When someone mentions pasta salad to me, my first thought is of elbow macaroni swimming in a mayonnaise-based dressing and, while that can be a fantastic accompaniment to many summer meals, I tend to favor something a bit lighter with brighter flavors. That's why I often opt for orzo, a rice-shaped pasta that takes on oil and vinegar or citrus juice dressings well. I can even make one of these salads a day or two in advance and know it won't become mush before it's time to serve it.
The version outlined below boasts a lemon-garlic dressing and bright red and green colors in the mix. Not only is it a flavor powerhouse, it's pretty alongside all kinds of summer favorites. If you don't happen to have the vegetables below or have extra ones, feel free to tweak the additions. Try to avoid items that will not hold up well to refrigerating (e.g. tomatoes) unless you are making this salad shortly before serving and don't plan to give it a long stay in the refrigerator at all.
What to serve it with? Almost anything grilled -- from shrimp or chicken to steaks or burgers -- will love you for making it. It's also great alongside hearty picnic sandwiches or even a bucket of fried chicken. It's the kind of salad I'll make every other week all summer long because it gets along with everyone!
- 3 cups orzo pasta, prepped per package instructions
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 ½ cups fresh spinach, chopped
- ½ cup diced red pepper
- ½ cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
Prepare the orzo per package instructions. Drain but do not rinse the pasta. Allow to cool 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, zest, and garlic. Pour over the orzo and stir well.
Stir in the spinach, red pepper, and walnuts. Chill until ready to serve.
- Yields: About 6 cups
- Preparation Time: 20 minutes