Mediterranean orzo salad with pesto is a bright flavorful summer salad with fresh cucumbers, artichokes, kalamata olives, tomatoes, and feta cheese in a lemon pesto mayo dressing. Perfect for a summer BBQ or picnic.
Orzo pesto pasta salad is one of my favorite things to make for a hot summer day.
This delicious pasta dish is filled with fresh ingredients and rich Mediterranean flavors that pack a flavorful punch — and it tastes great the next day.
It’s an easy side or main dish salad for a weeknight meal and the leftovers make an easy grab-and-go lunch.
This recipe makes a very large salad, so it’s a great make-ahead salad for a summer barbeque or picnic.
For more summer picnic sides, check out these Slow Cooker Baked Beans, Apple Kale Slaw, and lightened up Potato Salad.
You’re going to love this
All the Mediterranean flavors are packed in this pesto orzo pasta salad — kalamata olives, artichokes, feta, pesto …
So easy. While the orzo cooks, you can whip up the dressing, chop the cucumber, halve the tomatoes, and slice the olives.
Fresh flavors. Summer vegetables like juicy tomatoes and crisp cucumbers add garden-fresh flavor to this pesto orzo salad.
Great picnic or potluck salad — one tiny box of orzo multiplies into enough to feed a small village.
Orzo. Orzo is that small pasta that kind of looks like rice.
Artichokes in water. To keep this salad from getting too oily, I use artichokes packed in water.
Cherry tomatoes. Juicy cherry tomatoes are so sweet, but you can use chopped tomatoes, too.
English cucumber. One large English cucumber yields about 2 cups chopped. You can also use regular cucumbers, peeled and seeded.
Kalamata olives. These salty olives add rich, fruity flavor. You can substitute any kind of olive you like.
Crumbled feta cheese. Creamy feta adds tangy, sharp flavor and saltiness. You can swap it out for crumble goat cheese or parmesan cheese, if you prefer.
Green onions. Sliced green onions give the salad brightness and mild onion flavor. If you’re not into green onions, red onion is also great. Or check out my substitutes for scallions here.
Pesto. I used store bought pesto, but if your basil plants are going bonkers, you can whip up your own pesto recipe
Mayonnaise. Mayonnaise and pesto create a creamy pesto dressing for this orzo salad
Lemon juice and lemon zest. Fresh lemon juice and zest brighten up the dressing.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a big pinch of salt. Boil the orzo according to package instructions to about a minute past al dente.
Drain the pasta in a colander with small holes (those small pieces of pasta can fall through larger holes) and run it under cold water to stop the cooking process.
In a very large bowl, add the orzo, artichokes, olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, most of the green onions and most of the feta cheese.
Reserve a little feta and green onion for topping.
In a small bowl, whisk together the pesto, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and lemon zest.
Add the mayo pesto sauce to the orzo mixture and gently toss until combined.
Sprinkle the remaining feta cheese and green onions on top.
Serve this pesto orzo salad chilled or at room temperature.
Store leftover orzo pasta salad in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Use a really big bowl for tossing this salad! Like, a realllllly big one!
After you cook and drain the orzo, run cold water over it to stop the cooking process and cool it down.
You can use store-bought pesto or fresh pesto in this easy orzo salad.
Mix orzo, artichokes, olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, green onions, and feta cheese in a large mixing bowl. Whisk together pesto, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Add the dressing to the salad and toss until combined.
Orzo is delicious in both hot and cold dishes. It can be used in soups, casseroles, and baked pasta dishes or served cold in summer pasta salads.
When you’re making a cold pasta salad with orzo, rinsing the pasta after it’s cooked cools it down and stops the cooking process. Otherwise, if it continues to cook, it can turn mushy.
A large Pasta Pot with an insert makes cooking and draining pasta really easy.
I love this whisk. It's sturdy in my hand and easily whips up everything from dressings and pancake batter to egg whites and whipped cream.
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Mediterranean Orzo Pesto Salad
- 16 oz. orzo
- 14 oz. artichokes in water, drained and chopped
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 English cucumber, chopped
- ½ cup kalamata olives, sliced
- ½ cup crumbled feta
- 6 sliced green onions
- ¾ cup pesto
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a big pinch of salt. Boil the orzo according to package instructions to about a minute past al dente. Drain the pasta in a colander with small holes (those small pieces of pasta can fall through larger holes) and run it under cold water to stop the cooking process.
- In a very large bowl, add the orzo, artichokes, olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, most of the green onions and most of the feta cheese (reserve a little feta and green onion for topping).
- In a small bowl, whisk together the pesto, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and lemon zest.
- Add the mayo pesto sauce to the orzo mixture and gently toss until combined.
- Sprinkle the remaining feta cheese and green onions on top. This pesto orzo salad can be served chilled or at room temperature.
- Store leftover orzo pasta salad in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
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