I love making pasta salad with orzo. A small, rice-shaped pasta, orzo has a nice chewy texture when cooked and doesn’t get soggy the way other larger noodles do. You can find orzo in the pasta aisle of most grocery stores.
This is a fresh summer salad and can be made with your favourite garden vegetables, however, I highly recommend making your own pesto if you have time. Use my spinach arugula pesto recipe as a guide, and swap in any greens or herbs you like for the spinach and arugula if you want. Straight up basil is classic!
Orzo pesto salad is also a great make-ahead side dish; It tastes even better the second day! I like to serve it at room temperature, however, it’s also good served cold or warm.
- uncooked orzo
- spinach arugula pesto, or other pesto of your choice
- olive oil
- cherry tomatoes
- fresh baby spinach
- basil leaves
- bocconcini (fresh mozzarella)
- Salt and pepper to taste
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the orzo according to the package directions. When the pasta is cooked, drain it in a colander. Rinse the orzo with cool water and drain two more times.
Place the drained, cooled orzo in a large bowl. Stir in the pesto. Depending on your pesto, you may need to add olive oil to loosen up the pasta. Drizzle olive oil in as needed.
Halve the cherry tomatoes and tear the basil leaves into small pieces. Toss the tomatoes and basil into the bowl of orzo along with the baby spinach leaves.
Give the orzo pesto salad a good stir to mix. Drizzle in olive oil if needed.
Tear the fresh mozzarella into bite sized pieces and add to the bowl. Stir to combine.
Season the orzo pesto salad with salt and pepper to taste. Serve at room temperature, cold from the fridge, or warmed, whichever you prefer.
Tips & Notes
Make homemade pesto if you have time! The flavour is incomparable to store-bought. This spinach arugula pesto is super simple to make.
Buy the best bocconcini (fresh mozzarella) you can afford. Even better is if you have a cheese maker at your local farmer’s market! Most cheap bocconcini is cheap for a reason and has little to no flavour.
Orzo pesto salad can be served immediately after making, however, I think it tastes better the second day. Make it up to three days in advance if you want! I like to add a drizzle of olive oil and stir in a bit more pesto before serving.
Store this pasta salad in a large airtight container with a lid in the fridge for up to one week. You can also store this salad in the freezer in airtight containers for up to three months. Thaw the frozen orzo on the counter before serving.
I find the texture of orzo pasta salad is better after it sits at room temperature for a bit. I like to remove mine from the fridge about an hour before serving.
You could use any shape of pasta noodle you like, however, I find larger noodles like penne and bowties a bit too soggy at first, and a bit too firm as the pasta salad sits. I prefer smaller noodles like orzo and tiny shells for pasta salad.
I always have a jar of homemade pesto in my fridge; It’s so easy to make! My current favourite is this spinach arugula pesto. If you don’t have time to make pesto, use your favourite store-bought flavour.
If you don’t want to make orzo pesto salad with tomatoes and fresh spinach, you can swap in your favourite raw vegetables. The basil can also be substituted for any other fresh-tasting herbs you like.
Good substitutes for the fresh mozzarella are goat cheese or crumbled feta.
Serve Orzo Salad On The Side Of These Great Recipes
Orzo Pesto Salad With Tomatoes & Fresh Mozzarella
- measuring cups and spoons or digital kitchen scale
- large pot
- rubber spatula or wooden spoon
- large mixing bowl
- 1 ½ cups orzo, uncooked
- 1 cup basil pesto
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, and up to ¼ cup (63ml)
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes
- 1 cup baby spinach, fresh
- ⅓ cup basil, fresh leaves
- 6 balls bocconcini (fresh mozzarella), or any amount that equals 150g
- salt and pepper , to taste
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the orzo according to package directions. When the pasta is cooked, drain it in a colander. Rinse the orzo with cool water and drain twice more.
- Place the drained, cooled orzo in a large bowl. Stir in the pesto. Depending on how thick you pesto is, you may need to add some olive oil to loosen up the pasta. Drizzle olive oil in as needed.
- Halve the cherry tomatoes and tear the basil leaves into small pieces. Toss both into the bowl of orzo along with the spinach. Give everything a good stir to mix and add more olive oil if needed.
- Tear the bocconcini into bite sized pieces and add them to the bowl. Stir to combine.
- Season the pasta salad with salt and pepper to taste. Serve at room temperature as a meal or as a side.