Toss orzo pasta with rainbow vegetables and tangy feta cheese to make this vibrant, vegetarian pasta salad that’s even better for lunch the next day.
If you’re looking for a healthy midweek meal that packs in the flavour as well as the nutrients, this super simple pasta salad recipe is the one for you.
It’s easy to make and on the table in under 30 minutes, which makes it a great recipe for a weeknight dinner.
It’s also perfect for meal prep as it makes six portions and tastes just as good – or even better – as lunches throughout the week. Just let it come back to room temperature before you eat it so that the flavours are at their best.
This is a very filling salad packed with goodness from the four portions of fresh vegetables and heart-healthy extra virgin olive oil (instead of the classic and not-so-healthy mayonnaise).
It’s a vegetarian recipe, which can be made vegan by swapping the feta cheese for a vegan alternative such as nutritional yeast. Meat eaters could add to it with a small portion of lean ham or chicken, but we’ve found that this dish is a crowd-pleaser without any additions.
How to make this delicious orzo salad
Making this orzo salad could not be easier. Aside from the pasta, nothing needs to be cooked, so most of the recipe is actually just assembly.
You start by cooking the orzo until al dente. Once it’s done, drain it and then rinse it under cold water. This stops it from cooking any further and it also means the heat of the pasta doesn’t wilt your vegetables or completely melt your cheese once you add it to the salad.
If you haven’t tried orzo before, you should absolutely give it a go. This rice-shaped pasta adds something really unique and we think it’s what makes this recipe stand out from other pasta salad recipes.
Of course, if you don’t fancy orzo or if you can’t get hold of it, any short cut pasta will work well. Fusilli, orecchiette, farfalle and conchiglie all work well.
While the pasta cooks, dice half a red onion as finely as you can. In a large bowl, add the onion along with balsamic vinegar, lemon juice and a pinch of salt, stir well and leave to soak for at least five minutes.
This soaking will transform the taste of the onions, removing some of their harshness and adding a little sweetness, so it’s really worth doing.
If you haven’t already chopped your vegetables, now is the time. You want everything to be chopped into roughly similar sizes so that you get a delicious mix of different flavours in every mouthful.
Add your chopped veg to the onion mix along with fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil and a generous helping of freshly ground black pepper, then mix thoroughly. All those tasty vegetables should get a little coating of olive oil and vinegar.
Then, time for the pasta and cheese. Add in your orzo and feta and toss everything together one last time. And voila! A truly delicious cold pasta salad packed with nutritious vegetables.
One of the best things about this salad is its versatility. You can swap out most of the ingredients for alternatives that you prefer, or add even more of your favourite flavours.
So, if you can’t get hold of red bell peppers, any colour will do.
Not a feta cheese fan? Parmesan cheese or mozzarella balls will both work beautifully.
Tried-and-tested additions include a few finely chopped sun dried tomatoes, a few slices of good quality ham, or some diced chicken breast.
Once you get used to the basic method, you’ll soon be swapping in and out all manner of delicious ingredients to create your very own take on it.
Super simple pasta salad recipe
Serves 6 as a main or 10 as a side dish
500g orzo pasta
½ medium red onion, finely diced
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp lemon juice
¼ tsp salt
320g tin sweetcorn, drained
250g cherry tomatoes, halved
3 red peppers, finely diced
2 handfuls black olives, halved
200g mixed lettuce leaves or spinach, chopped
½ cucumber, quartered and finely sliced
½ bunch fresh basil, chopped
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
100g feta cheese, diced
1. Cook the orzo in a large pot of salted water. When the pasta is al dente, drain it and then rinse under cold water so it stops cooking.
2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl add the chopped red onion along with the balsamic vinegar, lemon juice and salt. Stir well and leave to sit for 5 minutes.
3. After the onions have soaked in the vinegar for 5 minutes, add the sweetcorn, tomatoes, peppers, olives, leaves, cucumber and basil. Drizzle over the olive oil and add a good helping of black pepper. Mix well.
4. Add the orzo and the feta cheese and toss everything together well. Serve as a main or as a side dish with grilled fish or chicken.
More healthy recipes you might like
If you enjoyed our pasta salad recipe, we think you might like these too:
Want more articles like this? Sign up to our newsletter.