Pesto orzo salad is a fresh and simple side dish that is perfect for the summer months. This salad recipe is a cinch to put together, with very little prep work or chopping involved. It features store bought pesto sauce with fresh basil, and parmesan cheese, along with yummy add ins like capers and tomatoes.
Salads truly give limitless flavor possibilities. Start with a base of lettuce or a grain. Then throw in some type of herbs or flavoring agent for variety. Dill and basil may both be green, but the bring very different flavors to the table! Add a few in seasonal veggies. Then finish it some oil and an acid (vinegars or citrus juice, generally).
Enter pesto orzo with capers and tomatoes. An easy summertime salad. Is it fresh? Yes. Is it delicious? Also yes. Can you put it together in less than 15 minutes? You guessed it. Yes!
This orzo pasta salad can be made any time of the year, but really shines with summer fresh produce. Basil and tomatoes are at their best midsummer, and they taste great in a dish as simple as this one.
Looking for other fresh summer salad ideas? I have you covered! Try this recipe for rainbow quinoa salad or this sweet corn and arugula salad. For another take on orzo salad, try this Lemon Orzo Salad with Feta.
ingredients for orzo pesto pasta salad
- dry orzo pasta
- basil pesto
- fresh basil leaves
- cherry tomatoes
- red onion
- freshly grated parmesan
- capers (like you would find in Chicken Piccata)
How to make pesto orzo salad
Cook 1 cup of orzo according to packaging instructions, until it’s al dente. (It will puff up to become 2 cups when cooked)
While the orzo is cooking, chop a handful of basil, red onion, and ½ cup of cherry tomatoes.
Drain the orzo and transfer to bowl, add cherry tomatoes, pesto, chopped basil, fresh grated Parmesan, and capers.
Stir to combine.
Can you use a different pasta?
Yes, absolutely. Any small pasta will work here like stelline, mini shells, acini de pepe, even couscous. If you want to make this orzo salad gluten free, you can also swap out the orzo for rice for a very similar shape!
Can you use homemade pesto?
Of course you can! There are some great premade pestos out there, and the freshest ones are going to be found in the refrigerator section of your grocery store.
But homemade basil pesto is amazing, as well. And it's a great way to use up basil from your garden in bulk. I follow this parsley pesto recipe and sub in the basil for the fresh parsley when making it at home.
Looking for other fun additions to this salad?
- Try adding different cheeses. Either fresh mozzarella pearls or feta would be lovely.
- Beef it up with additional vegetables like chopped spinach or arugula!
- Add in nuts or seeds, such as pine nuts or pumpkin seeds.
Serve it warm or cold
I like to serve this dish room temperature, I think it works best this way. But it's great cold as well, so you can certainly refrigerate it before serving if you would like!
How to store pesto orzo salad
Store any leftover orzo pesto salad in the fridge for up to 3 days. As it sits in the fridge, the orzo pasta will soak up the pesto and dry out a bit. If you want to freshen up the salad before enjoying it as leftovers, you can add a little more pesto or a dash of extra virgin olive oil.
Basil Pesto Orzo Salad
- 1 cup dry orzo pasta
- ½ cup store bought pesto
- 1 handful fresh basil leaves chopped fine
- ½ cup cherry tomatoes halved
- ½ small red onion diced
- ¼ cup fresh grated parmesan
- ¼ cup capers drained
- Cook 1 cup of orzo according to packaging instructions, until it’s al dente. (It will puff up to become 2 cups when cooked)
- While the orzo is cooking, chop a handful of basil, red onion, and ½ cup of cherry tomatoes.
- Drain the orzo and transfer to bowl, add cherry tomatoes, pesto, chopped basil, fresh grated Parmesan, and capers.
- Stir to combine.