Meatless Monday Challenge

25-Minute Orzo Pesto Salad

on May 5, 2023
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This Orzo Pesto Salad is light, fresh, and bursting with flavor. Only 7 ingredients and 25 minutes required.
Orzo Pesto Salad with roasted tomatoes and mozzarella pearls

Looking for a simple, yet flavor-packed pasta salad that can be served hot or cold? This Orzo Pesto Salad is vibrant and fresh, easy to make, and comes together in under 30 minutes!

Plus, this orzo pasta salad is easy to prep, and perfect to bring along to a potluck or picnic, because it’s delicious served hot, cold, or even room temperature!

In this post you will learn how to perfectly cook orzo, how to roast tomatoes, and how to put a delicious pesto-based pasta salad together with just 7 ingredients!

Close up of Orzo Pesto Salad

As an environmental scientist, I am always trying to make more eco-conscious food choices. One simple way to improve your ecological footprint is by finding ways to enjoy more meatless meals.

This Orzo Pesto Pasta Salad brings tons of flavor, color, and freshness, ensuring you won’t miss the meat!

Green tip: Industrial meat production has a huge impact on the environment, especially because of the amount of land it takes to sustain and its high amount of greenhouse gas emissions.

Orzo Pesto Salad Ingredients


Here’s everything you need:

  • Orzo pasta. The teeny tiny pasta that makes the pesto to pasta ratio extra delicious in this pasta salad.
  • Pesto. You can buy it ready-made or make your own homemade pesto.
  • Grape tomatoes. Or cherry tomatoes, to add tons of flavor and vibrance.
  • Mozzarella pearls. These are already bite-sized and easy to mix in as is. Alternatively, you can hand-slice fresh mozzarella into bite-sized mozzarella pearls.
  • Salt, pepper, & olive oil. To roast the tomatoes in to enhance their flavor.
ingredients for orzo pesto salad - pesto, grape tomatoes, pepper, olive oil, mozzarella pearls, orzo, salt

Orzo Pesto Salad Tips and Tricks


How to Perfectly Cook Orzo

Orzo is prepared just like pasta and should be cooked al dente for the best bite. For perfect orzo, bring about 3 cups of water to a rolling boil before adding one cup of your uncooked orzo.

Boil the orzo and water for 8-10 minutes uncovered, stirring occasionally so that the orzo does not stick to the bottom of the pot or to each other.

After 8 minutes, test a noodle to see if it’s ready. If not, give it another 2 minutes maximum. Once it’s perfectly al dente, strain the orzo.

It’s best to toss the orzo with the pesto immediately, before it has a chance to stick together. As soon as you’ve strained the orzo, add it to a large bowl and stir in the pesto.

Keep in mind the orzo noodles are small, so make sure the holes in your colander are small enough to contain the orzo. You may want to use a sieve.

Adding orzo to boiling water to cook

How to Prep Grape Tomatoes

After rinsing your grape (or cherry) tomatoes, all you have to do is slice them in half lengthwise.

When it comes to slicing tomatoes, if your knife isn’t extremely sharp, then it’s probably best to use a serrated knife or a tomato knife to more easily pierce the skin.

Slicing grape tomatoes in half lengthwise

Season Your Grape Tomatoes Before Roasting

Add the prepped grape tomatoes to a baking sheet and spread them out. For less cleanup, you can opt to line the baking tray with aluminum foil.

Then, drizzle the olive oil on top and sprinkle on the salt and pepper.

Adding salt and pepper to grape tomatoes to roast

Toss to Evenly Coat

Use clean hands to toss the tomatoes in the oil, salt, and pepper. I find that this is the easiest way to ensure they are all evenly coated.

If you’re not a fan of getting your hands dirty, you can use tongs or two large forks to toss everything together instead. Then, spread the coated tomatoes out in a single layer, ensuring none are not stacked on top of one another.

Roast the tomatoes at 425°F for 10-15 minutes until the skin starts to wrinkle.

Tossing grape tomatoes in olive oil, salt, and pepper

Mix All Your Ingredients Together

Once your tomatoes are ready, add the mozzarella pearls and roasted grape tomatoes to the pesto orzo and mix to combine.

The hope is that the cheese and tomatoes are evenly distributed so you can get all of the flavors and textures in each and every bite.

Adding pearled mozzarella to orzo with pesto

Serving Your Pesto Orzo Salad

One of my favorite things about this orzo pasta salad is that it’s super no-fuss and versatile in terms of serving temperature. It’s delicious freshly made and hot, at room temperature (making it perfect for on-the-go!), and it’s even delicious cold right out of the refrigerator.

It brings tons of bold flavor and can be served as a meal all on its own, but if you want to add a protein, here are some of my favorites:

To add more heartiness with vegetables, here are my favorite veggies to add:

Pesto Orzo Salad served with red wine

How to Store Your Orzo Pesto Salad

Leftover Orzo Pesto Salad will last up to 5 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator or up to 3 months in the freezer.

You can eat leftovers cold right out of the fridge! If you do freeze leftovers, make sure to allow them to thaw overnight in the refrigerator before enjoying.

Green tip: Billions of tons of food is wasted annually. Combat food waste by reducing the amount of waste you produce in your own home by properly storing food and leaving little to no leftovers.

Pesto Orzo Salad Frequently Asked Questions


Is orzo a rice or pasta?

Though it is rice-shaped, orzo is technically pasta! Each grain of pasta is as small as a grain of rice, but cooks, tastes, and has the same texture as pasta.

What is orzo salad made of?

Like any other pasta salad, orzo salad uses orzo pasta as the base of the salad as opposed to a green like lettuce, spinach, arugula, etc.

The ingredients can range widely, with a number of different veggies, fruits, and nuts. It can be coated with a dressing, vinaigrette, or in this case, pesto!

Why You Should Make 25-Minute Orzo Pesto Salad


  • It’s quick. This dish comes together in less than 30 minutes.
  • it’s easy. 7 simple but mighty ingredients are all you need for all this flavor!
  • It’s versatile. Delicious hot, cold, or even room temperature!

If you’re loving this Orzo Pesto Salad and want more simple & delicious pesto recipes, check out this 20-Minute Ricotta Pesto Pasta and 5-Ingredient Burrata Pesto Pasta.

Orzo Pesto Salad with roasted tomatoes and mozzarella pearls

25-Minute Orzo Pesto Salad

5 from 4 votes
Marley Goldin
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This Orzo Pesto Salad is light, fresh, and bursting with flavor. Only 7 ingredients and 25 minutes required.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 4 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup orzo (uncooked)
  • cup pesto
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella pearls
  • 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
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Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 425°F and bring 3 cups of water to a rolling boil in a medium-sized pot.
  • Once the water is boiling, add the orzo and cook al dente, about 8-10 minutes. Strain the orzo and add it to a large bowl. Add the pesto right away and stir to coat, so the orzo doesn't stick together.
    Mixing pesto and cooked orzo
  • Meanwhile, rinse and slice the grape tomatoes in half lengthwise.
    Grape tomatoes sliced in half lengthwise
  • Add the prepped tomatoes to a baking sheet and add the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss to evenly coat.
    Baking sheet with grape tomatoes tossed in oil, salt, and pepper
  • Roast the tomatoes for 10-15 minutes until the skin starts to wrinkle.
    Just-roasted grape tomatoes
  • Add the roasted cherry tomatoes and mozzarella pearls to the pesto-coated orzo and stir to combine. Serve hot or cold!
    Adding mozzarella and roasted grape tomatoes to pesto orzo

Pro Tips

  • Watch your tomatoes closely—burnt tomatoes can taste really bitter. If you do burn your tomatoes, consider tossing them in a little bit of honey or maple syrup to balance out that bitterness. 
  • For more vegetarian pasta options, check out this list of Hearty Meatless Pasta Meals. 
  • For more recipes with pesto, check out this list of Best Pesto Recipes!
Course Dinner, Lunch, Sides
Cuisine American
Diet Vegetarian
Keyword 30 Minutes or Less, Orzo Pesto Salad, Pasta Salad, Pesto, Pesto Pasta, Roasted Tomatoes
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