Orzo Pesto Pasta Salad (Quick and Easy Recipe)

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Jump to RecipeBowl of orzo salad next to cherry tomatoes

This orzo pesto pasta salad recipe comes together quickly and makes the perfect side dish or light meal. Serve this orzo pesto salad hot or cold with a side of your favorite bread or next to a larger meal. This pasta salad is a great one to bring to your next summer BBQ or to make ahead of time for an easy lunch.

Can orzo salad be made ahead of time?

Orzo salad is a great recipe to make ahead of time. Since it can be served cold you can prep the whole thing and then store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

If you want to serve it hot, you can prep the orzo and pesto beforehand. Store those in a separate container. Then heat the orzo and pesto in the microwave or on the stove and add the tomatoes, mozzarella, arugula, and pine nuts right before serving.

Bowl of orzo pesto salad in a large white bowl.

What Pesto to Use

You can use any type of pesto in this pesto salad recipe. Feel free to use a store-bought pesto or a homemade pesto recipe. I think this recipe works the best with basil pesto but you can also use something like a kale pesto if you want to mix it up.

Orzo Salad Substitutions and Variations

This orzo pesto pasta salad is made with only a handful of simple ingredients. You can easily swap out the ingredients or add in extra fresh veggies or proteins.

  • Mozzarella: You can use feta cheese in place of mozzarella or you can skip this if you want to make it a vegan salad. If using mozzarella try to find fresh mozzarella cheese in small pearls or cut up a ball of mozzarella.
  • Arugula: If you don’t like arugula replace it with some baby spinach or 1/2 cup of fresh basil leaves.
  • Pine Nuts: You can replace them with pumpkin seeds, or sunflower seeds, or just skip this ingredient all together.
  • Cherry Tomatoes: Juicy cherry tomatoes bring such a bright flavor to this salad. If you don't have cherry tomatoes you could also use grape tomatoes or sun-dried tomatoes.
  • Add Protein: If you want to turn this more into a meal you can add in some protein. This orzo pesto salad would be great with crispy chickpeas or grilled shrimp.
  • Additional Veggies: Feel free to mix in additional veggies like sliced red onion, kalamata olives, or marinated artichoke hearts to add some extra flavor.

Tips for the Best Orzo Pasta Salad

  • Don’t overcook the pasta. Orzo is such a small pasta shape. You don’t want to overcook this pasta because it can tend to make the whole pasta salad mushy. Try to cook until al dente. Another tip is to stir your pasta while cooking. This will help ensure that the pasta doesn't stick together while cooking.
  • Season to taste. Once you mix everything together make sure to taste and adjust. If it needs more salt or more pesto feel free to tweak it to suit your personal preferences.

Common Questions

Can I make this recipe vegan?

Yes! If you use vegan pesto and skip the mozzarella this will be a vegan orzo pesto salad.

Can you use other pasta shapes?

Orzo is a small rice-shaped pasta that works great for this salad. If you can't find orzo you can use other small pasta shapes like ditalini or small elbows.

Other Recipes You Might Like

If you like this pesto orzo pasta salad you like this other orzo salad with lemon and broccoli.

Some of my other favorite recipes with pesto are this creamy pesto pasta recipe and this grilled halloumi sandwich with pesto.

Orzo Pesto Pasta Salad (Quick and Easy Recipe)

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  • 1 + 1/2 cups dried orzo
  • 1 cup pesto, store-bought or homemade
  • 1 cup (140g) cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup (70g/2.5oz) mozzarella, pearls or cubed
  • 1 cup (16g) arugula
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • salt and black pepper, to taste


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the orzo according to package instructions.
  2. If you want to serve it hot: Add the orzo back to the pot after draining. Add in the pesto and heat on low until pesto is warmed. Remove from the heat and mix in the tomatoes, mozzarella, and arugula.
  3. If you want to serve it cold: Add the cooked orzo to a large bowl and let it come to room temperature (you can also add it to the fridge to cool it down quickly). Add in the pesto, tomatoes, mozzarella, and arugula. Toss everything together.
  4. Taste and adjust by adding in salt, pepper, or more pesto as needed. Top with pine nuts and enjoy!


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