This quick Lemon Orzo Pasta Salad is a side dish that goes perfectly with any summer entree! Make it in just minutes to easily round out your dinner, or add some protein and eat it as a main dish.
Lemon Orzo Pasta Recipe
This lemon orzo pasta is so easy. I came up with it one night when I realized we didn't have enough food for dinner. I quickly looked in our pantry and fridge and realized we had just enough orzo to make this happen. Now it's one of my favorite go-to side dishes!
Orzo pasta has this subtle nutty flavor that makes it the best type of pasta to go with citrus notes like lemon. This dish is so fun to make with fresh summer vegetables, and sometimes I adapt the recipe and add lots of fresh herbs too!
Whenever I make a main course like grilled chicken thighs and can't think of a side dish to go with it, I turn to this recipe. It's easily adaptable, so I can add or subtract whatever I have on hand.
Plus, the flavor profile of lemon orzo pasta pairs wonderfully with so many different foods. This recipe really is one of my favorite things! And I just love that it's so easy to make.
Why You'll Love this Recipe
- You can make simple side dish in just under 25 minutes!
- Lemon orzo pasta is a great make-ahead or meal prep dish since you can eat it hot or cold.
- This easy recipe can be served as a side dish or a main course when you add some protein to it.
What is Orzo?
Orzo is a small, rice-shaped pasta that can be used in a variety of different dishes. Orzo cooks very quickly and has similar texture to long grain rice even though it is not a grain. The word orzo in Italian means "barley", but that is only in reference to its barley-like shape.
You can find orzo on the pasta aisle at your local grocery store.
You only need a handful of ingredients to make this delicious pasta dish:
- juice from half a lemon
- lemon zest
- olive oil
- grape tomatoes, halved
- grated parmesan cheese
- feta cheese
Substitutions and Variations
If you're not a a fan of tomatoes, you can leave them out or substitute for red bell peppers or any other fresh veggies. Some baby spinach or fresh asparagus would be delicious in this lemon orzo recipe!
You can add more layers of flavor to this recipe by putting some kalamata olives, diced red onion, fresh parsley, or chopped green onion into the dish. Or, give it a little kick by adding some red pepper flakes!
The flavor of olive oil is distinct and perfect for this delicious side dish. But if you don't like olive oil or must avoid it for any reason, you can substitute avocado oil.
Turn this recipe into a main dish by adding some protein. Shredded rotisserie chicken, artichoke hearts and garbanzo beans are fabulous additions in lemon orzo pasta.
Swap out the feta cheese for goat cheese or fresh mozzarella cheese crumbles. The parmesan cheese can be substituted as well.
Make this dish gluten-free by cooking gluten-free orzo. You can find it on the pasta aisle with regular orzo, or in your store's dedicated gluten-free section.
How to Make Lemon Orzo Pasta
Bring a large pot of water to a boil on the stove top. Add the orzo to the boiling water and let it cook for 8-9 minutes until al dente.
Drain the cooked orzo, then pour it into a serving bowl.
In a small bowl or a mason jar, mix together the fresh lemon juice from half a lemon, olive oil, basil, lemon zest, salt and pepper.
Pour the lemony dressing over the orzo pasta.
Slice grape tomatoes in half, and add them to the bowl. Then, add in the feta cheese and parmesan cheese.
Thoroughly mix the ingredients together until everything is evenly incorporated. You can serve this dish immediately while warm, or chill the delicious lemon orzo pasta salad and serve it cold.
What to Serve with Lemon Orzo Pasta
You could also top a bowl of pasta with these goat cheese rosemary baked chicken meatballs. Mouthwateringly good!
If you're this eating lemon orzo salad recipe as a main dish, serve it up with some cheesy garlic bread.
How to Store Leftover Lemon Orzo Pasta
Leftovers will store wonderfully for about a week if kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator. However, I don't recommend freezing this dish. The pasta will end up changing texture and it will end up being a mushy mess.
But not to worry, because it only takes minutes to make a fresh batch of this flavorful pasta salad in no time!
Tips for Success
- Don't overcook your orzo! It doesn't take as long to cook orzo as it does to cook most pasta. Follow the instructions in this recipe or the instructions on the box of pasta.
- If you want to serve this dish cold, allow it to cool to room temperature and then place it in the refrigerator.
- Add more flavor and protein to this lemon orzo pasta by cooking the orzo in chicken broth instead of salted water.
Orzo has a neutral flavor, quite like many pastas do. You may find some brands of orzo more nutty in flavor than others, but in general the flavor is pretty neutral.
Don't overcook it! It is really important to cook your orzo al dente, as it will become very mushy if it is slightly overcooked. Always bet on the safe side and cook it a minute or two less than you think it should be cooked. Taste test it to check the texture too!
More Pasta Recipes
- Easy Pasta Salad without Mayo
- Creamy Butternut Squash Kale Pasta
- One Pot Prosciutto Pesto Feta Pasta
- Homemade Broccoli Macaroni and Cheese
If you make and love this recipe, please leave a ★★★★★ review below! It means so much to me when you try my recipes, and I'd love to know how it goes. Please leave a comment below if you have any questions.
- 1 ½ cups orzo
- juice from ½ lemon
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup basil
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- ½ cup grape tomatoes, halved
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup feta cheese
- Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add orzo and cook for 8-9 minutes, until al dente. Drain well and place it into a serving bowl.
- In a small bowl or mason jar, mix together juice from half lemon, lemon zest, olive oil, basil, salt and pepper.
- Pour the dressing mixture over the orzo and toss until all of the orzo is coated.
- Add in feta, tomatoes and parmesan cheese.
- Serve warm or cold!
This pasta salad recipe is great as a side dish. Serve it with your summer favorites like barbecue, burgers or picnic foods.
It is also delicious warm. Add a protein over top, such as grilled chicken, and enjoy it as a main meal.
Add chopped kalamata olives or capers for an extra zing of flavor.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: ½ cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 328Total Fat: 18gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 14mgSodium: 371mgCarbohydrates: 35gFiber: 2gSugar: 9gProtein: 8g