For a fresh twist on pasta salad, try my easy make-ahead Mediterranean Orzo Salad. It’s packed with delicious roasted vegetables and is one of my favorite grab-and-go lunch ideas.

Orzo pasta salad in a bowl with a spoon.

My friend Sandy brought this orzo salad in to my life, and I will forever be in her debt.

It’s colorful, tasty, and full of fresh flavors such as lemon zest, fresh basil, crunchy pine nuts, and salty feta cheese. It’s also one of my favorite ways to eat more veggies.

And if you’re tired of the same ol’ recipes all the time (I know you are! You took my survey!) here is something unique to try.

Table of Contents
  1. Recipe ingredients
  2. Ingredient notes
  3. Step-by-step instructions
  4. Recipe tips and variations
  5. Recipe FAQs
  6. Mediterranean Orzo Salad Recipe

Recipe ingredients

Labeled ingredients for Mediterranean Orzo Salad.

Ingredient notes

  • Bell peppers: I love the color and flavor variation that results with a mix of red, orange, and yellow. If you prefer, stick with three peppers of one color.
  • Orzo: This small cut of pasta looks a bit like supersized grains of rice. It’s perfect for this recipe because we cook it pilaf-style, which basically means toasting it lightly in oil. Israeli couscous is a terrific substitute if you can’t find orzo.
  • Chicken broth: A portion of a store-bought carton or can or 1 ½ cups of homemade chicken broth; either works well. Swap in vegetable stock to make this pasta salad a vegetarian recipe.
  • Feta cheese: The salty, slightly tangy quality of this crumbly cheese plays nicely with the other pasta salad elements. Goat cheese is a nice alternative.

Step-by-step instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat for easy cleanup. In a large bowl, combine bell peppers, asparagus, and tomatoes. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and toss to coat. Transfer to prepared baking sheet and roast until softened, about 25 minutes. Return to the large bowl. 
A sheet pan full of chopped peppers, tomatoes, and asparagus ready to be roasted.
  1. Meanwhile, add pine nuts to a small dry skillet. Toast over the lowest possible heat until golden brown and fragrant, about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. Transfer to the bowl with the vegetables.
Toasted pine nuts on a skillet.
  1. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium (3.5 quart or larger) saucepan over medium-high heat until simmering. Add orzo and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes, stirring frequently. 
Orzo pasta in a skillet.
  1. Stir in garlic until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add broth and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until all liquid has been absorbed, about 12 to 15 minutes.
Cooked orzo pasta in a skillet.
  1. Stir in lemon zest and juice and transfer to the bowl with the vegetables. Cool to room temperature.
Orzo pasta salad in a clear bowl.
  1. Add basil, feta cheese, salt and pepper to taste (I like ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper) and toss to combine. Serve at room temperature.
Orzo pasta salad on 3 plates.

Recipe tips and variations

  • Yield: This recipe makes 10 (1-cup) servings of orzo and vegetables, ideal to enjoy as a side dish.
  • Storage: Store leftovers covered for up to 4 days.
  • Make ahead: The vegetables can be roasted a day in advance. Bring to room temperature for 30 minutes before assembling the salad.
  • Take your time: Don’t overlook the final detail in Step 6. Allowing this pasta salad to cool down to room temperature is best to accentuate the finishing touches. If you mix in the feta and basil while the salad is too hot, the cheese will melt and the basil will wilt.
  • Veg out: Bell peppers, asparagus, and tomatoes tend to roast to golden brown perfection at about the same time, plus they’re all in season in summer. But you could certainly adjust this pasta salad recipe to feature any vegetables you have on hand or tweak it to fit the season. Just aim for produce that cooks at about the same rate (halved Brussels sprouts, diced butternut squash, and red onion wedges would be incredible come fall) and let your creativity run wild.
  • Make it a meal: For a one-bowl lunch recipe, simply add shredded or diced rotisserie chicken, leftover sliced steak or pork, flaked salmon or tuna, or a scoop of drained and rinsed canned beans.
Orzo pasta salad in a bowl with a spoon.

Recipe FAQs

What is orzo?

Orzo (aka risoni) is a small pasta often made from semolina flour, although the word “orzo” in Italian means “barley.” It is often used in soups or, as here, in salads.

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More Mediterranean favorites

Orzo pasta salad in a bowl with a spoon.

Mediterranean Orzo Salad

For a fresh twist on pasta salad, try my easy make-ahead Mediterranean Orzo Salad. It's packed with delicious roasted vegetables and is one of my favorite grab-and-go lunch ideas.
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Total Time 1 hr
Servings 10 servings (1 cup each)
Course Salad
Cuisine American
Calories 255

Ingredients 

  • 3 bell peppers diced (preferably 1 each red, orange, and yellow, see note 1)
  • 12 asparagus spears ends trimmed and chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes halved
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil divided
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 8 ounces orzo pasta uncooked (see note 2)
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 12 ounces chicken broth (see note 3)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice from 2-3 lemons
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves chiffonade
  • 8 ounces feta cheese crumbled (see note 4)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions 

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, combine bell peppers, asparagus, and tomatoes. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and toss to coat. Transfer to prepared baking sheet and roast until softened, about 25 minutes. Return to the large bowl. 
  • Meanwhile, add pine nuts to a small dry skillet. Toast over the lowest possible heat until golden brown and fragrant, about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. Transfer to the bowl with the vegetables.
  • Heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium (3.5 quart or larger) saucepan over medium-high heat until simmering. Add orzo and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes, stirring frequently. 
  • Stir in garlic until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add broth and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until all liquid has been absorbed, about 12 to 15 minutes.
  • Stir in lemon zest and juice and transfer to the bowl with the vegetables. Cool to room temperature.
  • Add basil, feta cheese, salt and pepper to taste (I like ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper) and toss to combine. Serve at room temperature.

Notes

  1. Bell peppers: I love the color and flavor variation that results with a mix of red, orange, and yellow. If you prefer, stick with three peppers of one color.
  2. Orzo: This small cut of pasta looks a bit like supersized grains of rice. It’s perfect for this recipe because we cook it pilaf-style, which basically means toasting it lightly in oil. Israeli couscous is a terrific substitute if you can’t find orzo.
  3. Chicken broth: A portion of a store-bought carton or can or 1 ½ cups of homemade chicken broth; either works well. Swap in vegetable stock to make this pasta salad a vegetarian recipe.
  4. Feta cheese: The salty, slightly tangy quality of this crumbly cheese plays nicely with the other pasta salad elements. Goat cheese is a nice alternative.
  5. Yield: This recipe makes 10 (1-cup) servings of orzo and vegetables, ideal to enjoy as a side dish.
  6. Storage: Store leftovers covered for up to 4 days.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cupCalories: 255kcalCarbohydrates: 25gProtein: 9gFat: 14gSaturated Fat: 4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 20mgSodium: 383mgPotassium: 377mgFiber: 3gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 1429IUVitamin C: 69mgCalcium: 136mgIron: 2mg
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Comments

  1. Looks so good! So flexible to, you could add any veg and switch out the grains, cheese. Completely customizable !5 stars

    1. Thanks for being my proof-reader, Liz! It’s a pint of grape tomatoes, halved. So sorry about that. Recipe is fixed now! Thanks again.