Orzo Salad with Grilled Vegetables

Grilled vegetable orzo salad isn’t just satisfying, it’s also easy to make—and even works when made ahead of time. The smokiness from grilling makes the veggies irresistible and the addition of cheese makes everybody happy.

Several bowls of orzo salad with grilled vegetables and a person scooping some from a larger bowl.

Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen | The Complete Salad Cookbook | America’s Test Kitchen, 2021

For this healthy salad, we pair chunks of grilled vegetables with orzo, fresh herbs, and feta cheese for a perfect summer dinner. Zucchini, red onion, and red bell peppers worked well since their cooking times are similar. Cutting zucchini lengthwise and bell peppers into quarters creates pieces that are easy to grill.–America’s Test Kitchen

Orzo Salad FAQs

What is a summer squash?

Squash are divided into 2 groups—summer and winter—depending on when they’re harvested. Summer squash is harvested when the plant is still immature and the skin is thin, this includes the many varieties of yellow squash, zucchini, and pattypan. Yellow crookneck squash is close but you’ll probably find the skin to be a little thicker.

How long does grilled vegetable orzo salad keep in the fridge?

This salad will last for four to five days in a covered container in the refrigerator.

Orzo Salad with Grilled Vegetables

Several bowls of orzo salad with grilled vegetables and a person scooping some from a larger bowl.
With fresh produce abundantly available in the summer, grilled veggies are perfect for an al fresco supper.

Prep 25 mins
Cook 20 mins
Total 45 mins
Salad
American
6 servings
226 kcal
4.67 / 3 votes
Print RecipeBuy the The Complete Salad Cookbook cookbook

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Equipment

  • Two (12-inch |30-cm) metal skewers

Ingredients 

  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil and/or parsley
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest plus 2 tablespoons juice preferably organic
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon table salt plus salt for cooking pasta
  • 1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium (10 oz) red onion peeled and sliced into 1/2‑inch-thick (12-mm) rounds
  • 2 red, orange or yellow bell peppers (14 oz | 400 g) stemmed, seeded, and quartered
  • 2 medium (14 oz) zucchini or summer squash halved lengthwise
  • Mild vegetable oil spray
  • 1 cup orzo
  • 2 ounces feta or goat cheese crumbled (1/2 cup)

Directions
 

  • In a large bowl, whisk basil, lemon zest and juice, mustard, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper together. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in oil until emulsified.
  • If using a charcoal grill, bottom vent completely. Light a large chimney starter half filled with charcoal briquettes (3 quarts). When the top coals are partially covered with ash, pour them evenly over grill. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent. Heat the grill until hot, about 5 minutes.
    If using a gas grill, turn all burners to high; cover; and heat the grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Turn all burners to medium.
  • Thread onion rounds evenly onto two 12‑inch (30 cm) metal skewers. Spray onion rounds, bell peppers, and zucchini lightly with oil spray and sprinkle with remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Alternatively, if you have a grill tray, you use it for grilling the vegetables and skip the skewering step.
  • Grill the vegetables, covered, until spottily charred, 5 to 6 minutes per side. Move the vegetables to a cutting board and remove onion rounds from skewers.
  • Meanwhile, in a large pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add orzo and 1 tablespoon salt and cook, stirring often, until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the orzo, rinse under cold running water, and drain again thoroughly. Add the orzo to the bowl with the dressing.
  • Cut the vegetables into 1‑inch (25-mm) pieces, add to the bowl with orzo and dressing, and toss gently to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Divvy the salad between individual plates. Serve, topping individual portions with feta or goat cheese.
Print RecipeBuy the The Complete Salad Cookbook cookbook

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Show Nutrition

Serving: 1portionCalories: 226kcal (11%)Carbohydrates: 29g (10%)Protein: 7g (14%)Fat: 10g (15%)Saturated Fat: 3g (19%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 8mg (3%)Sodium: 329mg (14%)Potassium: 403mg (12%)Fiber: 3g (13%)Sugar: 7g (8%)Vitamin A: 1522IU (30%)Vitamin C: 69mg (84%)Calcium: 83mg (8%)Iron: 1mg (6%)

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Originally published June 11, 2021

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

This orzo salad with grilled vegetables is a fun idea for a warm pasta salad—not too much pasta, and loads of veggies. The dressing wasn’t overpowering with the lemon, so next time I think I’ll take a half lemon and give it a little extra acid for the final toss with the goat cheese. I chose goat cheese over feta as I prefer its tanginess.

I made a dressing with 100% basil, and I’ll try a 50/50 blend next time, as the basil was quite pronounced. The char on the vegetables provided a subtle smoky flavor that makes this dish a great accompaniment to some sort of grilled meat or fish. I grilled up some Alaskan sablefish and that pairing was great.

This orzo salad with grilled vegetables was absolutely delicious and visually pleasing! A very fresh, summery, and light vegetable and pasta salad that is heavy on vegetables and flavor. My daughter and I enjoyed it for lunch but it would go beautifully with a lemony grilled chicken and a glass of crisp rosé for a nice summer meal.

I like a combination of herbs (basil and parsley but you could easily add others such as dill) for the dressing. For more efficient timing, I’d recommend starting the grill immediately and then prepping the vegetables and dressing while the grill preheats; a grill pan would make easier work of this as well (you could avoid the slightly tricky act of skewering the thick onion slices). Using two different colored peppers (I used red and orange) adds vibrancy and artistic beauty to the dish. The crumbled feta on top gives the dish a slight tang and is the perfect final touch.

This orzo salad with grilled vegetables was a perfect addition to our Memorial Day dinner. The charred, grilled vegetables add such a difference and the lemony dressing is better than any bottled dressing you may typically use for a pasta salad. I chose to grill the vegetables the night before for convenience and finished assembling the next day. I tasted the salad right away and it was good at room temperature.

This would make a great vegetarian dinner (without the feta) with at least four generous servings. I chilled the salad for about 6 hours before serving and found the pasta had absorbed some of the dressing. I had saved 1/2 cup pasta water and added this before serving to loosen it up some. I’ll make this all summer long. Easily served 8 for a generous side with fresh corn, smoked pork steaks, watermelon, and German chocolate pie for a great Memorial Day dinner.

This orzo salad with grilled vegetables is a great summertime salad. You can use your homegrown vegs or vegs from your CSA or a farmers’ market. The ratio of orzo to vegetables is perfect as is the amount of dressing. I served this with grilled salmon, which was a great way to use the full capacity of my gas grill without creating any extra heat or clean-up in the kitchen.

This salad would be a great accompaniment to any other grilled seafood as well as grilled poultry, pork, or beef. As a stand-alone dish, it would make a lovely lunch, perhaps served on a bed of lettuce. Be sure to allow time for the orzo to cool a bit to room temperature before serving. I found that allowing the assembled dish to rest for a while helped the flavors to meld.

This delicious grilled vegetable and orzo salad is an excellent addition to your summertime roundup of side dishes. The lemony herb dressing pairs beautifully with the sweet charred onions, vegetables and pasta. The ingredients are all readily available and the directions are straightforward and easy to follow. Although the recipe calls for grilling the vegetables, those without a grill could use a very hot oven instead. All components of this dish could be made ahead of time, and tossed together just before serving at room temperature.

Instead of skewering the onions, I found it easier to use a perforated grill pan placed on my gas grill for all the vegetables. I had a bit of difficulty emulsifying the dressing with the herbs, and would add them in after it comes together next time. This recipe is highly adaptable. Use your favorite grilled vegetables and be generous with the herbs. Served alongside some spicy grilled chicken thighs, it made for a complete and tasty meal.

This grilled vegetable orzo salad was a delicious and straightforward summer dinner. The orzo and vinaigrette comes together in the time your grill is preheating, and then the vegetables grill in mere minutes. I mixed up my veggies (different bell peppers and using both zucchini and summer squash) to maximize the bright colors and flavors in the salad. In the height of summer when I’m even more reluctant to boil water for 10 minutes, I imagine the orzo pasta could be replaced with a comparable amount of couscous instead. We loved this salad and plan to eat it all summer.

HUNGRY FOR MORE?

Comments

  1. 4 stars
    I am going to be one of those people who fiddle with a recipe and then review it with a straight face. It’s just that this is a very fiddle-able recipe and a good go-to when you have almost all the ingredients. I didn’t have enough basil so used a mix of basil, thyme, mint and tarragon. I chopped the vegetables and grilled them in a basket. I also had an ear of corn, so I grilled that and put it in there too. I had neither goat nor feta but but shaved some parmesan on top and it gave it that nice cheesy, salty snap that lifts the whole salad. The dressing is nicely balanced and I really liked that it was a vegetable salad with some pasta, it keeps it much lighter than most pasta salads. I made this with some grilled rack of lamb but it could easily be a main dish.
    And so, without a touch of irony, I wholeheartedly endorse this recipe.

    1. That’s perfectly fine with us, Mary. You are right that this is the perfect recipe to fiddle with and it speaks to the quality of the recipe that it handles changes so well. Thanks for letting us know what you did and how it turned out.

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