This Summer Orzo Pasta Salad recipe is full of vibrant colors and flavors and is so easy to put together. It's loaded with fresh veggies, has a creamy pesto base, and is topped with fresh herbs and tangy feta cheese.
Serve it as a side dish with dinner or throw it in the cooler for lunches at the pool. You could even keep it in the fridge as a filling afternoon snack.
It tastes just as good fresh as it does the next day — and the next day and the next.
Why this Summer Orzo Salad Works
- Family favorite: This is one of those recipes the entire family will enjoy, especially in warm weather.
- Simple salad: Everyone loves an easy pasta salad, especially in the summer months. Throw it together in the morning and have it for an easy lunch, dinner, or a snack throughout the day
- Perfect side dish: Fresh pasta salad is always a crowd-pleaser and is an easy side dish to bring to summer picnics.
- Nutritious: It's packed with healthy fats and fresh summer vegetables.
Grab These Ingredients
Here are the simple ingredients for this Summer Orzo Salad recipe. Most are pantry staples and easy (and affordable) to find in grocery stores. Jump down to the printable recipe card for exact measurements.
- Basil: If you don't have fresh basil on hand or prefer arugula, give this arugula pesto a try.
- Pine nuts: Raw cashews work as well
- Lemon juice: Fresh lemon juice gives a nice tang
- Garlic: Using fresh garlic cloves is best to give this dish plenty of garlic flavor. Add more or less to taste.
- Olive oil: You can also use avocado oil.
- Kosher salt: If you don't have kosher salt, you can substitute with sea salt or pink Himalayan salt.
- Orzo pasta: We like Dellalo gluten-free orzo, but any orzo or short-grain pasta will work.
- Cherry tomatoes: grape tomatoes or small diced tomatoes work as well.
- Red onion: Gives the salad a nice crunch.
- Bell peppers: Use yellow, orange, or red peppers to add some extra color. Follow these tips for the best way to dice a bell pepper.
- Summer corn: Grilled or steamed fresh corn works best, but you can use canned works in a pinch.
- Goat cheese: Use crumbled goat cheese or feta cheese.
- Arugula: Has a delicious peppery flavor that's a nice compliment to the pesto. Substitute with spinach or escarole.
There are lots of ideas on how to switch up this salad depending on what's in your pantry or how you like your pasta salads:
- Add your favorite vegetables: English cucumber or regular cucumbers, grilled summer squash, zucchini, snap peas, or sweet onion.
- Opt out of orzo: Use any short pasta, whole wheat pasta, couscous, farro, or even quinoa.
- Pack on the protein: Add grilled chicken, steak, salmon, or garbanzo beans for extra protein.
- Swap in a homemade Italian dressing: Like this herb vinaigrette made with red wine vinaigrette, a drizzle of olive oil, fresh herbs, honey, and dijon.
- Make it a Greek orzo salad: Top it with a zingy Greek dressing of lemon juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil, oregano, dijon, garlic, salt, and pepper. Top with feta, tomato slices, kalamata olives, and garbanzo beans.
How to Make Summer Orzo Salad
The full printable recipe is below, but let’s walk through the steps with some photos and a video so you have a clear idea of what to expect. This Summer Orzo Salad is really easy and these step-by-step instructions will make sure it turns out every time
Video: Watch How to Make It
Add 1 ½ cups of uncooked orzo pasta to a large pot of salted water. Make the orzo pasta according to the package directions.
Drain the orzo and allow it to cool while you prep the rest of the ingredients.
Add all of the basil pesto ingredients to the bowl of a food processor or high-speed blender. Pulse for 2-3 seconds until the pesto is smooth and no chunks remain. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Chop and slice the tomatoes, onion, and bell peppers.
Transfer the orzo to a large bowl and mix it with half of the pesto. Add the remaining ingredients and the rest of the pesto and toss again to coat everything in the pesto. Top with fresh basil if desired.
Pasta Cooking Tips
Follow these quick tips for delicious, restaurant-quality pasta every time:
- Use a large pot of salted water to boil the orzo. Starchy, salty pasta water evenly seasons the noodles. Use a tablespoon of kosher salt, table salt, or sea salt for every gallon of water, no matter the type of pasta.
- You can run a little cold water over the pasta to stop it from cooking while it rests in the strainer. (The only time you should rinse your pasta is when you're serving it cold.)
- If you want to cook the pasta al dente, check it 2-3 minutes short of the pasta cooking time. It should be tender pasta with a firm bite and a fleck of white when you bite into the center.
What to Serve with Summer Orzo Salad
Since this is the perfect summer bbq dish, why not fire up the grill and serve a simple and delicious grilled protein to go with it? Follow our tips for the best grilled chicken thighs, ribeye, and burgers. And what's a summer dinner party without some juicy watermelon? We also have some tips for how to easily cut a watermelon into cubes of any size.
Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.
If you make this recipe, I’d love for you to give it a star rating ★ below. You can also tag me on Instagram so I can see it!
More Easy Summer Salads
- Easy pasta salad
- Avocado pasta salad
- Summer corn salad
- Chicken salad stuffed avocado
- Cucumber tomato avocado salad
Summer Orzo Pasta Salad
- 1 ¼ cup fresh basil leaves
- ½ cup pine nuts or raw cashews
- 2 Tablespoons lemon juice about 1 lemon
- 2 garlic cloves
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil or avocado oil
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 12 ounces dry orzo pasta we like Dellalo gluten-free orzo
- 1 cup sliced cherry tomatoes
- ⅓ cup sliced red onion
- ½ cup bell peppers cut into chunks
- 4 ears fresh summer corn grilled or steamed (canned works in a pinch)
- 4 ounces crumbled goat cheese or feta cheese
- 1 cup arugula washed and roughly chopped
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Make the orzo pasta according to the package directions.
- While the pasta is cooking, add all of the basil pesto ingredients to the bowl of a food processor or high speed blender. Pulse for 2-3 seconds until the pesto is smooth and no chunks remain. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- When the pasta is done, drain it and rinse it with cold water. Chop and slice the tomatoes, onion, and bell peppers.
- Transfer the orzo to a large bowl and mix it with half of the pesto. Add the remaining ingredients and the rest of the pesto and toss again to coat everything in the pesto. Top with fresh basil and serve room temperature or chilled.