Pasta salad is a quintessential American summer side dish. Who doesn’t remember having pasta salad at their Memorial Day and 4th of July BBQs?? It is such an easy side dish to make! Unfortunately many pasta salads are made with mayonnaise which for me is a little too heavy for summer. I decided to make an orzo salad with a light pesto and mix in all of my favorite vegetables and herbs. It came out spectacularly delicious. I made enough to feed a small army so we were eating it for several days after the initial meal. I thought that as each day passed, the orzo tasted even better! The time in the refrigerator allowed all of the flavors to marry together more. As a result, this is a perfect make ahead side. You can cook the orzo, drain, cool and allow to chill overnight in the refrigerator. Then a couple hours before you are getting ready to serve, add the pesto and vegetables and allow to meld together in the refrigerator. So easy!
Orzo, one box, cooked according to box directions
Fresh Lemon Zest, 2 tablespoons
Fresh Lemon Juice, 2 tablespoons
Water, 1 tablespoon
Trader Joe’s Baby Heirloom Tomatoes, sliced, 1/2 cup
Trader Joe’s Fire Roasted Red Peppers, sliced, 1/2 cup
Marinated Artichoke Hearts, sliced, 1/2 cup
Fresh Basil, chiffonade as much or as little as you like
Sea Salt (optional)
Fresh Ground Pepper (optional)
1. Cook orzo according to the directions on the box.
2. Drain the orzo, place in a large bowl and allow to come to room temperature.
**I really love these Crate and Barrel White Nesting Bowls because you can mix everything in them and then use them to serve. They transition from kitchen to table so nicely and they match just about everything!
3. While the orzo is cooling, mix together the pesto and fresh squeezed lemon juice. Add water to thin it out. Add more water if you are looking for a thinner consistency.
4. Once the orzo has cooled to room temperature, drizzle the pesto over the orzo and mix until covered.
5. Add the vegetables, basil and the lemon zest and fold everything together.
6. Season with sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.
7. Cover the bowl with Saran Wrap and chill in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve. Sprinkle some additional fresh basil on top for a pop of color.