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Pesto Orzo Recipe with Mozzarella & Cherry Tomatoes

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This pesto orzo recipe is a 20-minute side dish, perfect for a BBQ, cookout, or holiday party. A delicious, herby, and refreshing side, it’s a crowd-pleasing dish everyone will love.

A modern take on caprese salad, a classic Italian dish that features fresh mozzarella cheese, Genovese basil, and fresh garden tomatoes – now tossed with orzo pasta. The classic combination can be found on restaurant menu’s everywhere, and is something we love making at home.

caprese orzo pesto salad recipe with fresh mozzarella tomatoes parmesan cheese balsamic dressing and fresh parsley or basil in a bowl

I love a good pasta dish, and this orzo Mozzarella salad is a bright & fresh recipe that is great all year long! As a born and raised Midwesterner, we had a pasta or macaroni salad served at any block party, cookout, holiday party, or BBQ. This Caprese Pesto Pasta Salad is a fun twist on a classic salad. It has bright basil, creamy mozzarella pearls, and fresh tomatoes in each bite.

I added both fresh basil and parsley to make this dish extra vibrant.  I love the red & green colors in this, it would be great for a winter holiday gathering as well. 

This Pesto Orzo Recipe Is:

  • Refreshing
  • Packed with flavor
  • Sweet
  • Earthy
  • Garlicky
  • Vegetarian, and can easily be made vegan or gluten free
  • Great for entertaining
  • A great make-ahead recipe for pasta salad, so you aren’t cooking the day of the party.
mozzarella orzo salad recipe vegetarian side dishes for Christmas pasta salad or thanksgiving pasta side salad recipe meatless

Inexpensive Holiday Side Dishes

This orzo pesto salad is simple to make, very cost-effective, and is a delicious recipe that everyone at your table will want to dig in to. We always have pasta on hand, so I love whipping up a batch of pasta salad for a week’s worth of meal prep lunches.

Orzo is about $1-$1.50 per pound, so its an expensive ingredient that will make many servings with just one box.

What’s In This Mozzarella Caprese Orzo Salad with Pesto Dressing?

Be sure to visit the recipe card below for full ingredient amounts and recipe instructions!

  • Orzo Pasta – I absolutely love this fun orzo pasta shape, it goes great with this bright and fresh salad. I used regular orzo for this pasta, but you can use a gluten free variety if needed.
  • Whole Cherry Tomatoes: I used fresh juicy cherry tomatoes, but any variety like grape tomatoes would be fine.
  • Fresh Mozzarella balls: packed in water. If you use a larger ball of fresh mozzarella, then make sure to dice the cheese into bite sized pieces. For a vegan option, marinated tofu would also be delish!
  • Parsley: I topped this salad with fresh parsley because the bright flavor pairs so well with the sweet tomatoes and salty mozzarella. You can use basil too if you’re feeling bold.
  • Pesto (or Store-Bought) Vinaigrette: I blended a few simple ingredients in the blender to make this yummy garlicky basil pesto sauce with fresh flavor. Fresh basil from the garden, a handful of fresh spinach, raw garlic, walnuts, balsamic vinegar for a little sweetness, and olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste! Skip the walnuts for a nut-free pesto.
  • Top with pine nuts
  • Parmesan cheese to garnish or a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

More Optional Add-Ins for this Pesto Orzo Salad Recipe

  • Add chopped red onion for a spicier flavor
  • Mix in sun-dried tomatoes
  • Add fresh lemon juice or lemon zest for a citrusy kick
  • Mix in artichoke hearts or feta cheese for a Mediterranean flavor.
  • Top with fresh basil leaves
  • White Beans
  • Fresh veggies – bell peppers, baby spinach or kale

Pasta Salad with Store-Bought or Homemade Pesto

You can use store-bought pesto for the dressing too – just make sure to stir in some extra balsamic vinegar and olive oil into the pesto so it has a thinner consistency. That way, the flavorful pesto dressing will stick to every nook of the orzo for maximum flavor.

orzo pesto salad recipe healthy pasta salad with pesto dressing vegetarian holiday side dishes for christmas holidays or hannukah

How Do I Make This Orzo Pesto Pasta Salad?

  1. Cook orzo pasta al dente according to package instructions. Drain, rinse under cold water, and add to a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add all the pesto ingredients into a food processor or blender, and blend until smooth.
  3. In a large bowl, add the tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and orzo dressing to the pasta, toss to combine. Make sure all the orzo is evenly coated in dressing.
  4. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving. Drizzle a little extra olive oil and balsamic over the pasta salad right before serving. Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

pesto orzo salad with fresh mozzarella salad orzo pasta and cherry tomatoes with parmesan cheese and homemade basil

Simple Pesto Mozzarella Pasta Recipes 

This orzo mozzarella salad is the tastiest, freshest side dish or appetizer recipe. It’s perfect for a hearty meal for the family, and also great to make for company if you are having guests for dinner.

It makes a great holiday dish as well – a simple vegetarian recipe to serve as a side dish or for the salad course. Pasta is a fast and inexpensive meal. It takes only 20 minutes to cook, so you can enjoy extra time to prep sides or a salad. Browse all our pasta recipes here!

Dietary Modifications

  • This recipe is naturally vegetarian. To make vegan or dairy free, just substitute in cubed marinated tofu instead of the cheese. The dressing is naturally vegan as well, so only the cheese has dairy.
  • For a gluten-free version, make sure to use gluten free orzo. And check to ensure there is no added gluten in the balsamic vinegar.
holiday pasta salad with orzo vegetarian recipes with pesto noodle salad christmas pasta salad with tomatoes and basil

More Easy Side Dishes You May Enjoy

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If you made this recipe, please leave a star rating and let me know how it went in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you!

pesto orzo salad recipe vegetarian side dishes for Christmas pasta salad or thanksgiving pasta side salad recipe meatless

Pesto Orzo with Mozzarella & Cherry Tomatoes

Orzo Pesto Salad is a delicious vegetarian side dish, perfect for a BBQ, cookout, or holiday party. A delicious, herby, and refreshing appetizer or side, it’s a crowd-pleasing salad everyone will love.
5 from 6 votes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Course Appetizer, Pasta, Salad
Cuisine American, Italian
Servings 8 servings
Calories 279 kcal

Equipment

  • Mixing Bowl

Ingredients
  

For the Salad

  • 1 lb orzo gluten free if GF
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes halved
  • 1 (16 ouce) container small fresh mozzarella pearls
  • 1 cups fresh parsley chopped

For the Dressing

  • 1 cup fresh basil
  • 1 cup fresh spinach
  • 4 cloves garlic roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar I used white balsamic
  • 1/3 cup olive oil more if a thinner dressing is preferred
  • Sea Salt and Black Pepper

Instructions
 

  • Cook orzo according to package instructions. Drain, rinse under cold water, and add to a large mixing bowl.
  • Add all the pesto ingredients into a food processor or blender, and blend until smooth.
  • Add the tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and orzo dressing to the pasta, toss to combine. Make sure all the orzo is evenly coated in dressing.
  • Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving. Drizzle a little extra olive oil and balsamic over the pasta salad right before serving.

Video

Notes

For a vegan version, use marinated cubed tofu instead of the mozzarella!  

Nutrition

Calories: 279kcalCarbohydrates: 39gProtein: 8gFat: 11gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 1mgSodium: 21mgPotassium: 310mgFiber: 2gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 1485IUVitamin C: 15mgCalcium: 40mgIron: 2mg
Did You Make This Recipe?Please leave a rating and comment below, let us know what you loved about it!

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5 from 6 votes (4 ratings without comment)

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