This orzo salad with pesto combines the concept of a caprese salad and basil pesto creating a delicious pasta salad that’s perfect as a light meal or party food idea.
This caprese orzo salad with pesto is incredibly easy to make! There is hardly any chopping involved and the entire dish comes together in less than 15 minutes.
How to prep orzo pasta
Cook the orzo pasta al dente according to package instructions (approx. 6 minutes), strain and rinse under cold water. This is important to do as it will ensure the pasta won’t turn into a solid sticky lump while you are preparing the rest of the ingredients.
Plus you’ll be able to use it right away (it will be cold).
Can I cook the pasta ahead
Yes, you can. After you’ve rinsed it well, add a drop of oil, give a stir and refrigerate (overnight), covered until you are ready to use it. Ensure the pasta is completely cold before refrigerating it.
If you are a fan of orzo pasta you may like this baked beetroot and feta pasta salad.
Can I use different pasta
The amount of pesto sauce in this recipe is perfect to use with 1 cup of raw orzo. But if you prefer to use different pasta I recommend choosing small pasta shapes so that the proportions remain similar. Also, large pasta shapes can overpower the other ingredients.
For this pasta salad recipe I made the pesto by blitzing the basil along with the garlic, parmesan cheese, oil and a little water. I like my pesto mixture a little grainy, not completely smooth (see photo below), but you can make it chunkier or smoother if you prefer.
I decided not to puree the pine nuts but add them into the pasta salad separately, at the end. They add a lovely nutty crunch and flavour to this pesto pasta salad.
You can make the pesto mixture a few hours ahead. Add a few drops of lemon juice (to ensure the colour stays bright green) and keep refrigerated in an airtight container.
What you will need to make this recipe
Medium sized pot and strainer
Cutting board and knife
Large bowl and spoon
How to make orzo salad with pesto: step-by-step
1.To make the pesto place chopped basil leaves, garlic, parmesan, oil and water in a blender.
2. Blend the pesto ingredients until well combined but still with a bit of texture.
3. Combine with the cooked (and cooled) pasta before adding the rest of the ingredients.
4. Add the pesto into the pasta (ensure it’s completely cold) and stir thoroughly. Toss in the tomatoes, mozzarella pearls and give a gentle stir to combine. Scatter over the pine nuts and enjoy.
This salad will still taste fresh for up to 2 hours so it’s perfect to take to a party. Just be sure to keep it in an airtight container in the fridge.
If you like this pasta salad with pesto you may also like this pesto chicken pasta bake, which I also made using orzo.
Can I swap the pine nuts for another ingredient
Yes, you can! For me sunflower seeds make a great substitution, but crushed blanched hazelnuts, almonds or cashews can work too. Don’t forget to toast them briefly in a pan before adding into the salad.
Cook the pasta al dente, then strain and rinse in cold water to ensure it doesn’t get clumpy and that you can use it straight away. If you want to cook it ahead cover and refrigerate until you are ready to use it.
You can swap orzo for another small shaped pasta variety (such as soup pasta).
If you want to make the pesto ahead add a few drops of lemon juice and keep in an airtight container in the fridge for a few hours.
I recommend adding the pine nuts into the salad (rather than pureeing them with the pesto ingredients) for a bit of crunch.
You can use sunflower seeds, crushed hazelnuts or almonds or other nuts and seeds in place of the pine nuts.
If kept in an airtight container in the fridge this salad will stay fresh for up to 2 hours.
More easy pesto recipes
Check out also this collection of over 15 easy vegan salads.
Keep in touch
Have you made caprese orzo pesto pasta salad? Leave a comment and let me know how it turned out for you, thanks!
Caprese Orzo Salad with Pesto
- 1 cup raw orzo pasta
- 400 g cherry tomatoes
- 250 g mozzarella pearls/mozzarella balls
- 3 tbsp pine nuts lightly toasted
For the pesto
- 35 g basil leaves roughly chopped
- 1 small garlic clove roughly chopped
- 3 tbsp parmesan cheese finely grated, ensure it's vegetarian
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp cold water
- salt and pepper to taste
- Boil the pasta in salted water according to package instructions. Strain and rinse under cold water. Set aside.
- Whilst the pasta is cooking prepare the pesto. Blitz together the basil leaves with the garlic, parmesan, oil and water until grainy. Season to taste and set aside.
- Toast the pine nuts in a pan, stirring all the time until lightly browned. This will take less than a minute so be careful not to brown the pine nuts too much.
- To assemble the salad stir the pesto through the pasta (ensure the pasta is cold), add the mozzarella balls and cherry tomatoes and stir gently. Adjust the seasoning, scatter over the pine nuts and serve.
Recipe link parties
I am bringing this healthy pesto pasta salad recipe to #CookBlogShare.