I love a good summer pasta salad that is great for sharing at BBQ’s or for any gathering. The inspiration for this salad simply came from using some of my favorite ingredients and my favorite Lemon vinaigrette. I loved Orzo from the very first time I tried it, which was actually as a side dish that was served warm. I loved the texture and flavor so much, I knew it would definitely be perfect served cold in a pasta salad. I am generally not a fan of pasta salads because for me, they need to have just the right combination of great ingredients and good flavor, which seems hard to come by. This one hits the spot with perfectly cooked orzo, great ingredients and a zesty dressing!
I’ve been using the dressing in this recipe for about 5 years as a simple dressing for leafy green salads with nothing but the dressing and the greens. The flavor of the dressing really stands out with the combination of both the lemon zest and the lemon juice and adding oregano really brings all of the flavors together. I knew that it would make a great pairing for a good pasta salad and it’s always one of my most requested salads to share at different gatherings, so I’m finally sharing it with you today.
This recipe serves about 15-18 people. You’ll need 1 English cucumber cut in half with the center scooped out then sliced, 1 ½ cups of cherry tomatoes; halved, 1 cup of kalamata olives; halved, 8 oz. of good quality feta cheese, diced and 3 cups of dry orzo pasta.
Have all of your salad ingredients chopped, cut and ready to go. For the dressing, you’ll need the zest of 1 large lemon (about 1 ½ tsp), the juice of 1 ½ lemons (approx 4 T), 1 tsp fresh dried oregano, 1 tsp kosher salt, 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper and 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil. Whisk all of the dressing ingredients in a small bowl until well blended.
In a 4 qt saucepan, bring about 8-9 cups of water to a boil. Add 1 tsp kosher salt to the water, then add the 3 cups of Orzo pasta. Cook for about 9 minutes until al dente. Don’t overcook this pasta or the salad will be mushy. Using a colander, drain the pasta. Add the orzo to a large serving bowl, then immediately add the dressing and mix well. Add the cucumber, cherry tomatoes, feta cheese and kalamata olives and mix well. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. I like to mix the salad again right before serving and I always have a small taste test. At this point I add another pinch of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, stir again and enjoy!