We had our neighbors over for Easter dinner this past weekend and my friend Monica had asked if I would be making my delicious orzo salad recipe which is her favorite. It was hard to turn that request down so I had it on my menu to serve alongside my racks of lamb and baked ham.
This orzo recipe is so refreshing from the combination of fresh vegetables, lemon juice and the key ingredient which is fresh mint. Fortunately, fresh mint is available year round in most grocery stores. (See my tip below on how to store it in your fridge). I love salty Feta combined with tart lemon juice and the toasted pine nuts add another delicious layer. Chic peas add protein to the salad.
This pasta salad is easy to make and can be partially assembled in advance which is great for any host! It makes a great leftover for a couple of days. Last night I added some chopped leftover ham to it for our dinner.
Like most pasta salads, this orzo recipe is great as a side dish for both a brunch or dinner. The recipe makes 12 side servings; however, you can easily cut the recipe in half.
Orzo Salad Recipe
1 package orzo (a tiny thin pasta)
2 cans chic peas, rinsed and drained
1 each, yellow and orange pepper, seeded and chopped (can also use red peppers)
1 1/2 bunches green onions, sliced on the diagonal
1/2 cup chopped parsley
Fresh mint (about 20 leaves)
1 cup crumbled Feta cheese
1/2 to 2/3 cups toasted pine nuts
Salt & Pepper
Crushed red pepper
Orzo Salad Dressing
1 large garlic clove
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt & Pepper
Instructions: Prepare orzo according to package directions.
While orzo is cooking, toast pine nuts. I toast mine in my toaster oven by just placing the pine nuts on the tray and toasting at the light-medium temperature. You have to watch them as they can quickly burn and will continue to cook in the tray once removed from the oven. You can also toast them in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Stir constantly. Remove from hot pan immediately and let cool.
Chop peppers and parsley and slice green onions. You can wash and dry the mint but do not cut until ready to serve or it may turn dark.
Mash garlic with mortar and pestle with some salt added. Add lemon juice and olive oil and whisk together.
Drain and rinse orzo. I normally don’t rinse pasta but in this instance you want to rinse some of the starch out so it doesn’t get clumpy.
If you are making the salad in advance, add some olive oil to the orzo to prevent it from clumping together. Add the peppers, chic peas, parsley and green onions. Cover and store in the fridge until 30 minutes prior to serving. I like serving it at room temperature.
Right before serving, slice fresh mint and add to salad along with the lemon dressing. Toss well to mix. Add feta cheese and pine nuts and toss again. Season to taste with salt, pepper and crushed red pepper. Add additional lemon juice or olive oil as needed. Garnish with fresh mint.
How to Store Fresh Mint
If you buy your mint in advance, here’s how to keep it fresh for several days: Store in the refrigerator in a loose (not airtight) plastic bag wrapped in a damp paper towel.
Lemon Juice Tip
Visit my post For Lovers of Lemon Juice on how to always have lemon juice on hand. I just pull a jar of juice out of the freezer an hour before I need it or pop it in the microwave for 30 seconds.
This orzo salad recipe will become a family favorite and you will love how easy it is to pull together. Enjoy!