Orzo Salad With Grilled Vegetables

Orzo salad with grilled vegetables 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

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

Grilled Vegetable and Orzo Salad

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 vegetables are perfect for an al fresco supper.
America’s Test Kitchen

Prep 25 mins
Cook 20 mins
Total 45 mins
Salad
American
6 servings
226 kcal
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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.
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Notes

*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.

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%)

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.


Originally published June 11, 2021

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