This orzo pasta salad with feta and sun dried tomatoes makes a wonderful side dish or light meal, whether you are enjoying it at home, pot luck, barbecue or even a picnic.
When the weather warms up, we all have this natural aversion to cooking. Who wants to heat up the house even more, right? Here in San Diego we are lucky. We only turn on our air conditioner for about 4 weeks out of the year. Some years are worse than others, of course. But for the most part, we count ourselves blessed.
But that doesn’t mean I cook less over the summer. We usually take it outdoors and grill. Or I serve lighter, easier meals. And when we have a picnic or potluck to go to, I have two go-to dishes. My roasted balsamic vegetables salad and this pasta salad with feta.
Best pasta to use for pasta salad
My family loves pasta in all of its shapes, colors and sizes. I have made this pasta salad with feta using a number of different pasta favorites. For this particular salad, I chose to orzo, that small rice shaped pasta. It cooks quickly (yay for not heating up the kitchen) and fits nicely when you scoop it up with a spoon.
Another great small pasta you can use for this salad is Israeli couscous. They look like like small round beads and are really a pasta and not the flaky couscous you know in tabouli. I always find Israeli couscous in Trader Joe’s, but you can also get in online or at Whole Foods.
Other pasta favorites for this pasta salad are the spirals like fusilli, rotini or gemelli. I like the spirals because they grab the dressing and feta crumbles in their crevices and are also very easy to eat.
What kind of feta does this orzo pasta salad use?
If you don’t know much about feta, you probably didn’t realize that there are numerous varieties of this wonderful cheese. Feta originally came from Greece is traditionally made with sheep’s milk. Sometimes goat milk is added to mix as well.
Feta can be dry or moist, creamy or crumbly, salty or smooth – it all depends on what milk is used and how it is made. Here are some of my personal favorite varieties of feta that you can use in this pasta salad with feta, depending on what characteristics you prefer.
- Greek Feta is made with combination of sheep milk and goat milk, has a salty and tangy flavor with a dry and crumbly texture.
- Bulgarian Feta is made with sheep milk and yogurt culture, is the saltiest of the feta varieties and has a firm and creamy texture.
- French Feta is made with sheep milk, has a very mild flavor (less saltiness) with a very smooth and creamy texture.
Feta is best stored in the brine it came in. Feta will stay fresh like this for weeks or even months in a covered container soaking in its brine. If the feta tastes too salty for your own personal taste, you can rinse it with water before serving.
And if you want to learn even more about feta, check out this great post.
Other ingredients for orzo pasta salad with feta
This dish is full of a lot of favorite ingredients. For olives you can use kalamata, green or any of your favorite olives. If your olives have pits in them, please pit them before you add them to the salad to prevent any possible dental accidents.
There are other salty choices you can add to your orzo pasta salad besides olives. You can also use artichoke hearts or heart of palm instead of or in addition to olives. For my family, the more the better!
This pasta salad also has sun dried tomatoes in it. I like to use the ones that are marinated in olive oil because they are moist, juicy and full of flavor. If you are not a fan of sun dried tomatoes, you can substitute it with fresh tomatoes, diced or halve the small cherry/grape tomatoes.
Fresh herbs for pasta salad
I love using fresh herbs in my meals. It’s a simple way to add vibrant flavor to any dish. And since this dish is super simple, it doesn’t mean that it lacks flavor. I added fresh mint and basil to my orzo pasta salad. You can also use oregano or tarragon.
For extra green nutrition, I mixed in some chopped fresh spinach, too. Feel free to chop and add some kale, chard or even arugula for more variety.
- 2 qt water
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 lb orzo pasta
- ½ lb kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
- ½ cup diced red onion
- 12 oz sun dried tomatoes, packed in oil, drained and chopped
- 1 cup thinly sliced spinach
- 3 TBS thinly sliced fresh basil
- 3 TBS thinly sliced fresh mint
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- 3 TBS extra virgin olive oil
- 3 TBS lemon juice
- ⅓ lb crumbled feta cheese
- In a heavy saucepan bring water and salt to boil.
- Add orzo to the boiling water and cook per package directions.
- While the orzo is cooking, mix olives, onions, sun dried tomatoes, spinach, basil and mint in a large serving bowl
- When pasta is cooked, drain well in a colander and transfer to serving bowl. Mix well.
- Add remaining ingredients and toss gently and serve cold or at room temperature.
Serving Size:1 bowl
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 517Total Fat: 26.3gSaturated Fat: 6.7gCholesterol: 78mgSodium: 982mgCarbohydrates: 59.6gFiber: 5.1gSugar: 1.6gProtein: 15.8g