This Rainbow Orzo Salad with Pesto is ready in 25 minutes and made with creamy orzo pasta, fresh fruit and vegetables, pesto sauce, and parmesan cheese. Enjoy this healthy side dish on hot summer nights with your favorite protein!
📋 About the Recipe
- Great for potlucks. Bring this rainbow orzo salad to your next potluck, holiday, barbecue etc. It's served cold like pasta salad and is easy to double or triple to feed a large crowd.
- Perfect combination of flavors. Blueberries and basil go surprisingly well together and add a hint of sweetness.
- Vegetarian friendly. Just like my Tortellini Caprese Salad, this pasta salad is vegetarian and works well as a light side dish, appetizer, or main dish.
A few notes about the ingredients:
- Orzo - Orzo is a short, cut wheat pasta that looks similar to rice but is slightly larger and is softer and creamier than rice. If you are shopping for it for the first time, look near the other shapes of pasta.
- Blueberries - If you have never tried adding a sweet fruit like blueberries or strawberries to your savory pasta salads, it is a must try. Just like in my Cranberry Pecan Chicken Salad recipe, the combination of sweet and savory work well together.
- Corn - I love including sweet corn in my rainbow pasta salad because it's one of my summer grocery staples. It also acts similarly to the blueberries in balancing the sweet and savory flavors. If your family loves corn too, try my Skillet Roasted Corn Kernels!
- Pesto - Pesto pairs perfectly with both warm and cold pastas, including in this orzo pasta salad. Feel free to make your own from scratch, or buy a fresh store-bought version for quick meal prep. Use any leftover pesto to make my Air Fryer Carrot Fries with pesto aioli too.
- Pine nuts - Adds the perfect, buttery crunch to this creamy pasta salad. Use any leftover nuts to make my quick and easy Pine Nut Hummus from scratch.
- Cook the orzo and corn. Prepare the orzo according to package instructions in boiling water. When the orzo has 5 minutes left to boil, add in the corn kernels and finish cooking. Drain and rinse with cold water.
- Prep the rainbow veggies. While the orzo cooks, chop the corn, bell pepper, carrots, cucumber, blueberries, and red onion. If you are new to cutting corn off the cob, learn the easiest way to cut corn off the cob in my step by step post.
- Toss orzo salad with pesto. Add the drained orzo and corn to a large mixing bowl, then stir in the bell pepper, carrots, cucumber, blueberries, and red onion. Add ¾ cup pesto and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and toss to combine. Taste and add more red onion, pesto, lemon juice, salt and pepper depending on your preference.
- Transfer to a serving dish. Transfer the orzo salad with pesto to a large serving platter and garnish with toasted pine nuts and parmesan cheese.
- Enjoy immediately while fresh.
⁉️ Substitutions and Alterations
- Adjust the pesto to taste. I typically use up to 1 cup of pesto, however if you prefer more or less, adjust to your personal taste.
- No corn on the cob? If it's the off-season or you can't find corn on the cob, you can substitute with a drained can of corn or if needed, frozen corn kernels. You can also use either yellow or white corn.
- Use any bell pepper you have on hand. Green bell peppers will have a more bitter flavor and orange and yellow peppers will be more sweet.
- Adjust the amounts of each ingredient to your liking. The best part of making salads at home is you can customize them to your family's taste. You can also serve some of the salad ingredients (red onion, for example) on the side if some people like them and others don't.
- Prefer a milder onion flavor? If you like the flavor of raw red onion but find it can be too strong for you, soak your red onion in cold water for 20 to 30 minutes before using. This will help take that sharp bite out.
❄️ How to Store
To store: Store any leftover orzo salad tossed with pesto in an airtight glass container in the refrigerator. Pasta salad stored without a tight fitting lid or stored in plastic will spoil more quickly.
How long will orzo pasta salad last? This rainbow orzo salad will last for up to 4 days, but will be the freshest within the first 2 days.
I do not recommend freezing this orzo salad. Just like my Tortellini Pasta Salad, this orzo pasta salad is made with fresh produce that will completely change its texture and taste once frozen and thawed. Salads with fresh ingredients like blueberries, cucumbers, and bell peppers should not be frozen.
Yes, orzo can be eaten cold and is recommended. Enjoy this rainbow orzo salad cold or at room temperature.
Orzo can be cooked like rice, but it is more commonly cooked like other types of pasta. If you prefer to cook your orzo like rice, follow this recipe to learn how to cook orzo like rice.
Pesto can be found with the shelf stable sauces or in the refrigerated section near fresh pastas like tortellini or specialty cheeses. For the best, fresh tasting pesto with minimal ingredients, I recommend looking for a refrigerated pesto. Shelf stable pestos are great in a pinch, but they typically are not as flavorful and contain more preservatives.
💭 One More Tip
Take time to uniformly slice and dice your veggies. Since this pasta salad is made with orzo, it's extra important to chop the vegetables small enough so that the flavors and vegetables are well balanced with the short-cut pasta. With well chopped vegetables, you can have a mix of flavors in every bite.
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Rainbow Orzo Salad with Pesto
- 1 cup dry orzo (8 ounces)
- 1 cup corn kernels (cut from about 2 ears of corn)
- ¾ cup diced red bell pepper
- ¾ cup sliced carrots (about 3 carrots)
- ¾ cup sliced mini cucumbers (about 2 mini cucumbers)
- ½ cup fresh blueberries
- ¼ to ½ cup finely diced red onion to taste
- ¾ to 1 cup fresh pesto to taste
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (from about ½ a lemon) to taste
- 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
- grated parmesan cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
- Cook orzo according to package instructions. In the last 5 minutes of cook time, add the corn kernels to the boiling water with the orzo. When the 5 minutes is up, drain and rinse with cold water.
- Add orzo and corn mixture to a large mixing bowl. Stir in red bell peppers, carrots, cucumbers, blueberries, and red onion.
- Add ¾ cup pesto and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Mix to evenly coat the salad. Taste and add more red onion, pesto, lemon juice, salt, and pepper, depending on taste preference.
- Scoop onto a large serving platter and garnish with toasted pine nuts and parmesan cheese over top.
- I love using fresh corn, especially in the summer when it's in season and extra sweet. However, if you don't have fresh corn on hand, you can use canned corn instead - no need to boil it with the orzo.
- If using store-bought pesto, shop for fresh pesto in the refrigerated section. It usually tastes better and has less preservatives than shelf-stable pesto.
- Serve this pasta salad cold or room temperature.
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