A delicious and refreshing summer orzo pasta salad with Mediterranean veggies and creamy basil pesto. This orzo salad is ready in less than 20 minutes and it's the perfect summer lunch or BBQ side dish.
There's nothing better than a delicious cold pasta salad on these hot summer days! It's a filling lunch or even a perfect family dinner to eat outside on the patio. There are so many different variations that you can do, like this Pesto Caprese Pasta Salad or this Grilled Vegetables Farro Salad.
I also love to make a big batch of pasta salad to eat during the week when it's too hot to cook!
- Orzo Pasta - Orzo literally translates to barley in Italian, but it's also the name of this tiny pasta shape, also called Risoni (big rice). The best quality of this pasta shape is that it cooks quickly and it's also kid-friendly.
- Onion - I love raw red onion in salads, but if for your taste it's too strong, you can replace it with the sweeter yellow onion or even spring onion.
- Chickpeas - You can easily use canned chickpeas, simply rinsed and drained for the quickest result. Alternatively, you can also use dried chickpeas. In this case, you can follow these instructions to cook dried chickpeas.
- Basil Pesto - Pesto is my go-to summer ingredient to add to pasta, salads, chicken, bread, and so much more. You can buy the best quality jarred basil pesto or make your own pesto from scratch.
See the recipe card for quantities.
You can tell how easy it is to make this recipe from the few ingredients and steps it has. Minimal effort for maximum deliciousness!
Cook the orzo according to the package instructions, drain it and rinse with cold water to remove the excess starch, cool it down and stop it from sticking to itself.
Dice the red onion, half the cherry tomatoes, slice the cucumber and drain and rinse the chickpeas.
In a large bowl, add the orzo and the remaining ingredients.
Mix all the ingredients together until well combined and coated in the pesto, then garnish with fresh basil leaves and enjoy!
Hint: Customize this salad by adding a splash of lemon juice or some crumbled Feta cheese.
You can substitute most ingredients to customize the recipe to your liking or needs.
- Orzo Pasta - replace with rice, quinoa, couscous, or even with gluten-free pasta or wholegrain pasta.
- Onion - If the raw red onion is too strong for your taste, you can substitute it with the sweeter yellow or white onion, or even with spring onions.
- Chickpeas - you can replace chickpeas with another protein, such as beans, chicken, or even canned tuna for a seafood version.
- Pesto - you can replace pesto with any salad dressing of your liking. Or even different types of pesto like Pesto Rosso or Kale Pesto.
Spice up the recipe with these different and delicious variations to make it a bit different but still delicious
- Vegan - Use a vegan pesto to make this recipe 100% vegan
- Loaded - Add avocado, crumbled Feta, black olives, to make this pasta salad even more complete
- Seafood - Add canned tuna and replace the chickpeas with Cannellini beans for a delicious seafood version
Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days in an airtight container without the fresh basil. Only add the basil garnish when ready to serve.
Does not freeze well.
FAQ & Tips
Orzo is actually a type of pasta that is shaped similarly to rice. So although they look the same, they aren’t. It’s actually classed as a ‘pastina’ which is a category of very small pasta shapes that are often used in soups.
Yes, you can make this recipe up to 1-2 days in advance and store it in the fridge in an airtight container. When ready to serve, remove from the fridge and add the fresh basil garnish.
Related Recipes you might like
Mediterranean Pesto Orzo Salad
- 1 cup Orzo Pasta
- 1 small Red Onion, diced
- 1.5 cup Baby Plum Tomatoes or Cherry Tomatoes, halved
- 1 medium Cucumber, chopped
- 1 can Chickpeas, drained weight 250g / 9oz
- 5 tablespoon Basil Pesto
- Basil leaves to garnish
- Cook the orzo in a pot of salted boiling water, according to the package instructions.
- Dice the red onion and cucumber, half the cherry tomatoes, and drain and rinse the chickpeas.
- Once cooked, drain the orzo and rinse with cold water to remove the excess starch, cool it down, and prevent it from sticking to itself.
- In a large bowl, mix together the orzo pasta and the remaining ingredients until well combined and coated in the basil pesto sauce.
- Garnish with fresh basil leaves and serve.
- Can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days – store in an airtight container without the fresh basil, only adding when ready to serve.
- Does not freeze well.
- Can be made vegan by using dairy-free/vegan pesto.
- Can be made gluten-free by using gluten-free orzo.
Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.