Thursday, July 31, 2014

Orzo Salad – makes enough to feed a crowd

This orzo salad makes enough to feed a crowd and is perfect for entertaining because it can be made ahead and served at room temperature. For a more substantial meal, add some chopped grilled chicken breasts. I’ve come to love orzo because it cooks so much faster than rice and has a softer, creamier texture.

I don’t know about you, but I’m always a bit stymied when asked to bring a dish to a party. My criteria when choosing a party recipe is that 1) it must be pretty and 2) it must taste as good as it looks. This is especially essential if it’s going to sit on a buffet table with other dishes.

This salad fits the bill on both. There is a lot of color and flavors going on in this dish – smoky grilled red, orange and yellow roasted bell peppers with a little char, green English peas, crunchy grilled red onion, bright green fresh herbs from the garden and juicy ripe red tomatoes combined with al dente orzo and dressed with a lively mustard vinaigrette.

If you like dishes that can be made ahead, this salad is even more delicious the next day after the flavors have had time to blend together. I would advise that if you do make it ahead, add the fresh herbs at the last minute to retain their color and freshness.

We took this salad to a get-together over the 4th of July weekend and it was a real hit. It tastes as good as it looks and is also very pretty on a buffet table. I recommend taking a copy or two of the recipe with you because you’re bound to be asked for the recipe.

Orzo Salad
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma On the Grill, by Willie Cooper, serves 8 to 10
Printable Recipe

16 ounces (1 lb) dried orzo pasta
Kosher salt, to taste
1 cup fresh or frozen English peas
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 each red and white onion, cut into slices 1/2 inch thick
1 each red, orange and yellow bell pepper
1 cup of fresh basil, cut into a chiffonade, or minced fresh flat-leaf parsley, or a combination of both
12 small heirloom tomatoes, about 3 lb. total, cored and quartered or 15 or so grape tomatoes cut in half
Vinaigrette recipe below
Fresh basil leaves for garnish

Bring a large pot three-fourths full of salted water to a boil over high heat. Have a bowl of ice water ready. Add the orzo to the boiling water, stirring with a large spoon to prevent sticking. Return the water to a boil and cook the orzo until al dente (tender but firm to the bite), 10 to 12 minutes, adding the green peas during the last minute of cooking. You don’t want to overcook the peas. Drain in a colander. Pour the orzo and peas into the ice water and drain again. Transfer to a salad bowl. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and stir to coat. Cover and refrigerate.

In the meantime, make the vinaigrette, recipe below. Combine the olive oil and grapeseed oil in a glass measuring cup. Whisk together the vinegar and mustard in a non-aluminum bowl. Add the oils in a slow steady stream, whisking constantly. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Prepare a hot fire in a grill. Brush and oil the grill grate and a vegetable-grilling basket. Brush the onions and bell peppers with olive oil. Arrange the onions in the grilling basket and place directly over high heat. Grill, turning once, until the onions are nicely charred on both sides, 8 to 10 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate. Grill the bell peppers directly over high heat, turning occasionally, until nicely charred on all sides. Transfer to a bowl, cover and let steam for 10 minutes. When the peppers are cool enough to handle, using your fingers, a paring knife or a fork, peel them and discard the skins. Seed and dice the peppers.

Remove the orzo and peas from the refrigerator and add the vinaigrette, peppers, onions, basil or parsley and chopped grilled chicken (if using) to the bowl and toss to coat. Add the tomatoes, then taste and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. (I also added a couple of tablespoons of vinegar.) Can be served cold or at room temperature. Serves 8 to 10.


1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
1/2 cup grapeseed oil or other neutral tasting oil
2 tablespoon red wine vinegar, plus more as needed
1 tablespoon good Dijon mustard
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For a more substantial salad or with leftovers the next day, add some chopped grilled chicken breasts. As long as you have the grill on, throw some boneless chicken breasts on to add now or later.

For better viewing, click photos to enlarge. 

This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, and Foodie Friday at Simple Recipes.    
Have a great weekend everyone.


  1. This looks delicious and colorful. Thanks for the reminder on orzo. I haven't used it in a long time. It certainly makes a pasta salad easier to eat.


  2. A colorful and delicious looking salad! Orzo is great and so versatile.



  3. I love orzo salads..
    I am so with you that bringing a dish must first be makes the hostess/host's table they go to a lot of work :)
    Plus we eat with our eyes first.
    If something doesn't look appetizing at a get together..i won't eat it ..It's true I am ashamed to say.
    Make it fresh pretty colorful and delish!Like this!
    Sometimes a white balsamic even helps instead of the dark on certain things:)

  4. You can bring that to my buffet anytime! That looks so good Sam.

  5. Hello Sam

    This is the perfect dish for a day like today, sunny and warm in Youghal, Ireland. Orzo is delicious. Thank you for sharing this treasure.

    Helen xx

  6. Love at first glance!!! I will definitely add the chicken when I make this salad. It would make a nice summer dinner for us....

  7. Sam, Very pretty salad... Laurie would love something like this for lunch! Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

  8. simply another beautiful and tasty recipe via Sam! Curiously, I happen to have all the above ingredients. ;)

  9. Looks very good Sam - I've been craving pasta salad.

  10. This orzo salad looks delicious. I would love to make this dish.
    Enjoyed this posting a lot.

  11. Orzo is so versatile. This colourful salad looks so appetizing and moreish.

  12. I don't think there is any question of " adapting" this recipe, and you know what I mean. The perfect summer salad and a great recipe to have when you need to bring something to a party or weekend guests. Bet it's really good the net day after it sits in the fridge overnight.

  13. Looks delish Sam. A perfect summer salad.


    Un abrazo amig@s :)))

  15. You're right, perfect for a crowd, Sam. I haven't made an orzo salad in ages....must try your recipe when the kids come.

  16. If I was at a buffet, this would be added to my plate Sam! I like everything in it and bet roasting the peppers really adds a lot of flavor:@)

  17. Hi Sam, love orzo, I think it makes the most wonderful salads, I can see why this was a big hit, great recipe.

  18. What a terrific summer salad! And I love the idea of adding chicken and making it an entree :)

  19. Love this have bookmarked it. Perfect now for summer entertaining. Hope you are well Diane

  20. I will be making this Sam. I love orzo and with all of our company this is the perfect side dish. Thanks for a great recipe.

  21. I make a similar Orzo salad and it's always a hit at parties. Yours look so healthy and delicious!

  22. I love all the colors that are going on here. So pretty!

  23. Your orzo salad is guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser. I love orzo salads and really like how you grilled onions to add to the mix.

  24. I have tried this salad and we really love it. One of my favorites for salad luncheons.

  25. If you brought this to a party that I was at, I would probably eat my weight of it. It looks so good!

  26. Your orzo salad looks great and I love the fact that it can be made ahead of time. I've never added peas to it and will have to do that next time. I can imagine how quickly this dish disappears! Have a great weekend, Sam!

  27. what lovely colors and flavors thanks for being a sweet blogging friend hope your well

  28. I think orzo salads are delicious! I have a recipe that a friend gave to me that also has chiffonade of fresh spinach in it also. It looks great with the grilled chicken!

  29. Your Orzo salad is gorgeous! I love all the colorful ingredients and wonderful flavors you put in here. :)

  30. I'm very fond of orzo too and think it makes a wonderful summer salad. This will be perfect for me because I can enjoy the leftovers for several days. Hope you are enjoying your summer, Sam.

  31. This salad is so pretty! I always forget about orzo, thanks for this recipe~

  32. A good orzo salad is always a hit at parties (at home too). You did a really nice job with this salad. I have no doubt it is delicious.


  33. Done and in the fridge for tomorrow..Kate pushed me over the edge..we have a busy day will be lovely to come home to this..
    I have a new word for your dishes..
    In lieu of Prismacolor:)

  34. I'm in total agreement with your criteria for taking a dish to an occasion outside my home. Heck, I even like for it to be appealing when it's just the two of us and have been known to throw a plate of food away when it doesn't look appetizing! Your salad fills the bill.

  35. Honestly, i've never had a chance to cook orzo since it's really hard to find here in Indonesia,
    but i guess this recipe will suits too with fusilli or farfalle!!!

  36. Wonderful wonderful salad --- I love how much color you packed into it. I think it's going to be dinner here tonight!

  37. This is a timely recipe for me, Sam, as we were invited to a barbecue "pot luck" dinner. This looks like a wonderful side that all will enjoy!

  38. This is a great idea for our next picnic, I'm so glad you shared this with us on Foodie Friday. Pinned.

  39. Dear Sam, A beautiful fresh salad. I love it. Blessings, Catherine

  40. beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. I just love everything about this dish and I love how orzo truly does make a gracious plenty!

  41. I agree about the texture of orzo, love it. And it is creamier. And this salad sounds like a winner. Perfect for a pot luck. Thanks for sharing the recipe Sam.

  42. Although I don't cook for a crowd much anymore, I'd love to make this orzo salad down-sized for two (with leftovers of course)! Love all of the fresh colors!

  43. Fantastic color and texture all over that one. Orzo is my favorite rice (ha ha, I thought it was the best, most incredibly moist rice I ever had the first time that I had it so I always jokingly call it rice).

  44. I'm a huge orzo fan, too, Sam. I love all the color and texture in this recipe. The green peas are a great addition. Beautiful and delicious salad!

  45. I have to bring a salad to a pot luck in 2 weeks--will be making this! Looks delicious!


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