Pasta salad is a staple of every potluck, but there are so many ways to spruce up the boring old cold macaroni and mayo. This rainbow orzo pasta salad uses crisp, fresh veggies, tangy goat cheese, and a lemony-bright dressing that will have people coming back for seconds…and even thirds!
The cool thing about this recipe is that you can change whatever you feel like. If you want to add a new veggie, or leave one out, feel free! This of this recipe as a basic guide, and then customize it to suit your tastes.
Non-lettuce salads are always popular at potlucks and family gatherings since they hold well for days. This means you can make something like a bacon and pea salad or a grilled corn salad the day before. This rainbow orzo pasta salad stays good for about a week in the fridge, so it’s perfect for preparing in advance.
What Is Orzo?
Orzo is a small, rice shaped pasta that is commonly used in soups, salads, and casseroles. In Italy it is called risoni, for it’s resemblance to a large grain of rice.
Orzo is popular in many Mediterranean countries under different names. In Greece it is called kritharáki which means little barley, and in Spain it is called piñones which means pine nuts. As you can see, the names stem from the shape of this little pasta.
How To Make The Best Rainbow Orzo Pasta Salad?
Because we literally use ‘rainbow’ in the name, we want to look for bright, vibrant colors. Color popping red cherry tomatoes, sunshine bright yellow sweeet corn, purple eggplant and red onion, and more.
Because this is a salad try to use high quality ingredients. Other than the eggplant and zucchini which get cooked, everything else is raw.
- 500 grams Orzo – dry rice shaped pasta
- 250 grams Cherry Tomatoes – quartered
- 1 Eggplant – cubed
- 1 Zucchini – cubed
- 400 grams Sweet Corn – this is basically a can of corn, but if you have more or less it’s completely okay.
- 1 Red Onion – diced
- 2 Avocados – cubed
- 100 grams Goat Cheese – crumbled
- 2 tbsp Lemon Juice
- 60 ml Olive Oil – extra virgin, cold pressed. Plus more (can be cheaper) for frying the eggplant and zucchini
- 30 ml Red Wine Vinegar
- Salt – to taste
- Black Pepper – freshly cracked, to taste
- Mini Mozzarella Balls – optional, I added them in on a flash of inspiration but they absolutely aren’t necessary.
The first step in making this rainbow orzo salad is to saute the eggplant and zucchini in a healthy amount of olive oil. I love the nuttiness these ingredients add when cooked. Cook them until they begin to brown, then turn off the heat. Move to another bowl to cool off.
In a large pot of water boil the orzo pasta. It only takes a few minutes to cook thoroughly – so watch it. Give it a stir every minute or so or it can stick to the bottom of the pot and burn. When the orzo is done strain it in a mesh and run it under cold water to chill and remove any bit of starch.
Add all of the ingredients except the avocado and cheese to a bowl and mix. The reason we are not adding the cheese or avocado before mixing is that they are soft and will disintegrate.
Lastly add the avocado and goat cheese and give a very quick mix just to incorporate it. You can serve it immediately or put it in a sealable plastic container to store for later. Enjoy!
I like to plate mine with a wedge of lemon because it can really brighten up three day old pasta salad. Also, lemon is great even when it is freshly made.
Rainbow Orzo Pasta Salad
- 1 Pan to saute some veggies
- 1 Bowl to mix
- 500 grams Orzo dry rice shaped pasta
- 250 grams Cherry Tomatoes quartered
- 1 Eggplant cubed
- 1 Zucchini cubed
- 400 grams Sweet Corn this is basically a can of corn but if you have more or less it's completely okay.
- 1 Red Onion diced
- 2 Avocados cubed
- 100 grams Goat Cheese crumbled
- 2 tbsp Lemon Juice
- 60 ml Olive Oil extra virgin, cold pressed. Plus more (can be cheaper) for frying the eggplant and zucchini
- 30 ml Red Wine Vinegar
- Salt to taste
- Black Pepper freshly cracked, to taste
- Mini Mozzarella Balls optional. I added them in on a flash of inspiration but they absolutely aren't necessary.
- Begin by prepping all the vegetables and other ingredients.
- In a pan on medium-high heat add some olive oil and saute the eggplant and zucchini until browned. About 10 minutes. While this is happening you can start a pot of boiling water. When browned, remove from the pan.
- Add orzo to the boiling water and cook until ready, about five minutes. Drain pasta and run under cold water to rinse away any starch as well as cool the pasta.
- Add all ingredients to a bowl except the avocado and cheese. Mix everything together, taste for seasonings and adjust as needed.
- Add avocado and cheese and lightly toss. Do not overmix or the cheese and avocado will get smashed, just mix enough so it is dispersed in the pasta salad.