Live your best summer life with this zippy lemon orzo pasta salad! Served cold, its a vegetarian salad that has all the right summer vibes with cherry tomatoes, broccoli, lettuce, corn and bell peppers. Perfect pasta salad for a crowd, and tastes best when made ahead.
Hey you! Have you ever tried orzo pasta? It looks like large grains of rice but tastes like the best pasta we've ever had. It was all the rage last year I think. And then people had too much of it for a while. But yours truly discovered it recently. And then let the packet of pasta sit in the pantry for three months because umm what if its just like rice?
And then there was an evening where the fridge was in a pretty meh state. We found some garlic and pretty sad looking mushrooms, and there was the lonely packet of orzo. It was a feast! I mean mushroom and pasta is so classic. We added some ricotta and we took bites after bites because we couldn't believe there was pasta out there that tasted so interesting.
And there you have it. My love affair with orzo, which I've been using in everything.
Back to this zippy, summery lemon orzo pasta salad - perfect. perfect. perfect.
We are talking about large bowls of salad that have the ability to transform easily into dinner. And can be eaten cold when its too warm outside. And tastes like sunshine.
This is a really easy salad to build, and I urge you to experiment with things you like in salads, change up the amounts, use more of this and less of that to make a salad that you will truly love.
We've added produce thats available in the market now. There are no canned things here, because then whats the point of a salad. Everything except the corn is fresh and tasty, because I had some frozen corn on hand, and it easier to roast it on the pan than peel and prepare fresh corn.
What goes into this cold orzo pasta salad is simple:
- Orzo pasta as the base (you can easily swap this with whatever pasta you have lying around)
- Cherry tomatoes, corn, steamed broccoli, red bell peppers and a local variety of spinach that I found in the market
- Feta cheese because feta adds a nice salty creaminess to this easy orzo pasta salad
- And a delicious, lemony pasta salad dressing thats super easy to make and just soaks into everything as the salad sits around for a bit
Also don't let me dictate how you dress this salad. You can just go with lemon juice, olive oil, some salt and pepper and you'll be good to go! But what we are doing here is really infusing the salad with lemon flavor, so that when it sits in the fridge for a few hours, all the veggies and the pasta soak up the lemon flavor, and you really taste 'sunshine' when you take your first bite.
Lemon Pasta Salad Dressing
This lemon pasta salad dressing uses both lemon zest and lemon juice for maximum flavor, because the zest is where its at. If you don't have access to lemons, use limes which are more tart but definitely work here in a pinch. The other ingredients are olive oil, minced garlic, a dash of honey or maple syrup, vegan mayonnaise (which is awesome), paprika and some salt. The mayonnaise (vegan or regular) adds a nice creaminess and keeps everything together. I highly recommend getting a microplane zester for your kitchen because its super useful for zest-ing lemons, limes, grating garlic, ginger etc.
More Salad Recipes that you'll enjoy:
- Southwest Chicken Salad
- Chicken Cobb Salad
- Mexican Prawn Avocado Salad
- Italian Antipasto Salad
- Vegan Pasta Salad with Italian Balsamic Dressing
- Barley Chicken Salad with Herb Vinaigrette
Lemon Orzo Pasta Salad
For the Salad:
- ¾ cup Orzo Pasta dry
- 1 teaspoon Olive Oil
- 1 cup Corn Kernels frozen or fresh
- 1 cup Broccoli Florets
- 2 cups Cherry Tomatoes halved
- 1 Red Bell Pepper deseeded and diced
- 1 cup Lettuce or baby Spinach fresh
- Feta for topping optional
For the Salad Dressing:
- ¼ cup Olive Oil extra virgin
- 2 tablespoons Lemon Juice
- 1 teaspoon Lemon Zest
- 1 teaspoon Vegan Mayonnaise or regular mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons Honey / Maple Syrup
- ½ teaspoon Paprika / Chilli Powder
- 2 Garlic Cloves minced or grated
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- Cook the pasta in salted water according to package directions till al dente. Drain, wash with cold water to cool the pasta and set aside.
- Heat olive oil in a pan and roast the corn kernels on high heat till slightly charred. Remove the corn, and add the broccoli to the pan. Cook the broccoli for 2-3 minutes till slightly soft, but still crunchy.
- Add cooked pasta, corn, broccoli, tomatoes, bell peppers, lettuce and feta (if using) to a large bowl. Whisk together all the ingredients for the salad dressing in another jar or bowl, and pour all over the salad. Mix well and refrigerate for a few hours before serving.
- Feel free to add grilled chicken or shrimp to the salad if you want more protein
- I used a soy based vegan mayonnaise, but regular mayonnaise works really well too
- You can substitute feta with goats cheese, or even avocado if you want to omit dairy but still want to add some healthy fat