Mediterranean Orzo Pasta Salad

If you’re entertaining this weekend and want to add a delicious and substantial salad to the menu, take a look at this one.  Yes, it’s a pasta salad, but don’t let that deter you.  This is orzo, brightened with Mediterranean flavors; it’s crunchy, salty, lemony, and packed with healthy ingredients.  

Orzo is a flat, short-cut pasta, shaped like a grain of rice.  It cooks in a short period of time and is lighter than a tube-shaped pasta.  Dressed while warm with a mustard and lemon-intensive vinaigrette, this salad can stay in the fridge for a few days.  It’s a great side dish to simple grilled foods like chicken, salmon, or lamb.  You can add to its heartiness with chickpeas or tuna or grilled eggplant, all in keeping with the Mediterranean theme.

This is also perfect picnic food, sturdy enough to survive a trip in a cooler to your favorite al fresco dining site.  I put in on the buffet table this weekend for my happy hour pool party and it was enthusiastically received.  Give it a try and you may just be convinced that pasta salad has a place in your recipe files.  Enjoy!

 

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Mediterranean Orzo Pasta Salad

Orzo pasta, dressed with an assertive lemon and mustard vinaigrette, filled with crunchy cucumber, dill, olives and chickpeas makes a terrific summer salad. 

Course Picnic Food, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine American, Canadian, Mediterranean-Inspired
Prep Time 35 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Author Adapted from "Food52 Mighty Salads"

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces orzo pasta
  • 2 seedless cucumbers, halved lenghtwise and sliced (or use 4 persian cucumbers, thinly sliced)
  • 1 cup oil-cured olives, pitted and sliced
  • 6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • Finely-grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 shallot, grated
  • Kosher salt, and freshly ground pepper
  • 5 tablespoons Extra-virgin olive oil (I use California Olive Ranch olive oil)
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped

Instructions

  1. Cook the orzo in a large pot of salted water until tender, 7 to 9 minutes.  Drain well and transfer to a large mixing bowl.  While the pasta is cooking, mix together the vinaigrette:  whisk the lemon zest, juice, mustard, and shallot in a small bowl.  Season with salt and pepper.  Whisk in the olive oil and add the chopped dill.  Adjust the seasoning and set aside.  

  2. Pour the vinaigrette over the warm pasta and toss to coat.  Once the pasta has cooled to room temperature, fold in the cucumbers, olives, and chickpeas.  Transfer to your favorite salad bowl or serving dish and top with the feta cheese.  Serve and enjoy!  Refrigerate leftovers for up to 4 days.  Before serving leftover salad, refresh with additional lemon juice and olive oil, if desired.   

Recipe Notes

You can find the original recipe in the book "Mighty Salads" from the folks at Food52.