This simple pesto orzo pasta salad comes together in less than 20 minutes for a fresh, delicious, and easy meal! Topped with homemade pesto, fresh spinach, toasted pine nuts, and parmesan cheese, it's the perfect summer lunch or side-dish!
Why You'll Love This Pesto Orzo Salad!
This summer pesto orzo salad will be your new go-to easy lunch! It's also delicious as a side for grilled chicken or salmon!
- It comes together in just 20 minutes.
- Is delicious either warm or cold!
- Only 6 ingredients!
- Perfect for meal prep lunches or an easy side dish!
You just need a handful of simple ingredients to make this summery fresh pesto orzo!
Orzo - Orzo is a small, oval shaped pasta that looks similar to rice. Use a high-quality die cut pasta like Delallo or De Cecco for the yummiest results! If you don't like orzo, you can substitute your favorite short pasta.
Fresh pesto - I use my either my homemade fresh pesto or my spinach pesto! But if you have a different fresh pesto recipe you prefer, feel free to use that instead! I generally don't recommend using store-bought pesto but that said, Trader Joe's vegan kale and cashew pesto is really good and a great option!
Fresh spinach - I like adding some thinly sliced fresh spinach to the pasta salad but you can leave it out if you prefer.
Shaved parmesan - I like using thick big pieces of shaved parmesan cheese in this orzo, but shredded parmesan or even mozzarella pearls are delicious too!
Pine nuts - Toasted pine nuts have a soft, almost buttery flavor with a little bit of crunch that makes them a perfect addition to this pesto orzo! I just love the extra texture they add to the dish, but you can leave them out if desired.
The complete list of ingredients and amounts is located in the recipe card below.
- Substitute arugula for the spinach
- Add in sliced cherry tomatoes or sundried tomatoes
- Add in diced roasted zucchini or broccoli
- Top with sliced grilled chicken
How to Make Pesto Orzo
My number one tip for perfect orzo pasta salad is to cook the pasta al dente and then rinse it!! For pasta salad the last thing you want is sticky, overcooked pasta. I always cook my pasta 1-2 minutes less than what the package directions call for. Then after draining the pasta, rinse for just a minute or so with cold water.
Cook the orzo according to package directions. Reduce the cooking time by 1-2 minutes for perfect al dente pasta. Drain and then rinse for 1 minute with cold water (this helps the orzo not stick together). Set aside to cool slightly.
In a small dry skillet, toast the pine nuts over medium heat for 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Set aside.
Thinly slice the fresh spinach and basil.
Add the cooled orzo, toasted pine nuts, fresh pesto, spinach, basil, and shaved parmesan cheese to a large bowl.
Gently toss together until combined.
Serve immediately and enjoy!
Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days! The pesto orzo pasta salad might get dried out after a few days so you can rehydrate it with a little olive oil or more fresh pesto.
Normally I don't recommend rinsing pasta! However, pasta salad is the only exception! Rinsing the orzo immediately after cooking removes the excess starch so that it doesn't clump together.
I always prefer homemade pesto for this orzo, but you can use your favorite fresh store-bought pesto instead (Trader Joe's vegan kale pesto is a great choice for this pasta salad)!
Tips for Success!
For best results I always recommend using weight measurements (especially when baking) because it's the most accurate. Kitchen scales are super affordable and also reduce the number of dishes you have to do! However, all my recipes also include US customary measurements for convince. Use this chart to convert measurements for common ingredients!
Substitutions: In all my recipes, I've included substitutions that I know will work, but I cannot guarantee results if you substitute ingredients that I have not recommended. [For example, granulated sugar and honey are indeed both sweeteners but they have very different properties so they can not always be swapped 1:1. Using honey in a cookie recipe that calls for granulated sugar will yield a giant mess.] In the recipe card you'll find links to the specific ingredients/brands that I use.
A note on salt: I almost exclusively use Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt because it's the best all-purpose salt for cooking and baking. If you're not using kosher salt, consult this handy guide for a conversion chart! When in doubt, if you're using table salt just reduce the amount by half for baked goods. When cooking, I prefer to under-salt because you can always add more! If you've over-salted, adding a little bit of acid (like lemon juice) can help.
More Recipes You Might Like!
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- Cook the orzo according to package directions. Reduce the cooking time by 1-2 minutes for perfect al dente pasta. Drain and then rinse for 1 minute with cold water (this helps the orzo not stick together). Set aside to cool slightly.
- In a small dry skillet, toast the pine nuts over medium heat for 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Set aside.
- Thinly slice the fresh spinach and basil.
- Add the cooled orzo, toasted pine nuts, fresh pesto, spinach, basil, and shaved parmesan cheese to a large bowl.
- Gently toss together until combined.
- Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days! The pesto orzo might get dried out after a few days so you can rehydrate it with a little olive oil or more fresh pesto.
The nutritional information on this website is only an estimate and is provided for convenience and as a courtesy only. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.