Here’s a side dish recipe that’s easy and truly delicious…Orzo Asparagus Salad is a versatile dish that’s full of vegetables, feta cheese and lots of flavor!
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
Everyone needs a good go-to pasta salad recipe, and this one is full of really good stuff. It’s a delicious side dish, and it’s also one of my favorite spring recipes. Orzo is an overlooked pasta in my humble opinion, but it’s just great here.
Here’s some good reasons to make it:
- Orzo is easy to find in the grocery store, and while it looks like (huge) rice, it’s actually pasta!
- Asparagus is the star of this show, sliced and cooked in a very un-fussy way at the end of the orzo cooking time.
- Other fresh veggies like plump, sweet cherry tomatoes play supporting roles, and the juice from the tomatoes makes this salad extra delicious.
- Pine nuts! Yay for toasted pine nuts in a salad!!
- All of this is pulled together with a fresh, lemony dressing, made in a jar with a lid.
- This is a great recipe for picnics and other ventures. 🙂
Ingredients You’ll Need
For the full recipe and list of instructions, please scroll to the recipe card below
- Orzo: You’ll find this little box of rice-looking pasta in near the spaghetti at most grocery stores. Cook it in a large pot of salted water.
- Asparagus: We’ll use a full pound of asparagus in this recipe, woody ends snapped off, then sliced into pieces
- Tomatoes: Cherry tomatoes are preferred, but other small tomatoes will work
- Feta Cheese: It’s a little bit salty, but also creamy and flavorful
- Pine nuts: Little pops of flavor
- Dijon: For the simple vinaigrette we’ll make for this salad
- Greens: Just a cup of loose greens, like spinach or arugula
- Green Onions: Actually, just one 🙂
- Lemon: The juice of a lemon is squeezed and shaken with olive oil and seasonings for a quick dressing
- Fresh Parsley: This brings a really bright “extra” flavor to the salad
To cut the asparagus for this salad, here’s all you do:
- Wash and pat dry the fresh asparagus
- Snap off the end of each stalk, it’ll naturally break where it wants
- If the stalks are on the thicker side, slice them in half with a sharp knife length-wise
- Cut them at a diagonal in about 2 ” inch pieces
For the orzo:
- Cook according to the package directions, usually this is 9 minutes at a full boil.
- At the last minute of cooking time, add the asparagus to the pot with the orzo, cook for one minute, then drain and immediately rinse the hot orzo and asparagus with cold water.
- Add to a large bowl and carry on!
Tips for Prepping the Ingredients
For the full recipe and instructions, just scroll to the recipe card below.
- Be sure to wash all the vegetables first and pat them dry with a paper towel. We don’t want a soggy salad! 🙂
- Let the asparagus snap where it wants – it’s never wrong. Asparagus is smart this way 🙂
- Cut the feta cheese into small 1″inch pieces
- Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and please don’t squish the juices or seeds out. It gives a lot of extra flavor to the salad after it’s combined.
Here are a couple of extra tips for this recipe:
- The simple vinaigrette for this recipe includes diced shallots, and don’t skip this step…just one tablespoon packs wonderful flavor. Also, make the dressing first – the raw shallots will mellow with the acidity of the fresh lemon juice.
- The asparagus is quickly cooked for one minute in the pasta water (follow the package instructions) at the end of the orzo pasta cooking time. Rinse the drained orzo and asparagus with cold water. Easy, huh? This is my new favorite way to cook vegetables with any kind of pasta, and you’ll still have crunchy asparagus!
- When you toast the pine nuts, don’t get on the phone or start any big projects 🙂 It literally takes seconds on medium-high heat to see the first evidence of browning, then turn the burner off. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon, and the nuts will continue to brown as you toss and stir.
- This is a nice salad to have with a sandwich. Like a turkey burger (skip the cranberry) or maybe a super good BLT made with Naan bread, or even some Italian Frittata or Meatballs in Marinara Sauce!
- That said, it’s great all by itself.
- Or, make a quick meal of it by adding grilled shrimp or chicken alongside.
- Other ideas are to tote this salad to a picnic, with a couple of other portable salads like this really wonderful Carrot Currant Salad (no mayo!) this Simple Chickpea Salad (you really can’t go wrong) this fantastic Simple Celery Salad, or this Blackberry Goat Cheese Salad. Everyone loves a good fresh strawberry goat cheese salad too!
- Try it with a Pineapple Slushie alongside!
- I should mention some dessert’s for such an outing, and cookies are always a good idea. Soft Chocolate Sugar Cookies are amazing, so are these thick, soft and crispy-edged Chocolate Chip Cookies with Pecans, or go all out and make some Mini Strawberry Pies made with store bough cookie dough, so easy!)
- A fruity frozen drink would also be nice with this salad, and this Pineapple Slushie totally fits the bill.
Frequently Asked Questions
You bet. Try hazelnuts, walnuts or sliced almonds, or leave them out if you’d like.
Yes! The vinaigrette in this recipe literally takes minutes to make and is shaken together in a mason jar, but if you’re short on time or just don’t feel like it (I get it) then use a good quality store bought Italian dressing instead.
Not really. I think a peppery arugula is great here, or a spring greens mix is perfect. Kale might be too chewy for this salad. 🙂
In an airtight container in the refrigerator. This salad is best the day it’s made, but it’s good for an additional day or two. To revive it on day two, try drizzling some extra-virgin olive oil and more ground pepper plus a pinch of salt.
Sure can, and keep the components separate until your ready to serve. Then combine in a large bowl and pour the vinaigrette on top and toss.
Yes! Try Parmesan cheese, or even cubed white cheddar or Swiss.
More Recipes to Try
- Strawberry Goat Cheese Salad: Fresh and studded with strawberries!
- Slow Cooker Asparagus: A super easy way to make a great side dish..
- Roasted Vegetables with Vinaigrette: Vegetables are amazing when roasted!
- Sweet & Spicy Almonds: Perfect with any cold beverage…
- Baked Pasta with Chicken Sausage: A reader favorite!
- Summer Pasta: An all-time favorite!
- Carrots with Almonds: Another great side dish!
- Chicken Salad with Grapes and Almonds: Light and delicious!
- Superfoods Salad: Nutrient-rich, hearty and fully delicious!
- Summer Fruit Crisp: Wonderful with vanilla ice cream!
- Lemon Artichoke Dip: A classic favorite!
- Deviled Eggs with Candied Bacon: One of the best recipes ever…
If you’ve tried this Orzo Asparagus Salad Recipe, or any other recipe on Studio Delicious, please rate the recipe and & I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
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Orzo Asparagus Salad Recipe
- 3 tablespoons Lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- 1/4 cup Olive Oil
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt Diamond Crystal
- 1/2 teaspoon Lemon Pepper, freshly ground Or regular freshly ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon Shallot, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon Honey
- 1/4 cup Pine nuts, toasted
- 8 ounces Orzo pasta
- 1 pound Asparagus
- 1 1/2 cups Cherry Tomatoes, cut in half
- 1 Green Onion, sliced thin
- 1 cup Feta cheese, cut into 1" pieces
- 1 cup Baby Spinach or Arugula
- 3 tablespoons Italian Parsley, roughly chopped
- Make the vinaigrette by adding the fresh lemon juice, olive oil, Dijon mustard, salt, pepper, shallot and honey to a small mason (or other) jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake to combine, then set it aside while you make the the salad.
- Toast the pine nuts in a small skillet set over medium heat, stirring constantly. As soon as you see the nuts turn slightly brown, take them off the heat and keep stirring. They'll continue to brown as you stir them. Set aside. Wash and pat dry the vegetables – asparagus, tomatoes, green onion. Cut the asparagus in half lengthwise if they are on the thicker side. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half, and cut the green onion into thin slices Cook the Orzo according to the package directions. This is usually 9 minutes, but note that's 9 minutes of boiling time. For the final minute of orzo cooking time, add the sliced asparagus to the pot of boiling orzo, stir it a little. Drain and immediately rinse with very cold water, tossing it very gently with your hands to make sure all the orzo and asparagus are covered. Let this drain for a few minutes.
- In a large bowl, add the orzo and asparagus, the tomatoes, green onion, feta cheese, pine nuts, greens and Italian parsley. Shake the dressing again and pour over the top, gently toss together and serve.
- The simple vinaigrette for this recipe calls for diced shallots, and I’d really encourage you to use them. Just a tablespoon packs a wonderful flavor. Make the dressing first – the raw shallots will mellow with the acidity of the fresh lemon juice.
- The asparagus is quickly cooked for one minute in the same pot as the orzo at the end of the cooking time. Makes it easy, huh?
- When you are finished cooking the pasta and orzo, strain the mixture and immediately rinse with very cold water, tossing gently from the bottom to make sure you’ve got it all. This stops the cooking and keeps the asparagus bright green. (which looks much prettier than dark green, trust me 🙂 )
- When you toast the pine nuts, don’t get on the phone or start any projects 🙂 It literally takes seconds to see the first evidence of browning, and that’s when you remove from the heat. Keep stirring, they’ll continue to brown as you toss and stir.
- Super important to read the whole recipe before you begin
- Pay attention to the ingredient list and photos for the recipe
- If possible, prep your ingredients a little before you start
- Always use a sharp knife for safety
- Use the size of pan called for in the recipe
- For savory recipes, taste and season as you go
- Buy fresh, organic ingredients, locally sourced whenever possible