Sure to be a crowd-pleaser, this lemon orzo salad with feta and asparagus is delicious and healthy. This is a great salad for meal prep or making ahead of a party because it’s even better the next day!
After months of cooking and eating warm dishes and heated vegetables, this refreshing orzo pasta salad is everything that I’m looking for when spring comes around! Loaded with vegetables that are in season and tossed in a simple lemon vinaigrette, easy lemon orzo salad is the perfect way to get the fresh, in-season nourishment that’s needed this time of year.
What is Orzo?
Orzo is a tiny rice-shaped noodle, among the smallest in the pasta family. It is commonly used in soups, salads, and pasta dishes. I love using orzo in pasta salads because its size adds a heartiness to the salad without being overpowering. In this orzo pasta recipe, the veggies are really able to shine.
What to Serve with Lemon Orzo Salad
This pasta salad is very versatile! It’s great for on-the-go lunches that don’t require heating. You actually get the best flavor when this salad has had time to marinate, making it perfect for meal prep.
Orzo salad is great as a main dish or a side dish. It goes well with a protein such as a rotisserie chicken, tofu, or steak. I also love serving pasta salad on the side of burgers for something different than the usual french fries.
What to Put in Pasta Salad
The base of a pasta salad is cooked but cold pasta, veggies, protein, cheese, and dressing.
I love how adaptable pasta salad is; you are able to get really creative in the kitchen and use what you have on hand. The only absolute requirement for pasta salad is, of course, pasta! There are a few other elements that are common, however, and bring the variety of color texture, and flavor that makes pasta salad such a delicious dish. Every pasta salad should have:
Pasta: Any shape noodle that you prefer!
Veggies: I like to have a variety of fresh vegetables and canned, such as artichoke hearts or olives.
Protein: This isn’t mandatory, but it does make the pasta salad more filling. Salami or chickpeas are great choices.
Cheese: Also not required, but cheese adds so much flavor and makes the pasta salad much more satiating!
Dressing: Any good pasta salad has a generous serving of dressing! The flavor marinates the vegetables and noodles making for an absolutely delicious pasta salad.
Ingredients in Lemon Orzo Pasta Salad
Orzo: Our pasta of choice for this recipe is orzo. I love how small it is because it is less overpowering and has more surface area to absorb the flavor of the dressing. You should be able to find orzo in the pasta aisle at your local grocery store.
Fresh Veggies: This pasta salad has a medley of spring vegetables. The lineup consists of asparagus, peas, carrots, red onion, chives, and Kalamata olives. If you want to take a more summery route, you could make it with fresh basil, grape tomatoes, bell peppers, and English cucumber.
Chickpeas: These add a delightful texture as well as some protein to the salad.
Feta Cheese: This salad is great without dairy, but the tangy feta cheese makes it the perfect dish! This crumbly cheese adds saltiness and a pop of flavor to the orzo salad.
Fresh Lemon Vinaigrette: A simple recipe of fresh lemon, olive oil, vinegar, and some spices, the dressing is what ties it all together. The lemon flavor is what makes this salad so refreshing and flavorful.
Tips for Making the Best Lemon Orzo Salad
- If the pasta salad sits in the fridge for a while, it may absorb so much of the dressing that it gets a little dry. Add some more olive oil and/or lemon juice if this happens.
- You can chop the vegetables to any size you like, but the smaller the better in my opinion! Try chopping the vegetables in a uniform size of roughly ½ inch by ½ inch so that none of them overpower the rest of the ingredients.
- Use fresh lemon whenever you can. It tastes a lot better than bottled lemon juice, though you can use that in a pinch.
- Substitute ingredients to customize it to your taste. Swap out the feta cheese for mozzarella or goat cheese or the spring vegetables for some summer vegetables.
- Serve warm or cold. I usually serve this pasta salad cold and straight from the fridge, but it would be delicious as a warm dish as well!