Mediterranean Orzo Salad

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Mediterranean Orzo Salad is a simple vegetarian side dish that’s packed with fresh and zesty flavors. 

Mediterranean Orzo Salad | iowagirleats.com

Guess what? We’re hittin’ the 50s later this week – whee!

I know I sound like a broken record, and have inaccurately predicted this about 16 times in the past 2 months, but this time I think the warmer (ish) weather is here to stay. That said, when Ben and I got married on April 5, 2008 there was a freak snow storm 3 days beforehand, so I can’t rule out another one, but luckily we were back up in the 60s by the time we exchanged vows.  

Good story.

Anyways, if the weather holds up over the next couple of weeks I’m thinking about busting out the grill for the season. Next week we’ll be in Charleston, but the week after that – STEAKS. Or something. I just need a dish with that flame-kissed flavor. Sizzling, and slightly charred. You know the taste.

The thought of grilling season quickly approaching has me thinking about picnic and BBQs recipes, so I whipped up a great little side dish you can take with you to any get together this spring or summer – Mediterranean Orzo Salad.

Mediterranean Orzo Salad | iowagirleats.com

This simple, orzo-based side dish is packed with fresh and zesty flavors including tomatoes, kalamata olives, feta cheese, capers, and fresh parsley, tossed in a zingy Lemon Dressing, and is great warm or cold.

This is the perfect side to serve with grilled chicken, fish, or steak. Totally addicting, too, so grab a fork and a friend and get ready to dig in!

Mediterranean Orzo Salad | iowagirleats.com

Start the Mediterranean Orzo Salad with 6oz orzo, which is pasta that kind of looks like rice. It’s a great little cut for side dishes! Cook the orzo in salted, boiling water until al dente, then drain and set aside to cool off for a bit.

Mediterranean Orzo Salad | iowagirleats.com

Meanwhile, whip up the Lemon Dressing that will dress the pasta salad. First add 1/4 cup lemon juice and lots of salt and pepper into a food processor or bowl, then add 1 teaspoon honey, and 1 clove garlic (minced if you’re going the bowl/whisk route). Process or whisk while slowly drizzling in 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil. By the way, the honey doesn’t make this dressing taste sweet – it just kind of brings everything together. Don’t skip it! : )

Mediterranean Orzo Salad | iowagirleats.com

Taste the dressing and add more salt & pepper if necessary, then get workin’ on the salad portion of the program.

Mediterranean Orzo Salad | iowagirleats.com

In a large bowl add 1-1/2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half. I can’t wait ’til I can pluck these babies right off the vines in my garden. Last summer I planted 2 Sweet 100 plants and was harvesting 20+ super-sweet cherry tomatoes PER DAY at the height of the season!

Mediterranean Orzo Salad | iowagirleats.com

Next add 1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, sliced into rings. I usually buy these in bulk from the grocery store. That way I can buy only the amount I need vs leaving a forgotten, half-used jar of ‘em sitting in the back of my fridge.

Mediterranean Orzo Salad | iowagirleats.com

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese goes in next… (fellow preggos – feta cheese is fine to eat as long as the milk listed in the ingredient list says “pasteurized”. I have yet to find unpasteurized feta cheese at the grocery store!)

Mediterranean Orzo Salad | iowagirleats.com

Followed by 1/4 cup chopped parsley (also a garden staple!)

Mediterranean Orzo Salad | iowagirleats.com

and 2 Tablespoons capers. Just…yum.

Mediterranean Orzo Salad | iowagirleats.com

Toss everything together, then add the cooked pasta on top (pretend there’s cooked pasta on top.)

Mediterranean Orzo Salad | iowagirleats.com

Drizzle enough lemon dressing on top of the salad, then toss to coat. Use the leftover dressing to marinate chicken, salmon, or shrimp then saute or grill and perch on top!

Mediterranean Orzo Salad | iowagirleats.com

Mediterranean Orzo Salad

Print this recipe!

Serves 6

Ingredients:
6oz orzo
1-1/2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup feta cheese crumbles
1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, sliced
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 Tablespoons capers

For the Lemon Dressing:
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey
1 clove garlic, chopped
salt & pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions: 

  1. Cook orzo in a large pot of salted, boiling water until al dente then drain and set aside. 
  2. For the Lemon Dressing: add lemon juice, honey, garlic, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor, or in a bowl, then slowly drizzle in oil while pulsing. Alternatively, slowly whisk in oil. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
  3. Combine tomatoes, feta cheese, kalamata olives, parsley, and capers in a large bowl then add drained pasta. Pour over enough dressing to coat, then toss to combine. Serve warm/room temperature, or if serving cold, reserve remaining dressing to add before serving as pasta will have soaked some of it up.

Mediterranean Orzo Salad | iowagirleats.com

As I mentioned, the remaining Lemon Dressing would be a divine marinade for chicken, fish, or shrimp to serve with the salad, but recently I bought this Brianna’s Creamy Balsamic Dressing that I’ve been drying to try out. Strangely, I didn’t LOVE the dressing straight from the jar, but as a chicken marinade it was fantastic! The chicken got a slightly sweet crust on the outside as it sauteed and I just gobbled it right up.

Mediterranean Orzo Salad | iowagirleats.com

Come oooon, Spring! : )

Spring

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Comments

  1. Nancy 03.27.2013

    I hear you on the ready for spring! We got married (in Minnesota) April 28 and had 6 inches of snowfall the day after the wedding, postponing the honeymoon by a day.

  2. Hope you get your spring soon! Here in Northern California we’ve been in the 60’s for the past week or two, with occasional rainy days…you should come visit :)

    I absolutely love pasta salads like this during the spring & summer! I’ve got a boatload of lemons at the moment too, so I will definitely be trying this dressing!

  3. Erin 03.27.2013

    I live in AK and we grill all year round. Granted it is more pleasent in the summer months! It’s not uncommon for us to have to shovel a path across the deck to get to our grill :)

  4. Joy 03.27.2013

    Yum! This looks really good. I love orzo salads, but I never think about making them!

  5. Leslie 03.27.2013

    This is the first real meal that has sounded good since I found I am preggo! So excited to make it!

    As for the whole soft cheese, most things I am seeing in the grocery stores are pasteurized. I think smaller family owned or local cheeses may not go through the same processing as things carried in most grocery stores. With the exception of Brie and the like :) missing Brie but glad I can eat most cheeses I like…once my appetite returns! ;)

  6. Katie 03.27.2013

    we’re going to be in Charleston for our anniversary (April 3), too!! would LOVE to run into you guys!!

  7. nancy 03.27.2013

    This recipe is so similar to the one they used to have at Macaroni Grill – it was so good. I remember they had julienned raddichio and spinach in it along with chopped sun-dried tomatoes – and grilled chicken. Thanks so much for this recipe. 60’s? – surely you jest – how is it that it is still chilly up here in Minneapolis? Come on warm weather, we’re waiting for you. Enjoy your trip to Charleston – it’s a great city!

  8. Vonna Viglione 03.27.2013

    Just got back from a little “ramble” over to A Southern Season in Chapel Hill, NC and brought back – among other goodies – a full pound and a half of roasted vegetable Orzo which is SO wonderful with asparagus and flaked salmon…haven’t quite learned how to duplicate that at home…especially the absolutely exquisite precision of the tiny cubed veggies…..but am thrilled to see this variation….Thanks Kristin and Happy travels to our Southern neighbor…..I hope you’ll have time to take in the Middleton gardens and statuary installations…..It ought to be gorgeous….because it ALWAYS is…
    https://www.middletonplace.org/

  9. Sara 03.27.2013

    Sounds delicious! I love it when I see Iowa Girl Cooks has arrived in my e-mail. Every recipe I have tried has been great! Thank you so much!!

  10. I really hope that you are right because I am SOOO ready for Spring!

  11. Trisha 03.27.2013

    Whaaaat?! Are you pouring EVOO in the lid of your food processor? I have the same exact make and model, is this some secret I don’t know about??

    • Iowa Girl Eats 03.28.2013

      Yep! There’s a little hole on each end that streams the oil in for dressings! :)

      • Trisha 03.28.2013

        Amazing. I had no idea. I whipped it right out of the box and used it when I got it for Christmas, never bothering to read anything about it. I also just found the tiny little spatula a few weeks ago. So cute! If there are any other cool features I’m missing, you just let me know, ok? ;)

  12. linda 03.27.2013

    This looks so good! We must have been craving the same flavors; I made a delicious wrap for my dinner with hummus, feta, cucumber, grape tomatoes, and kalamata olives. Delicious!

  13. I’m getting so antsy for grilling/spring/summer/gardening (even though I don’t have a garden). Other people do and then bring their stuff to the farmer’s market :)

    Beautiful salad!

  14. Adrienne 03.27.2013

    As soon as I saw this, I knew I had most of the ingredients necessary and I made it right away. Delish! Based on what was in my pantry, I substituted black olives, parmesan, and dried herbs. I know, I know, dried herbs are inexcusable, but they actually rehydrated quite nicely in the dressing. Considering I was just going to make myself eggs for dinner, this was a wonderful surprise.

  15. Nora 03.27.2013

    This looks delicious and very similar to a salad I make for lunch. Just add some garbanzo beans and some tuna. . . . . .

  16. Mandy 03.27.2013

    Ah man, that sounds absolutely amazing. It’s kind of similar to a pasta-ish salad I had tonight that I love:
    http://www.marthastewart.com/317072/mediterranean-grain-salad

    It’s Martha Stewart, so it has to be good, right? ;)

  17. This looks lovely! I grew up with mediterranean style meals due to my family background so I always love finding new ways to incorporate those flavours into my meals.

  18. Looks like a perfect picnic dish! When it reaches 60 degrees, I’ll make it. :)

  19. This recipe looks great! I love capers so much flavour in such a small thing :)

  20. I have not made an orzo salad in forever! This looks like the perfect side dish for spring, thanks for sharing : )

  21. Erica 03.28.2013

    This is also delicious with shrimp. I make a variety of it quite a bit during the summer and is good hot or cold!

    I don’t know why I have such an easy time creating orzo entrees but struggle with most other noodles! Just so versatile!

  22. Holy yum! I love all Mediterranean flavors and this is making my mouth water. A jar of kalamata olives would not last long in my house :)

  23. Ani 03.28.2013

    This looks perfect for spring! I live in Iowa City and I cannot wait for the wamer weather they are promising!!

  24. Jeri Wendzel 03.28.2013

    Did you see the chance for snow Monday???? :)

  25. Chantal 03.28.2013

    Your anniversary is on my birthday!!! What a good day.

    Looks delicious, I’ll try it one night next week.

  26. Julia Jolliff 03.28.2013

    Love Mediterranean inspired salads! This looks so yummy

  27. This looks like the perfect side dish for anything grilled. I love all the fresh flavors.

  28. Anna 03.30.2013

    I’m making this with wild rice since that’s what I have and I can’t wait!

  29. traci 04.01.2013

    This was THE HIT for our Easter Girls lunch! Everyone loved it!! Thank you. I added a little of the olive juice and caper juice to the dressing as well! Right now i’m marinating my chicken in the extra dressing to make for dinner tonight! Hope you are having a great vacation!

  30. [...] Mediterranean Orzo Salad || {IowaGirlEats} [...]

  31. Meredith 04.07.2013

    What a great side dish for grilled chicken! Made this the other night to go along with dinner, it was a huge hit! Will be making it again throughout this spring and summer :)

  32. Ryan 04.14.2013

    We made this here in Des Moines tonight and it was AMAZING! Already added to our recipe cache and will be making many appearances this summer.

  33. [...] Recipe slightly adapted from: Iowa Girl Eats [...]

  34. [...] Mediterranean Orzo Salad: Light and fresh, this pasta salad filled with bold Mediterranean flavors is also good cold or room temperature. [...]

  35. [...] my find of the day yesterday: Mediterranean Orzo Salad by [...]

  36. Lisa Richtmann 06.30.2013

    I made this tonight for guests and we all loved it!

  37. cheryl 07.05.2013

    I made this at the last minute to bring to a 4th of July bbq. Made a few changes – added diced cucumber (seeds removed), regular black olives, and mint instead of parsley. I did not have honey so just omitted that. It was so refreshing and light. I did throw in a few more capers. The mint just brightened it up.

  38. [...] and Vegetables Greek Orzo Salad with Roasted Shrimp Cherry Tomato Orzo Salad from Simply Recipes Mediterranean Orzo Salad from Iowa Girl Eats Lemon Orzo Salad with Asparagus and Tomato from A Big Mouthful Whole Wheat Orzo [...]

  39. […] 4. Mediterranean Orzo Salad […]

  40. […] can find Kristin’s original recipe here but I made a couple of tweaks to the recipe so the picture above looks a little […]

  41. Amy M 06.22.2014

    I am planning to make this salad, but is it supposed to be 16 oz of orzo? I see that the package says 16 oz, but the recipe states 6 oz. If it is 6 oz, how do you measure that? Thanks so much for your response!

    • Kristin 06.24.2014

      It would be about 3/4 cup dry pasta!

    • Kelly 06.29.2014

      I estimated that 1 handful dry orzo = 1 oz or thereabouts when I made this and it came out about right. Though I have small hands – if you have big hands maybe try 4 or 5 handfuls.

  42. […] 1/2 quantity lemon dressing from Iowa Girl Eats (recipe here) […]

  43. […] toasted pita bread set right in the middle of the table.  Have some earthy salads like Tabouli, a Mediterranean Orzo Salad  and dips such as Taramasalata or an Eggplant & Tahini Spread. With a bottle of crisp white […]

  44. chelsea 08.08.2014

    Made this, several times and it is delish! I just shake the oil and lemon, in a jar and added a small crunchy cucumber m from the, garden! Thank you so much for posting this recipe!

  45. […] Recipe: Iowa Girl Eats […]

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