Easy, Delicious Orzo Salad
The last time we drove out of state for one of our kids’ soccer tournaments, it was pouring rain with 35 mph gusty winds the entire weekend. For 2 days, we all stood shivering and drenched and cheering the best we could. I pretty much decided Hubby will go without me next time there’s a storm; no coin flipping needed.
That’s how summers can be; some days are crazy hot and other days bring in sudden cold fronts. For all the stormy days, there are the best chocolate chip cookies to be baked. Then on all those too-hot-to-cook days, this Lemon Spinach Orzo Salad is here to save dinnertime.
This Lemon Spinach Orzo salad makes the most out of sweet, vine-ripened cherry tomatoes, cool cucumbers, and irresistible orzo…
Tips for preparing ahead
Orzo looks and even feels like rice, but it’s tiny pasta, as described in this previous article. Kids tend to love it, and it’s simple to use in everything from orzo soup to easy dinners like Lemon Basil Orzo with Chicken.
Here are our favorite make-ahead tips for serving this orzo salad at your next casual cookout:
- Make the dressing a day or two ahead of time, and you’ll have this dish ready in no time.
- Cherry/grape tomatoes, cucumbers, and spinach can all be washed and sliced ahead of time. For instance, if you’re serving this dish in the afternoon/evening, you can have all the parts cut and prepped that morning.
- Orzo can be cooked to al dente, according to package instructions, and kept at room temperature a few hours prior to serving. Once cooked, immediately drain well and toss cooked orzo generously with olive oil, to prevent sticking of the starch as it cools.
- Entire orzo salad mixed with dressing can be fully assembled and tossed an hour or two prior to serving; keep covered and chilled. Just prior to serving, give it a gentle toss to redistribute dressing from the bottom of the bowl.
- If adding extras, such as roasted sliced almonds or crumbled bacon, wait until ready to serve before sprinkling them on.
What to love about this orzo salad
This simple 20-Minute Lemon Spinach Orzo Salad has everything going for it when it comes to fast and delicious weeknight dinners:
- It’s quick, easy, light, and satisfying.
- You’ll feel great about serving it up as a vegetarian side dish or light main
- Feel free to toss in slices of grilled chicken or garlicky shrimp for a meal-in-one.
- It’s perfection at any picnic or cookout, as it can be prepared ahead of time and is easily packed and ready to go.
- It’s flexible and easily adaptable to suit your taste buds; add crumbed bacon, switch out the cheese, or add your favorite crunchy nuts for texture.
Try our popular ONE-POT GNOCCHI DINNER:
20-Minute Lemon Spinach Orzo Salad
- 1 cup dry orzo pasta
- 5 TB fresh lemon juice
- zest of 1 lemon
- 3 TB extra virgin olive oil
- 4 tsp pure honey
- 1 tsp coarse ground or whole seed mustard
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 shallot, chopped
- 4 cups baby spinach leaves
- 1 cup diced/sliced cucumber
- 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
- ½ cup feta cheese
- Optional: 1/2 cup crumbed bacon, 1/2 cup toasted nuts (almonds or pecans work well)
- In a heavy pot of well-salted water, cook orzo just until al dente. Drain and rinse; Toss with 1 TB olive oil to prevent sticking; set aside.
- While orzo is cooking, make the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, zest, 2 TB olive oil, honey, mustard, kosher salt, pepper, garlic, and shallots (dressing can also be made ahead of time; cover and keep chilled until ready to use.)
- Gently toss dressing with orzo. Add remaining ingredients and gently toss to combine well. Sprinkle with bacon and/or nuts, if desired.
Did you make this?
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Pasta ‘n Salad…