This Roasted Vegetable and Orzo Salad is full of delicious Mediterranean flavours and a perfect summer dish for picnics and barbecues.
Salads are great as a side dish, or as a meal in itself – this roasted vegetable orzo falls into both categories. You’ll find a variety of tasty salad recipes here on The Purple Pumpkin Blog, including several more using orzo pasta.
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Roasted Vegetable & Orzo Salad
This Mediterranean orzo salad was inspired by a recipe I saw on an episode of Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network channel. Ina Garten showed how to prepare an orzo salad with roasted vegetables. I then decided to re-create this recipe for my Eurovision Song Contest Party (back in 2012!).
I gave the original recipe some tweaks of my own, and it’s such a great summer orzo pasta salad, that I simply have to share it!
What is orzo?
In case you are wondering what on earth orzo is, let me tell you! It is a short-cut pasta, shaped like large grains of rice. It is often used in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern recipes.
You’ll find orzo in the pasta aisle at the grocery store, as well as in ethnic supermarkets (where it is likely to be cheaper too) And if you really can’t find it, you can also buy orzo on Amazon.
Orzo can be served alone; as a soup accompaniment; as part of a salad, a pilaf; or baked in a casserole. My [Greek-Cypriot] dad makes an amazing orzo pilaf and I will have to share that recipe with you one day!
How to cook orzo
Now that you know that orzo is a type of pasta, it should give you an idea that it is easy to cook – and it is! Just cook in boiling water until tender. Follow the package instructions for the ratio of orzo to water, and for recommended cooking times. I cook orzo for about 10 minutes.
I like to add a stock cube – chicken or vegetable – to my orzo to give it an extra flavour boost. I don’t bother to add salt, as there is usually enough from the stock cubes.
Orzo does have this habit of clumping together, so as soon as you add the pasta to the pan of boiling water, give it a good stir. Then stir occasionally during the cooking process so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
When cooked, orzo has a firm, chewy texture.
To make this tasty orzo salad recipe, you are going to need: vegetable stock cube, olive oil, salt, pepper, dried rosemary, and of course orzo.
You are going to need vegetables for roasting: an aubergine (eggplant), bell peppers (I use mini ones as they are better value for money in our supermarket), red onions, and garlic cloves.
And finally, for the dressing and topping, you will be needing more olive oil, lemon juice, feta cheese, spring onions (scallions), pine nuts, dried oregano, and fresh basil.
Let’s get cooking!
First cut the aubergine, red onion and peppers into bite-size pieces and place them into a bowl.
Finely chop the garlic and sprinkle it over, along with olive oil, dried rosemary, salt, and pepper. Toss everything together until well coated.
Place the seasoned vegetables onto roasting pans, and pop into a hot oven and roast for 30 – 40 minutes until browned. Turn the vegetables over halfway through cooking so they cook evenly. Try not to pile the vegetables high as this prevents them from roasting all the way around.
Whilst the vegetables are roasting, it is time to cook the orzo. I always like to add a stock cube to my pasta when cooking it, just to give another layer of flavour. You can leave it out if you like, and just add some salt to the cooking water instead. When the orzo is cooked, drain it and add to a large mixing bowl.
Make the dressing while the vegetables and orzo are cooking.
Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, dried oregano, salt and pepper in a jug. You may find that the dressing has a strong lemon flavour, but don’t worry. The dressing is going to be poured over the hot orzo and vegetables and will mellow out as the salad comes to room temperature.
When the vegetables are roasted and tender, add them to the bowl of orzo, along with the dressing, and mix everything together well.
To finish the salad off, or when ready to serve, stir in some sliced spring onions (scallions), and some toasted pine nuts. Top with some cubed feta and torn basil leaves.
How to toast pine nuts
Toasting pine nuts lifts the flavour of them, and I think they taste a lot better this way. You can toast pine nuts in the oven, or on the stovetop.
The oven method is great when you’re already cooking something in there, as you can get two jobs done at the same time. Spread the nuts evenly onto a dry baking sheet and cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
A quicker method is using a dry skillet or frying pan on the stovetop. Add the pine nuts to the pan and toast over medium-low heat for 2-3 minutes. You do need to keep a watchful eye, and stir frequently as they can catch and burn quite easily.
This roasted vegetable and orzo salad is equally delicious when it is hot, room temperature, or cold.
It makes a great main dish – perfect for summer evenings, or as a side dish for grilled meat or fish. It also stores well, so it could be packed in mason jars to take on a picnic, or as a packed lunch to school or work; or in containers to take to a potluck.
If you’re looking for a beverage to go with this salad, try my Spiked Fresh Watermelon Cocktail: Watermelon Breeze
If you enjoy this salad, make sure you check out my other orzo salad recipes.
To make the salad vegetarian or vegan, you can omit the feta – unless of course, you can find a variety suitable for you.
For my readers that are looking for an orzo Slimming World recipe, you have some options:
- You can work out the Syns for the full recipe and divide by how many portions you take from it. The recipe is for 6-8 people as a side dish.
- You can adjust the amount of olive oil and feta so that the recipe falls within your Syns range.
- You can omit the olive oil and feta, and then this dish will be completely friendly for the Slimming World plan.
- I’ve not followed SW for many years now, but olive oil used to be a Healthy Extra. If it still is, then take that into account too.
For the salad
- 1 medium aubergine (eggplant)
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 yellow bell pepper
- 2 medium red onions
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 80ml olive oil
- 1 tsp dried rosemary
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 8oz/250g orzo (dried weight)
- 1 vegetable stock (bouillon) cube (optional)
For the dressing
- 1/3 cup/80ml olive oil
- 1/3 cup/80ml lemon juice (2 - 3 lemons, depending on their size)
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 3½oz/100g pine nuts, toasted
- 3½oz//100g feta cheese, cubed
- 3-4 spring onions, sliced finely
- Fresh basil, torn
- Cut the aubergine, peppers and onions into bite sized pieces.
- Place the chopped vegetables into a bowl and toss with the garlic, olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper. Transfer to a roasting pan.
- Roast in a hot oven (200C/400F/Gas6) for 30 - 40 minutes, until browned. Turn the vegetables half way through so that they cook evenly.
- Meanwhile, cook the orzo according to the instructions on the package, using a stock cube for flavouring if you wish.
- Make the dressing by whisking together the olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, salt and pepper
- Drain the orzo and place into a large bowl.
- Add the cooked vegetables, scraping all the juices into the bowl too.
- Pour the dressing over the orzo and vegetables whilst still warm so that it absorbs all the flavour. Mix together to combine.
- Serve at room temperature with the toasted pine nuts and spring onions stirred through it and by adding the cubed feta and torn basil leaves on top
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 503Total Fat: 37gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 30gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 898mgCarbohydrates: 42gFiber: 7gSugar: 9gProtein: 8g
This site uses an outside source to provide nutrition. If you need exact details, please calculate yourself. This data was provided and calculated by Nutritionix on 5/20/2019