Another day, another salad! I try to make some sort of salad each week that I can build meals on or just eat as a quick meal on its own when I’m on the go. If there’s already a salad made, I’m way more likely to actually eat it. I love combining a little pasta, a lot of vegetables, and maybe some beans too. This combo always makes a salad that is filling enough to serve as a light meal, but light enough to act as a side dish for one of my dinners. This Italian Orzo Salad is no exception.
Orzo – Orzo can be a bit more difficult to find than other pastas, but you can substitute any small-shaped pasta in its place.
Homemade Vinaigrette – If you don’t feel like putting together your own vinaigrette for this salad, feel free to use your favorite bottled Italian style dressing, adding as much or as little to the salad as you prefer.
Grape Tomatoes – I wouldn’t suggest using a larger fresh tomato in this salad unless you plan to make and serve this salad the same day. Larger tomatoes are juicier and will have more cut edges, which will seep more water as the salad is stored. Oil-packed sun dried tomatoes would also be awesome in this, if you can find them for an affordable price.
Garbanzo Beans – Cannellini beans would make an excellent substitution, and would fit the Italian theme.
If you’re not concerned about keeping this Italian Orzo Salad vegan, Parmesan cheese would be awesome on this salad, as would fresh mozzarella, or even diced salami.
Italian Orzo Salad
- 1 cup orzo (uncooked) ($1.15)
- 1 15oz. can chickpeas ($0.55)
- 4 oz. fresh spinach ($0.60)
- 2 roasted red peppers (1/2 of 12oz. jar) ($1.00)
- 1/3 cup kalamata olives ($1.00)
- 1/2 12oz. jar quartered artichoke hearts ($1.40)
- 1 pint grape tomatoes ($1.99)
- Make the vinaigrette first so the flavors have time to blend. Add the olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, Italian seasoning blend, garlic powder, salt, Dijon, and sugar in a bowl or jar. Whisk the ingredients together or close the jar and shake until combined. Set the dressing aside.
- Cook the orzo according to the package directions (boil until tender). Drain the orzo in a colander and rinse briefly with cool water. Allow the orzo to cool and drain as you prepare the rest of the ingredients. You want the pasta to be as cool and dry as possible.
- Rinse and drain the can of chickpeas, again allowing them to drain very well as you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
- Roughly chop the spinach and place it in a large bowl. Remove the roasted red peppers, olives, and artichoke hearts from their brines. Slice the olives and roasted red peppers, and roughly chop the artichoke hearts. Slice the grape tomatoes in half. Place the chopped vegetables in the bowl with the spinach.
- Finally, add the drained orzo and chickpeas to the bowl with the other ingredients. Stir the vinaigrette once more, then add half to the bowl. Toss the salad ingredients together until coated, and add more dressing if desired (I used the entire batch, but it's always best to start with half and add more as needed).
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How to Make Italian Orzo Salad – Step by Step Photos
Make the vinaigrette first, so the flavors have time to blend (or use your favorite bottled Italian dressing). Combine 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar, 1 Tbsp lemon juice, 1 tsp Italian seasoning blend, 1/8 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 tsp salt, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, and 1/2 tsp sugar in a bowl or jar. Whisk the ingredients together or place the lid on the jar and shake until combined. Set the dressing aside.
Cook one cup orzo according to the package directions (boil until tender) then drain in a colander. Rinse briefly with cool water, then let it drain and cool as you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Also rinse and drain the chickpeas. It’s best if these two ingredients are not very wet (or hot) when you assemble the salad, or they’ll wilt the spinach and water down the dressing.
Roughly chop about 4 oz. fresh spinach. You don’t have to stress over the exact measurement of this, just eyeball half of an 8 oz. bag of spinach. Place the chopped spinach in a large bowl.
Slice about 1/3 cup kalamata olives and slice 2 roasted red peppers (about 1/2 of a 12 oz. jar). Add these to the bowl with the spinach.
Roughly chop the quartered artichoke hearts (again I used about 1/2 of a 12 oz. jar). Add these to the bowl with the other ingredients.
Slice the grape tomatoes in half, and add them to the bowl.
Finally, add the cooled and drained orzo and chickpeas to the bowl.
If you plan on keeping the salad in the fridge for a few days, toss the salad ingredients together then store it that way, without the dressing. If serving immediately, stir the vinaigrette once more, then add half to the salad and toss to combine. Add more dressing if desired (I added all of the dressing).
And that’s it! I served my Italian Orzo Salad with two slices of my Freezer Garlic Bread on the side. ;)