Orzo Pesto Salad
Ready in less than 20 minutes, this orzo pesto salad is a vibrant, multipurpose recipe that’s bursting with fresh flavor! Made with just a few ingredients, it’s so easy to throw together for lunch, dinner, or a side dish. It’s so fun with tiny orzo pasta; vibrant, garlicky pesto; crunchy, nutty pine nuts; fresh herbs, and savory mozzarella balls.
5 star review
“This was just what I needed for an awesome side top pair with a Costco chicken for a busy week! I added some chopped baby spinach and it was FANTASTIC. ”– Wendy
This orzo pesto pasta salad is truly simplicity at its best.
I absolutely love this multipurpose recipe because you can eat it for any meal or meal prep it for the week ahead, and it’s so simple, yet bursting with fresh flavor.
Plus, when you need an easy lunch for the week or a crowd-pleasing BBQ side dish (or potluck, cookout and more), a pasta salad is the way to go!
And, on the topic of adding more ease to meals, I’m also a huge fan of the versatile and time-saving pesto (I’m looking at you red pesto pasta!), so of course I had to combine pasta salad and pesto for this surprisingly simple yet absolutely delicious orzo pesto pasta salad!
For this recipe, I love using my easy homemade pesto, however to save time and effort, store-bought is absolutely fine.
In case you are using store-bought pesto, I added a little lemon juice and balsamic vinegar to this recipe freshen up all the flavors of a store-bought pesto.
Visual Guide: How to Make Orzo Pesto Salad
As I mentioned, there are endless possibilities for how to serve this orzo salad with pesto and tomatoes. Honestly, I love just eating it out of straight from the bowl!
But, this easy orzo salad can be a whole meal in itself with protein from the cheese and nutrients from all the veggies, making it a great light lunch or easy dinner for warm nights.
It also is an excellent side dish for BBQ main dishes such as slow cooker bbq chicken, slow cooker flank steak, and tropical pulled chicken, and another one of my favorite easy BBQ side dishes, creamy everyday slaw.
I promise, if you bring this pesto pasta salad to your next BBQ or potluck, everyone is going to be asking you for the recipe.
Prep Tips & Storage
Pasta salads are one of my ideal meal prep recipes for the week (I truly think they taste better with time too!).
For busy weeks, prep a batch of this to have on hand for any meal, snack, or side dish (it would also be great with grilled fish or chicken). This recipe keeps well in the fridge for up to 3-4 days, in a sealed container.
Substitutes for Orzo Pasta Salad
Orzo pasta: I love how the orzo absorbs the sauce, however you can use any small pasta shape you like like macaroni, ditalini, or fusilli. For a gluten free version of this recipe, use your favorite gluten free pasta.
Fresh basil: Fresh basil adds so much fresh flavor and vibrant color to this dish, however you could substitute fresh baby spinach instead.
Toasted pine nuts: I know pipe nuts are expensive, but I just love how they mimic the shape of the orzo and add a little crunch. You could use toasted, slivered almonds instead, or any toasted nut you want. For a nut free version of this recipe, leave the nuts out and replace the pesto with my nut-free and dairy-free pesto.
Small mozzarella balls: If you cannot find small mozzarella balls, you can use large ones chopped into bite-size pieces. You could leave these out if you want, but they do add protein and heartiness to the dish. Or you could replace the mozzarella with crumbled feta cheese. For a dairy free and vegan version of this recipe, use dairy free feta and my nut-free and dairy-free pesto.
This Recipe Is…
Orzo Pesto Salad
- 1 pound orzo
- 1 cup pesto
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 ½ cups halved cherry tomatoes
- 1 cup packed basil, thinly sliced
- ½ cup toasted pine nuts
- 2 cups small mozzarella balls, coarsely chopped
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a strong boil over high heat. Add the orzo and cook just shy of al dente, about 1-2 minutes short of the package directions.
- Drain the pasta and do not rinse. Immediately transfer the hot pasta to a large bowl.
- Add the pesto, lemon juice, vinegar, and salt, stirring to combine. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes for the flavors to absorb and the pasta to cool.
- Add the tomatoes, basil, pine nuts, and mozzarella, stirring to combine. Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold.