Prepare this fantastic orzo pasta salad filled with aromatic herbs and lemon, and serve it with salmon or a spinach pie. The leftovers served cold are perfect for lunch the next day.
- What is orzo?
- What are capers?
- Why should you make this lemony orzo pasta salad recipe:
- What kind of ingredients go into this salad:
- How to make this orzo pasta salad: (For the complete set of instructions, see the recipe card at the end of the article):
- How to store the orzo pasta salad leftovers:
- Can I make this orzo pasta salad the day before?
- Kitchen Tools to make this pasta salad:
- What should I serve with this orzo pasta salad?
This orzo pasta salad features capers, parsley, almonds, and caramelized sweet red onions, all dressed in a vinaigrette made with olive oil and lemon juice.
What is orzo?
Orzo is a type of pasta that looks like a large grain of rice. It is also called risoni. This pasta is usually made out of semolina, which is a type of flour made out of durum wheat.
This type of pasta is versatile, as you can add it to soups, make salads with it, serve it as a side dish or bake it in a casserole.
What are capers?
Capers are edible flower buds of the caper plant. This plant grows in Europe, especially in some Mediterranean countries. These edible flower buds are salted or pickled and used as a seasoning or garnish. They are dark olive green and a common ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine, like Italian, Greek, Cyprus, etc.
You can find jars of capers in most US stores, and you can use them in many recipes.
Why should you make this lemony orzo pasta salad recipe:
- It is easy to make – With just a few ingredients, you can make a delicious pasta salad that is elegant and simple to make.
- This salad travels well – The onions are caramelized, the capers are brined, and the rest of the ingredients will not spoil quickly. The dressing is made with lemon and olive oil, which makes it safer for picnics or warm days.
- It is a light salad – This salad is good not only in the summer but anytime you need to make an elegant side dish to serve with grilled or roasted meats. There is no mayo or other dairy ingredients, making this recipe a light one.
- Delicious – Nothing is better than a salad infused with olive oil and lemon juice. This recipe reminds me so much of the Mediterranean recipes, where less is more and simple ingredients make the best recipes ever.
What kind of ingredients go into this salad:
The textures and flavors in this salad are balanced, and the simple vinaigrette is to die for. Here you have a visual list of the ingredients.
- Orzo Pasta
Orzo pasta is the choice for this recipe, but if you can’t find it, any type of pasta you would use in a salad would work here.
- Red Onions
The caramelized red onion gives this salad character, sweetness, and color. I would not replace it with other types of onions.
We use it here for flavor. Feel free to skip it if you don’t like it.
Please ensure that you buy a jar of these small capers. Some jars have berry capers, which are the actual fruit of the capers plant. These berries are much larger and very different in taste and texture.
I used slivered almonds, but you can also use sliced almonds or even chopped whole almonds.
I like the Italian parsley, the one with the flat leaf. It has a lot of flavor and the color is very intense.
- Olive oil, butter, brown sugar
We use them for caramelizing the onions and garlic. The brown sugar adds depth to the onions, but you can always go with regular sugar instead.
- Dressing: Lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper
This is the easiest dressing you can make for most salads, in general. Fresh lemon juice is better than canned one. Don’t be afraid to use the zest of the lemon as well. It adds more flavor.
How to make this orzo pasta salad: (For the complete set of instructions, see the recipe card at the end of the article):
Step 1. Cook the onions.
Heat the oil and butter in a nonstick pan. Cook the onions slowly, making sure they don’t burn. Add minced garlic and sugar and cook more, until the onion looks golden and caramelized. Set aside to cool.
Step 2. Cook the pasta.
In the meantime, cook the orzo pasta according to the package. I cooked my orzo in boiling salted water for 5 minutes.
Drain and drizzle a few drops of oil over the pasta, to keep the grains separated and fluffy. Set them aside to cool.
Step 3. Make the dressing:
In a small bowl/jar, whisk together oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Taste and correct the salt according to your taste.
About the salt: I always say that the amounts of salt on the list of ingredients are there to guide you on what the recipe should taste like. The rest is up to you. Maybe you need to consume less salt, maybe you like it saltier, there is no right or wrong here. Make the recipe yours.
Step 4. Assemble the salad.
Place pasta, caramelized onions, chopped parsley, basil, capers, and half the almonds in a large bowl.
Add the dressing and toss the salad gently. Make sure the dressing coats all ingredients.
Sprinkle the rest of the almonds over the salad and serve.
How to store the orzo pasta salad leftovers:
The salad will keep well in the refrigerator for up to three days.
Can I make this orzo pasta salad the day before?
Yes, I would recommend adding only half of the dressing to your salad when you make it. The day you serve it, add the rest of the dressing and mix it gently. If you add from the beginning all dressing, the pasta tends to absorb it all and the salad will taste dry.
Kitchen Tools to make this pasta salad:
Lemon and lime juice squeezer: This 2-in-1 lemon/lime press can juice limes, large lemons, and even small-sized oranges. It is my absolute favorite tool in the kitchen and I used it very often.
Non-Stick Frying Pan: Everyone needs a good frying pan. Even if you are not a passionate cook and kitchen tools are not your thing, at least get a good quality skillet. It is suitable for any job in the kitchen, from frying bacon and eggs to making stews.
A Good Pot to boil pasta: I do not make pasta very often, but I like this pot because of the strainer lid that helps you get rid of the water after you cook the pasta.
What should I serve with this orzo pasta salad?
This orzo pasta salad would also go well with Chicken Tinga, Phyllo Meat&Potato Pie, Ham Cheese and Onion Puff Pastry Slab Pie, Scalloped Potatoes With Hard Boiled Eggs, Broccoli Bacon Salad, Spinach and Feta Pie.
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For the salad:
- 12 oz orzo pasta
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter (unsalted)
- 1 red onion (medium, sliced)
- 1 garlic clove (minced)
- 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar (or granulated sugar)
- 2 tablespoons capers (drained and rinsed)
- 1 basil (fresh small bunch)
- 1 parsley (fresh small bunch)
- 1/2 cup almond (slivers or flakes)
For the dressing:
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 lemon (large, juiced)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
- Heat the oil and butter in a nonstick medium pan. Add sliced onion and stir to coat the onions with the oil. Spread the onions out evenly over the pan and let cook, occasionally stirring, for about 8-10 minutes. When the onions are golden and caramelized, add the minced garlic.
- Add sugar and stir everything for 3 minutes. Use salt and pepper to your taste.
- Cook the orzo pasta according to the package. Drain and drizzle a few drops of olive oil over them. Set the pasta aside to cool down.
- Make the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together oil, lemon juice, and salt.
- Assemble the salad: Place pasta, caramelized onions, chopped parsley, basil, capers, and half the almonds in a large bowl.
- Add the dressing and toss the salad gently. Make sure the dressing coats all ingredients.
- Sprinkle the rest of the almonds over the salad and serve.
- The salad will keep well in the refrigerator for three days.
You can replace orzo with:
- Israelian couscous
- Orecchiette pasta or Farfalle
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 309Total Fat: 18gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 14gCholesterol: 5mgSodium: 321mgCarbohydrates: 32gFiber: 3gSugar: 3gProtein: 7g