This Authentic Mediterranean Orzo Pasta Salad Recipe, loaded with Mediterranean flavors, tomatoes, black olives, herbs and feta, is the perfect side dish for just about everything!
What Is Orzo?
Orzo is basically pasta, just as couscous is pasta.
But the beautiful thing about it, is that it’s not a dominant, heavy pasta, often served as a main dish.
Most pasta is the center of attention in every pasta dish.
These tiny pasta, similar in shape to rice and barley, lends itself to be used in so many ways.
Equally delicious served in cold or hot dishes.
Mediterranean Salad vs Greek Orzo Salad
Throughout various parts of the Middle East, just as throughout Greece, we incorporate regional ingredients and flavors in our recipes.
Every Greek will claim a Greek Orzo Salad as theirs.
Similarly, a Mediterranean orzo salad has been around in Middle Eastern recipe since, forever.
Truth be told though, orzo is first and originally Italian, and used in as many ways as pasta or rice are used.
So, let’s have a little fun with my favorite flavors of the Mediterranean, in this fabulous orzo pasta salad!
My Mediterranean Dish For National Television cooking Competition!
Having had the immense pleasure to compete on The Great American Recipe with PBS, gave me a chance to showcase many of my favorite dishes.
It was episode 5, when the challenge was announced, ‘Once In A Lifetime.’
Choose one dish that shares the story of a favorite special occasion, and how you celebrate.
In my family, everyone cooks, and we even have a few professionals in the bunch.
And so, for episode 5, that is what I prepared.
Consequently, I won that round!
Therefore, this authentic Mediterranean orzo pasta salad recipe is absolutely a winner, just ask the judges!
Authentic Mediterranean Salad
What is the basis for a Mediterranean salad?
Simple ingredients, tomatoes, fresh herbs, sheep or goat cheese and homemade dressing!
For my very authentic Mediterranean salad, I chose sun-dried tomatoes instead of fresh tomatoes.
Sun Dried tomatoes are more intense in flavor, like raisins, because the liquid has been dried from them.
This process leaves the taste of the tomato, concentrated, while the liquid of a fresh tomato can make for a sloppy, runny salad.
Vegan Mediterranean Orzo Salad And Vegetarian Orzo Salad
Everything about this delicious orzo pasta salad is vegan and vegetarian friendly, except the feta cheese and the pat of butter used to sauté the garlic.
Simply use a vegan feta, and omit the butter for olive oil while sautéing the garlic, before adding orzo and water.
The fresh flavors of parsley, briny olives and sun-dried tomatoes, along with the dressing, have plenty of flavor on their own.
However, you can opt to add a grocery store vegan cheese or make your own Cashew cheese to add, which has loads of flavor.
Looking For Options To Put In Your Orzo Pasta Salad?
Oh boy do I have options for you!
While I most often make this delicious orzo salad just as you see here in this recipe, it is easily expanded into a main meal.
In keeping with the Mediterranean flavors I so love, here are a few delicious additions in conjunction with the original recipe:
- Thinly sliced red bell pepper – for extra crunch and color.
- Crunchy cucumbers – adding a refreshing balance to the briny olives.
- Grape tomatoes, instead of sun-dried tomatoes.
- Artichoke hearts are a fabulous addition.
- Even garbanzo beans or fava beans, for added protein.
- Try quickly sautéed squid in a little of the homemade dressing and put it on top of the orzo pasta salad for a complete meal.
What Makes This An Easy Pasta Salad Recipe?
Throughout the summer months, with home gardens and farmers markets abundant with the big flavors going into this recipe, you need only to cook the orzo pasta.
Here is an easy approach to having the orzo ready in advance for making this easy Mediterranean orzo salad.
- Boil a large pot of salted water and cook several bags of dry orzo.
- Take care to cook the orzo only al dente (with teeth lol), so test it.
- Drain quickly and run it under cold water to stop the cooking.
- Drain again thoroughly.
- Place in a large airtight container and drizzle a little olive oil, while stirring, to keep the pasta from sticking.
- Keep a jar of Homemade Salad Dressing in the fridge, and you’ve got this easy pasta salad in minutes.
Store in the fridge until ready to mix the orzo salad.
What To Serve With Mediterranean Orzo Salad
As you can see (above), while making this orzo salad on television, I served lamb chops and green beans with it.
However, you may simply want to serve this great salad recipe for a light luncheon.
Nothing would compliment better than a loaf of Olive bread!
- Sun-dried tomatoes
- Pitted Black olives
- Feta cheese
- Fresh parsley
- Lemon juice and zest
- Olive oil
- 4-quart pot
- Slotted spoon
- Cutting board
- Chopping knife
- Mixing bowl
- Measuring cup
- Measuring spoons
- Stovetop or burner
Authentic Mediterranean Orzo Pasta Salad
- Medium saucepan
- Serving bowl
- Cutting board and knife
- 1 cup Orzo pasta dry
- 1 tbsp Butter or olive oil
- 1 Garlic clove crushed
- 2 1/2 cups Water boiling
- 1 tsp Salt for boiling water
- 1/4 cup Sun-dried tomatoes fresh tomatoes can substitute
- 1/4 cup Pitted Black or green olives chopped
- 1/2 cup Feta cheese or vegan feta
- 1/2 cup Fresh parsley chopped
- 1 tbsp Lemon juice and zest or red wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp Olive oil extra virgin
- 1/4 cup Red onion finely chopped
- Salt as needed
- Boil a pot of salted water and have it ready.
- In a 4 quart sauce pan, melt the butter, add the garlic, salt and dry orzo and saute for 1 minute on medium low.
- Add 2 1/2 cups of the boiling salted water to the orzo mixture, stir, simmer on medium low, stirring occasionally for 10-minutes or until the orzo has doubled in size yet still firm and not mushy. Strain the cooked orzo, run it under cold water while in the strainer to stop the cooking. Drain completely and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk the lemon juice and zest (or wine vinegar) with the olive oil, onions, tomatoes and olives.
- Fold in the cooked orzo. Gently fold in the parsley or dill and feta. Serve at room temperature.
- Will last in the fridge, in an airtight container, for several days.