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Mediterranean Orzo Salad has toasted orzo, chickpeas, artichoke hearts, olives, tomatoes and feta cheese – all tossed together in a flavorful herbed oil dressing.
With warm weather cookouts and picnics back on the calendar, you’ll want to cook up a big batch of this Mediterranean Orzo Salad to keep in the refrigerator. It’s great to pack up for a quick and healthy lunch at the beach, and perfect to bring to an impromptu neighborhood get-together.
Why You’ll Love this Orzo Salad
- The fresh, fantastic, Mediterranean flavors are a perfect side dish with grilled meats and seafood.
- This recipe makes a big batch – so you can feed a crowd or enjoy leftovers the next day.
- It’s versatile. While we made this salad with Mediterranean-inspired flavors and ingredients, you can make it with your own favorite vegetables.
Key ingredients and Substitutions
- Orzo pasta – We toasted half of the uncooked orzo before boiling to add a nutty, toasted flavor as well as color to the salad. You can make this salad with other pasta shapes, but orzo is very well-suited for this recipe.
- Herbed oil – We mixed up an herbed oil using fresh oregano, thyme, Italian flat-leaf parsley, and mint – which is added to the dressing. You can change up the flavors with different or additional fresh herbs.
- Garlic oil dressing – A simple but super flavorful dressing combines olive oil, fresh garlic, salt, pepper, lemon juice and lemon zest.
- Vegetables and other ingredients – The pasta is mixed with thinly-sliced red onion, kalamata olives, fresh Campari tomatoes, canned chickpeas and canned artichoke hearts. You can swap in cherry or grape tomatoes for the Campari tomatoes – or for a totally different flavor, swap in sun-dried tomatoes.
- Feta cheese – Used as a topping on the salad, feta cheese adds briny flavors and a creamy texture to every bite.
Campari tomatoes are sweet, juicy tomatoes – larger than a cherry tomato, but smaller than a plum tomato. They are typically sold in plastic packets in the produce section. Their flavor and texture makes them extremely well-suited for salads.
How do I make Mediterranean Orzo Salad?
- Prepare the herbed oil by blanching and cooling the fresh, chopped herbs – then mix with olive oil, salt and pepper. Blanching the herbs helps preserve the bright green color and flavors.
- Make the dressing by sautéing garlic in olive oil, then adding fresh lemon juice and zest. Once cool, mix in the herbed oil and set aside.
- Toast half of the orzo pasta in a dry saute pan and set aside. Bring a pot of water to a boil, then salt the water and add both the toasted and untoasted orzo. Cook just short of al dente.
- Drain the cooked orzo, then in a bowl, immediately mix with the dressing while the pasta is still hot. Then spread out on a flat sheet tray and cool until room temperature.
- Prepare the other ingredients while the pasta is cooling. Set aside until the pasta is room temperature.
- Mix salad ingredients together in a large bowl – then pour into a serving bowl.
- Top salad with the feta cheese and serve.
Chef’s Tip –
Mixing the dressing into the hot drained pasta will allow the pasta to absorb more of the dressing flavors.
Frequently asked Questions
- Can I make this Mediterranean Orzo Salad ahead of time? Yes, in fact, the flavor of the finished salad improves as it sits.
- Can I serve it warm? Sure. The feta cheese may melt if the pasta is still warm, but if that doesn’t bother you – this salad is delicious served warm, at room temperature, or chilled.
- How do I store it? Store refrigerated for up to three days in an air-tight container.
You might like these other pasta salads:
- Mediterranean Pasta Salad
- Dill Pickle Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad
- Macaroni Salad
- Avocado Chicken Pasta Salad
- Broccoli Grape Pasta Salad
2 tablespoons fresh chopped mint
2 tablespoons fresh chopped oregano
2 tablespoons fresh chopped thyme
2 tablespoons fresh chopped flat leaf parsley
½ cup good quality extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons fresh garlic, finely minced
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 ½ cups dry orzo, divided in half
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup red onion sliced thin
¼ cup pitted kalamata olives, drained
1 14-ounce can chick peas drained
1 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
6–8 small tomatoes quartered, such as Campari tomatoes (golf-ball sized tomatoes)
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
Place a pot of water on to boil but do not add the pasta. Keep the water hot until later in the recipe.
Place another small sauce pan with water on to boil and once boiling, add chopped mint, oregano, thyme and parsley and blanch for 30 seconds. Drain and plunge the herbs into a bowl of ice water. Drain the ice water and pat the herbs dry with paper towels. This process will keep the herbs bright green in color.
Place the blanched herbs into a medium bowl and whisk in ¼ cup of the olive oil, the salt and pepper. Set aside.
In medium saute pan, place the rest of the olive oil and over medium heat, cook the garlic for one minute. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice and zest.
Once the garlic and oil mixture has cooled, whisk into the herbed oil and set aside as the dressing.
Wipe out the medium saute pan and heat dry over medium high heat. Once the pan is hot, add half of the dry orzo and toss and stir for about five minutes to brown the orzo. Toss often and remove once golden brown.
Add a teaspoon of salt to the pot of water and bring it back to boiling.
Add the browned orzo along with the remaining orzo to the pot of boiling water and cook just short of al dente. The orzo should still have a little chew to it.
Drain the cooked orzo then pour back into the dry cook pot and add in the dressing from earlier and stir.
Pour this hot mixture onto a sheet tray and place the sheet tray over a rack and refrigerate for 30 minutes to cool. As it cools, the orzo will cook a little more and absorb most of the dressing.
While the orzo is cooling, cut up and prepare the remaining ingredients.
Once the orzo has cooled, with a rubber spatula, scrape into a large mixing bowl and toss with the red onion, olives, chick peas, artichoke hearts and tomatoes.
Pour into a serving bowl and top with feta cheese then serve.
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