make for your next barbecue! Creamy mozzarella, salty olives, and sweet tomatoes are all mixed with lemon and pesto for this Mediterranean inspired salad.
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What's in this Salad?
Pesto- Use your favorite pesto here. Some pesto sauces are thicker than others, so you may need to add pesto to the pasta to coat the salad completely.
Kalamata olives- Kalamata olives are much more salty than regular black olives and they give a delicious Mediterranean inspired flavor.
Mozzarella- Normally in orzo salads you would add feta, but I think the mozzarella adds a bit of creaminess to the salad that you can't get from other cheeses. Use fresh mozzarella or a brick of mozzarella. I would avoid using shredded as it will just disappear into the salad.
Tomatoes- Cherry tomatoes add a sweet burst of flavor into this salad. If you did not have cherry tomatoes, you could cut up a plum tomato or a larger tomato into chunks.
Spinach- Spinach adds some extra nutrition to this salad. To add some spice, you could use arugula instead of spinach. Make sure to use fresh spinach since we are not cooking this salad. Frozen spinach would not work in this salad.
Let's Make the Salad!
Time needed: 20 minutes.
Let's put together the salad
- Cook the Orzo
Bring a pot of water to a boil and add salt. Cook the orzo according to package instructions. Once the orzo is cooked, drain it in a strainer, and run it under cold water. The cold water will stop the cooking process and allow the orzo to cool.
- Chop the Ingredients
Chop the fresh spinach, mozzarella, tomatoes, olives, and red onion into small pieces. Add them to a large bowl.
- Add the Orzo and dressing to the bowl
Add the cooled orzo to the bowl and top with the lemon, olive oil, and pesto.
- Mix everything together
Combine all the ingredients together and season with salt and pepper. Adjust the pesto at this point if you feel there is not enough. Add an extra tablespoon at a time until there is enough pesto for your taste. Serve this salad cold or at room temperature. Top with parmesan if you wish and enjoy!
Questions about this Recipe
There are so many different variations of this recipe that would be delicious!
Use sun dried tomatoes instead of cherry tomatoes
Instead of mozzarella, use crumbled or chunked feta
Add chopped artichoke hearts to the salad
If you do not have orzo, use your favorite shape of pasta. These ingredients will work for any shape of pasta.
To make this gluten free, feel free to use your favorite gluten free pasta and pesto
Add garbanzo beans or grilled chicken to make this side dish a full, Summer dinner.
Use your favorite pesto sauce, which could be kale pesto, walnut pesto, or even a sun dried tomato pesto. You could even make your own pesto. Here's my favorite homemade recipe!
Yes! You can make this recipe a few hours before you need it and then leave it in the refrigerator. Serve it room temperature or cold straight from the refrigerator. It will keep in the refrigerator for 2-3 days in an air tight container. This salad also travels well because you do not need to keep it refrigerated at all times. It would be a great salad to bring to a picnic or a barbecue.
Yes! Do not add the cheese to the recipe, or add your favorite vegan cheese. Make sure the pesto does not have any dairy products in it, and this pasta salad becomes a delicious vegan salad!
Other Recipes to Try
Did you give this Orzo Pesto Pasta Salad a try? I’d love to hear from you! Give me a shout on Instagram or Facebook and share this recipe on Pinterest! And don't forget to check out some other drool worthy recipes below! Thanks for sharing this journey with me and enjoy these delicious recipes!
- 3 Ingredient Instant Pot Strawberry Jam
- Instant Pot Pulled BBQ Chicken
- Chicken Burgers with Feta and Spinach
- 3 Ingredient Pretzel Bites
Orzo Pesto Pasta Salad
- 1 pound Orzo Pasta
- 2 cups Spinach Chopped
- 2 cups Cherry Tomatoes Chopped
- 1 cup Fresh Mozzarella Chopped
- 1 ½ cups Kalamata Olives Chopped
- 1 Red Onion Chopped
- ½ cup Pesto
- 1 Lemon
- 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
- Salt and Pepper To Taste
- Cook orzo according to package instructions. Once the orzo is done cooking, drain, and run the strainer with the orzo under cold water to stop the cooking process. Set the pasta aside.
- Chop the spinach, tomatoes, mozzarella, red onion, and olives. Place them in a large bowl.
- Add the cooled orzo to the bowl.
- Top with the pesto (see notes), lemon, and olive oil and mix everything together. Season with salt and pepper. Enjoy!
- Each type of pesto has a different ratio of olive oil which makes some thicker than others. Feel free to add more pesto if you feel the pesto is thicker than mine. Add more a tablespoon at a time, mix, and add more if necessary.