Summer pasta salads are fantastic for warmer weather. Take things up a few notches with this gourmet Mediterranean Orzo Salad. Filled with veggies and tossed with an oregano vinaigrette, this fancier take on a classic pasta salad will have everyone going back for more.
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If there is one thing in life that is super versatile and easy to throw together, it’s a good summer pasta salad! What I find to be so cool is that you can find so much variety when it comes to this salad in the summer. There really is no standard pasta salad recipe. But I’ve decided to make a classier take on this American staple with my own Mediterranean Orzo Salad.
What’s in Mediterranean Orzo Salad
I loved looking through my Flavor Bible to get a sense of what would make this salad Mediterranean. I knew it needed a few required ingredients:
- Orzo pasta
So, corn might not be a classic Mediterranean ingredient but it’s summer so why not throw that in there!
I find that the veggies in this pasta salad really utilize the best that summer has to offer! These veggies are at their peak during this time of year which guarantees this salad to be especially delicious when enjoyed now!
What is Orzo Pasta
Orzo pasta is this crazy fake out. It’s pasta that looks like rice! It’s super cool. It cooks just like pasta does and it’s a fantastic pasta that makes things look a bit more gourmet. Take this recipe, for example, it’s my take on Thomas Keller’s infamous Orzo Mac and Cheese with Butter Poached Lobster.
I love how elegant orzo can make a dish look without a lot of fuss. Everyone needs to try orzo at least once in their pasta consuming life.
Cleaning Artichokes for Mediterranean Orzo Salad
There was one time at one restaurant I worked while in culinary school that the sous chef made me clean a 25-pound box of artichokes for dinner service. Luckily you only have to clean 5 and it’s a piece of cake.
First, you have to cut the top off of the artichoke and then cut the outer leaves to expose the heart. Once the heart is exposed, you can cut the rest of the leaves off and spoon out the hairs in the middle of the artichoke. Remove the skin off the stem (if you see little lines, you need to remove more.) and then rub with lemon juice.
I like to cook my artichokes in a large stock pot full of water and just a few teaspoons of lemon to keep the artichokes from oxidizing. After simmering for about 20 minutes, the artichokes are soft and ready to cut up.
However, if that’s too much, you can use canned artichoke hearts for this recipe.
Dried Tomatoes for Mediterranean Pasta Salad
Alright, I had to go a little crazy with the tomato part of this salad. I got a dehydrator last year and haven’t played with it nearly as much as I had wanted too. Then I thought this salad would be the perfect time to dry out drying my own tomatoes.
The process is super simple. I just sliced the tomatoes into about ¼” slices, placed them on the rack and adjusted the dehydrator. After about 4 hours, I had these awesome tart tomato chips.
If that’s not your thing though… sun dried tomatoes are a great substitute. I would just pat off the oil so that the color doesn’t muddy up the pasta salad.
Castelvetrano Olives and Capers for Mediterranean Orzo Salad
Olives are quintessential in Mediterranean cooking and there is a whole slew of them to choose for this salad. I really love how meaty olives are without being overpoweringly salty like kalamata olives are. They do come with the pits in them still, but it’s easily removed by slicing around the pit, like a mango.
Capers are fun little berries that are preserved in a super salty brine! They add a nice texture to the salad and a bit of saltiness. I would absolutely wait until after the capers are added to the salad before seasoning to avoid an unpalatable salad.
How to Make Mediterranean Orzo Salad
An orzo pasta salad is rather simple enough to make. The one slightly complicated task is the cleaning of the artichokes and cooking them. However, cooking artichokes while you prep the other vegetables and cook the pasta will help it all come together at the same time.
How to Cook Orzo for Pasta Salad
Pasta cookery stays the same when making an orzo pasta salad. You don’t want to undercook it and have crunchy pasta, but you also don’t want to overcook it and have a soggy salad.
Cooking the orzo for 9 minutes would be the longest I would cook when making this easy orzo salad. You also want to make sure that you cool down your pasta completely so as to keep the integrity of the rest of the yummies in the salad. Dress your salad heavy as the vinaigrette will soak up some in the pasta.
Mediterranean Orzo Salad Dressing
One of my requirements, though, for a cold summer pasta salad is that it needs to be able to handle not being refrigerated for a few hours and still be safe to eat. We all know that everyone gets antsy with a mayo-salad, and it always gets thrown away at the end of the picnic or day at the beach. But if you do a vinegar-based salad, it can last so much longer!
With this salad having a Mediterranean feel, I immediately thought of oregano being the perfect flavor in the vinaigrette.
Dried oregano is much more of a powerful herb than when it’s fresh. I love making this vinaigrette ahead of time so that the oregano has time to fully release its flavors into the dressing.
While this orzo salad dressing is meant to be emulsified (hello Dijon mustard), you will notice some separation after some time. No worries shake it up before pouring and you’ll be back in business.
How to Serve Mediterranean Orzo Salad
I strongly believe that this orzo pasta salad is best when it’s made a day in advance so that all the flavors get to blend together. And since it’s a vinaigrette-based salad, it’s amazing when it’s served at room temperature.
My husband loves warm pasta salads and you can totally rock this salad that way (especially with the melty mozzarella cheese). You can also feel free to eat it straight from the fridge as well.
What to Serve with Mediterranean Orzo Salad
This recipe is super simple and easy to make, and it does, I believe, a fantastic job of screaming summer when you take a bite! This orzo pasta salad has a bright flavor of its own that would do a good job pairing with some of these recipes
- Moroccan Honey BBQ Sauce (you can use this to grill chicken, shrimp, pork, or salmon)
- Vegan Lemon Potato Salad
- Moroccan Couscous Salad
- Watermelon and Mint Granita
Here are some other awesome summer salad recipes that you might enjoy!
- Heirloom Tomato Panzanella
- Grilled Shrimp and Pasta Salad
- Steak Salad with Balsamic Dressing
- Sun-Dried Tomato Salad
- Asian Ramen Noodle Cabbage Salad
- See more Salads
These drinks would be super delicious with this pasta salad as well:
I hope that you enjoyed this recipe and that you decide to make it for your next BBQ! If you especially loved it, be sure to tell me all about it down in the comments with a rating!
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- 12 ounces orzo pasta, uncooked
- 12 ounces of corn, roasted
- 6 sweet peppers roasted and sliced thin
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 5 artichokes boiled and quartered
- 3 tomatoes sliced and dried (you can also use sun-dried tomatoes as well)
- 8 ounces small mozzarella balls cut in half
- 1/3 cup Castelvetrano olives, pitted and sliced
- ½ ounce basil, chiffonade
- To taste salt and pepper
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- ½ cup EVOO
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- ½ tablespoon honey
- To taste salt and pepper
Mediterranean Orzo Salad
- Preheat broiler and line two sheet pans with aluminum foil. Place corn on one pan and peppers on another. Season both with olive oil, salt and pepper, and broil until blistered. Corn will take about 10 minutes, stirring at the 5-minute mark. Peppers will take about 10 minutes as well. Once veggies are doing broiling, place peppers in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap and allow to steam. Remove skins and seeds from the peppers and slice.
- Fill a 2 qt sauce pot full of water and season with salt. Cook orzo pasta for about 8 minutes or until al dente. Drain and place on sheet pain, drizzle with oil to keep from sticking together. Allow pasta to cool.
- Prep artichokes buy cutting leaves off of artichokes, spooning out the hairs and trimming the stem. Cook in lemon water for 20 minutes, until tender. Drain and cool.
- Pit the Castelvetrano olives, slice the mozzarella, and chiffonade basil.
- In a large mixing bowl, place all ingredients together and mix. Add dressing and serve.
- Add vinegar, oregano, honey, and mustard together in a small mixing bowl until well mixed. Slowly drizzle in olive oil until emulsified. Store in an air tight container until ready to use.
Chefman 9-Tray Food Dehydrator
Pyrex Glass Mixing Bowl Set (3-Piece)
Extra Large Organic Bamboo Cutting Board for Kitchen
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Nutrition InformationYield 6 Serving Size 1/2 cup
Amount Per ServingCalories 655 Total Fat 30g Saturated Fat 8g Trans Fat 0g Unsaturated Fat 20g Cholesterol 30mg Sodium 596mg Carbohydrates 80g Fiber 12g Sugar 14g Protein 23g