Orzo Pasta Salad

Am I a horrible person because the sight of the tater-tot-topped, canned-chicken, Velveeta-cheese-oozing, can-of-soup-required concoctions that pass as casseroles all make me start to contemplate a Double Whopper with Cheese as a healthier option.

Sadly, “salad” also seems to take on a whole new meaning at times. I’ve seen bloated macaroni salad literally swimming in Miracle Whip and added sugar and I’m still unclear on how anything that contains marshmallows and jello constitutes a salad and not a dessert.

So having said my little food-snob rant, I’ll be the first to admit that this recipe is not very fancy, nor very original. What I will say is this: it’s made with fresh veggies, no mayonnaise, (just like with my mayo-free coleslaw), and is a much slower way to clog your arteries and expand your waistline. Oh, and it’s pretty delicious if you like pasta and fresh veggies.

This is a dish that you have to customize to suit your tastes, along with using what you have on hand. I’ve made this pasta salad a number of ways based on the contents of my pantry and fridge. Black beans, cubed tofu, steamed broccoli or broccolini, snow peas, carrots, celery, chopped jalapeno, fresh basil, olives, artichoke hearts, goat cheese or feta cheese…use your imagination and your on-hand supplies. Here’s how I made this particular batch of pasta salad with my recent overly-ambitious veggie purchase at the store though I will warn you, it makes a big batch. Feel free to halve the recipe if this is for just a few people….

orzo pasta salad with fresh vegetables no mayo recipe

Orzo Pasta Salad with Fresh Veggies Recipe (No Mayo)

  • 1 one-pound box dried orzo pasta, cooked al dente’ according to package directions and then rinsed under cold water and drained well
  • 15 nice stalks of fresh asparagus, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces and steamed for 3 minutes (rinse under cool water to stop the cooking process)
  • 1 English cucumber (really, any kind will do), partially peeled (I “stripe” mine with a veggie peeler), then sliced in half with the seeds scooped out and diced (the skin can be bitter and the seeds will add too much moisture, in case you’re wondering)
  • 1 orange bell pepper, stemmed and seeded and chopped
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, stemmed and seeded and chopped
  • 1 can (15 oz) garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 20 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half (or quarters, if they’re large)
  • 3 scallions, whites and greens, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup olive oil or grapeseed oil (I used both)
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon each salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. You may have to add a bit more of the oil or vinegar, depending on taste – the pasta and salad do absorb it after sitting. This is best once the flavors have had a chance to come together – usually at least a few hours.

orzo pasta salad with veggies no mayo recipe

Pretty simple, right? And no jello or marshmallows required.


9 thoughts on “Orzo Pasta Salad

  1. My low fat casserole (which I eat for months on end in preparation for beach holidays comprises chicken, stock (real that is) veg and pearl barley – I could substitute that for orzo couldnt I (pearl barely is boooooring)!

    • Well, pearl barley is much better for you, unless you find a whole grain orzo, which I’m sure is out there, just maybe difficult to find! 🙂 But I totally agree that orzo would be a great alternative, when the barley gets a bit boring. I’m still in awe that you actually make a casserole without soup…lol! Yay!

  2. Your salad is sounds and looks very good… the second photo is great. I l use orzo a lot…it is so quick to prepare and is terrific in salads.

    • Thanks Karen! It’s a very basic recipe but I love the orzo because I think the veggies get more attention than the pasta when I use it for this.

  3. The word casserole is one of those all-purpose terms that doesn’t really say anything. And it’s always hard to tell what’s in there.

    I went to a pizza place in Halifax once and tried to order a salad. It turned out that all of their salads were pre-made, and all had meat in them. They wouldn’t make me a fresh salad, and you couldn’t get one without meat! This was about nine years ago, and I still can’t believe it. Your salad looks great, though. I’m going to finally try asparagus. I am.

    • Now you will try asparagus and hate it, because that’s just how things work out. Just don’t let anyone tell you to try white asparagus first; it doesn’t compare. That’s really funny about the salad in Halifax. a) that they were pre-made (yuck) and b) that they all had meat in them. Obviously an establishment not very in tune with the salad crowd. 🙂

  4. Sometimes you just want something clean and fresh and this looks like it would be perfect for those days. A really good summer time recipe.

    HAHA! Had to laugh about the food rant. Even I don’t like the tator tot casserole! lol There was a day when I would have loved it though and I think my kids would have even liked casseroles if I would have ever made THAT one! lol I’m a fan of casseroles, just not the same old boring ones. I have to admit that sometimes a can of cream o crap just tastes good! lol Don’t shoot me please! hehehe

    • Thank you! This is a perfect summertime salad with all kinds of different veggies to play around with. And thanks for enjoying my rant – I know, I’m terrible sometimes! I promise, no shooting you for using soup, but I may have to borrow your “can of cream o crap” comment for an upcoming post, lol!

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