Summer Orzo Salad

This delightful orzo salad is so super amazing, it has easily nudged its way into the lineup of my favorite salads I could eat day in and day out for the rest of forever.

I literally just finished setting up my first-ever square foot garden, and the honest reason why I (and by I, I mean Brian) went to all the work of building garden boxes and mixing dirtย when gardening is one of my least favorite hobbies is because: fresh basil.

Seriously. Fresh basil. I live for it in the summer. And if you’re thinking “dude, Mel, a patio pot could do the job instead of a square foot garden” or “basil is not exotic, you know grocery stores carry that kind of thing,” you clearly don’t know how much fresh basil I go through in a given summer. And now I have an exorbitant amount of garden space dedicated to fresh basil.

Fresh basil, may account for 43% of why I love this orzo salad. It brightens up the flavor in a way no other herb can really manage and compliments those juicy tomatoes and roasted vegetables perfectly.

The other component that has my heart in this dish is the beloved pine nuts. Now before you resist, I totally understand that to afford pine nuts these days is to willingly agree to sell your firstborn child. They are SO expensive which is sad for this pine nut loving gal. I keep a bag of them in my freezer and allocate them very, very carefully – and only for dishes that I know deserve their tiny presence.

Summer Orzo Salad

This salad is worth it.

But, if you just can’t go down the pine nut route, I think sunflower seeds or chopped pistachios would be a good place to start for substitutions (and they can also just be eliminated completely, sob).

This salad screams easy weeknight dinner (serve with grilled chicken or not), summer BBQ and/or potluck, and top notch lunch. It’s so yummy, you guys. I included some variations in the recipe so make sure to read through the notes (i.e. grilling the veggies instead of roasting, among other things).

Make sure to get some fresh basil planted! You’re going to need it after I get through posting recipes this summer.

One Year Ago: Foil Packet Sweet Potato Tacos
Two Years Ago: Easy Brazilian Cheese Bread {Pao de Queijo}
Three Years Ago: Layered Mexican Cornbread Salad

Summer Roasted Vegetable Orzo Salad with Fresh Basil

Yield: Serves 6-8 as a side dish

Summer Roasted Vegetable Orzo Salad with Fresh Basil

Want a no oven option? Try grilling the vegetables (the broccoli might be tricky, but you could cut the zucchini into spears for the grill and grill the red pepper whole) and then dicing up for the salad.

It probably goes without mention, but the vegetable options are endlessly adaptable so go crazy! This salad is best served at room temperature just after it's assembled but I'm not going to lie, the leftovers eaten straight from the fridge (that was all me, my mother-in-law had some warmed up just slightly) are pretty darn good, too.

I love pine nuts like crazy but I fully recognize that these days, you might have to sell your firstborn child to afford them. I keep a bag stashed in the freezer for occasional salads like this but feel free to try subbing in sunflower seeds, chopped pistachios, or leave them out.

Ingredients

    Lemon Vinaigrette:
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar or honey
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • Vegetables:
  • 2 cups broccoli florets in bite-size pieces
  • 2 medium zucchini, diced in bite-size pieces
  • 1 red pepper, seeded, stemmed and diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Salad:
  • 8 ounces orzo pasta
  • 1 to 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup torn or chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts or sunflower seeds

Directions

  1. For the vinaigrette, whisk together the vinegar, lemon juice, sugar or honey, olive oil, salt and pepper until emulsified and well-combined. Set aside (this can be made several days in advance and refrigerated - just whisk together again before using).
  2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  3. Toss the vegetables with the olive oil and a couple pinches of salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 10 minutes; give them a good stir and cook for 10-15 minutes more until tender.
  4. While the vegetables cook, bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil and cook the orzo until al dente. Immediately after cooking and draining, add the orzo to a serving bowl, drizzle on half of the vinaigrette dressing and toss to combine.
  5. Scrape the roasted vegetables into the bowl with the orzo and give it a good stir. Add the cherry tomatoes and fresh basil and toss to combine. Add the rest of the vinaigrette and stir until everything is evenly coated. Sprinkle the feta cheese and pine nuts on top. Serve immediately at room temperature.
http://www.melskitchencafe.com/summer-orzo-veggie-and-basil-salad-with-lemon-vinaigrette/

Recipe Source: adapted from this Food Network recipe

26 Responses to Summer Roasted Vegetable Orzo Salad with Fresh Basil

  1. bdubadubz says:

    Oooh this is my go to salad for sharing meals in summer – I roast little bite sized squares of aubergine and add in finely chopped capsicum and capers – it is amazing ๐Ÿ™‚ Will definitely try with broccoli next time.

  2. Carine says:

    Hi Mel,
    It seems to be a delicious recipe. For a gluten free meal, I will try to sub the orzo for rice or quinoa.
    Thank you !

  3. Alicia says:

    This looks amazing!! Bring on the basil recipes! I swear I can’t get enough basil with good tomatoes. I love to get Trader Joe’s basil plants then plant those. Not only are they a great price for a huge plant, but they always grow like crazy. I use my basil more than probably anything else in my garden. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Cindy says:

    Not very familiar with sunflower seeds. Would I want roasted or unroasted, salted or unsalted to use as a substitute for the pine nuts? Would appreciate you telling me the exact kind to buy. Thanks.

  5. Janabananagirl says:

    Yay for square foot gardening! And for lots of basil. I miss the garden boxes I had at my last home. I grew lots of basil and tomatoes every year. You probably already know this, but be sure to regularly pinch back the basil to encourage it to get bigger. No lie, my basil plants usually were 2-3 feet tall by the end of the season because I kept in the habit of pinching them back.

  6. Rachel says:

    How long do you think leftovers would keep in the fridge for this? I’ve been looking for some healthy lunch options and this looks FANTASTIC! Would love to make a big batch Sunday night to eat throughout the week…but am wondering how many days it would keep for?

    • Mel says:

      I’ve eaten this several days out and I think it’s still delicious – it’s obviously a bit drier than when served fresh since the dressing absorbs into the pasta but it’s still very tasty.

  7. Nette says:

    HOORAY for basil, I’m excited to see what you present in the coming weeks ๐Ÿ™‚
    Thanks, Mel, for all you do!

  8. Becky says:

    This recipe pushed me over into buying a basil plant! Can’t wait to give it a try!

  9. Lynne says:

    This recipe pushed me out of my comfort zone…I’ve never had orzo, don’t care for pine nuts, kinda iffy about Feta cheese, but the pictures looked so yummy I decided that while at the grocery store this afternoon I’d pick up what I needed to make your recipe. Wow! It is so yummy! My husband and I ate dinner on our back deck and enjoyed every orzo-feta-pine nut filled bite! Thank you so much! We gave it a 10+ which definitely goes on our menu rotation!

  10. Kristi says:

    This looks yummy, but I would probably eat it warmed up as I am not a fan of cold pasta. Kudos to you for a recipe for pasta salad that I am interested in trying ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Valerie A. H. says:

    Thanks for posting this yummy salad! I’ll be making it soon! Hope you’re doing well! xo

  12. Sarah says:

    Mel, if I were to sub a gluten free elbow macaroni, would you recommend reducing the amount of pasta because it’s larger than orzo, or keep it the same? I don’t want it to end up dry…

  13. Brittany says:

    This was so delicious, and perfect with the bbq chicken I made. Your site is my go to for recipes. Everything is so good!

  14. Maryann Wujkiw says:

    I’m making a baked shrimp dish with fennel, tomatoes and feta . Looking for a side to go with it. Do you think this would be a good side to go with it. I was thinking of putting some fennel in it with veggies. What is your opinion

  15. Kristen says:

    I regularly grill our vegetables because the oven makes the house too hot. A simple trick is too place the veggies on tinfoil and put the tinfoil on the grill. They are much harder to burn and lose in the grates. Works for everything!

  16. Jane says:

    Just made this for lunch, served with meatballs and a mint-yoghurt-dip. I exchanged the pepper for eggplant because I have a strange toddler who loves eggplant but won’t eat peppers. I was really very nice & loved by the whole family. I love how it tastes of summer somehow!
    Thank you again for your great, family-friendly but still sophisticated recipes!!!

  17. Susan says:

    Delish! I doubled the recipe for dinner and lunch the next day, and it handled traveling well. Orzo is just so yummy. I am also very partial to the amazing Barefoot Contessa’s roasted veggie orzo salad (some similarities with feta, basil, pine nuts, etc.), but this is a bit simpler. Thanks for a keeper!

  18. Julie says:

    This was so delicious! Thank you again for an amazing recipe!

  19. IG says:

    This is so good! I actually roasted the tomatoes with the other veggies. Thanks for another great recipe!!

  20. Erin White says:

    Any tips on making this the night before? Plan to double the recipe & take it to a potluck, but not sure I’ll have time to make it immediately in advance.

    • Mel says:

      I’d definitely wait and add the cheese and pine nuts right before serving. You might also want to make extra dressing to stir in before you serve so it isn’t dry.

  21. Annie says:

    I made this salad the other day, and it was so fresh and delicious! I ate it for lunch all week without getting bored, which is very uncommon for me. In fact, I plan on making it again tomorrow. I even brought some to share with my co-worker. She also loved it and asked for the recipe. Thanks for this post!

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