Orzo salad with feta, tomatoes and olives

‘Tis the season for expected and unexpected visitors. While I love to entertain, sometimes it’s difficult to cook a full-fledged meal when you’re still heading into the office in December. A simple chilled pasta salad, like this one, is typically pleasing to even the pickiest eater and can be used as a lunch entrée or dinner side dish.

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When I know I have family coming to town, I like to double this recipe and keep a tupperware in my fridge so guests have something to snack on. This is a 30-minute-or-less recipe and can definitely be made ahead of time. You can easily swap out orzo for a gluten-free pasta option, if desired, and hold the feta for a dairy-free version.

This recipe serves 4 as an entrée or 6-8 as a side dish. Pan-seared chicken breast (about 5-6 minutes per side in a hot sauté pan) is an easy and quick way to add protein.

Note on garlic-stuffed green olives: I use garlic-stuffed olives in the recipe below because of the added flavor that comes through without the sharpness of raw garlic or the time commitment of roasted or sautéed garlic. You can just as easily use a plain green olive. The garlic-stuffed variety can be found jarred and also bought in small quantities at olive bars at gourmet grocers like Whole Foods or Central Market.

What you need

  • 1 1/2 cups orzo pasta
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/3 cup grape or cherry tomatoes (about 8-10 tomatoes)
  • 1/4 cup garlic-stuffed green olives (about 5 or 6 olives) 
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt, to taste

How to do it

Cook orzo pasta according to packaging instructions.  

While the orzo cooks, slice tomatoes and olives into 1/4-inch thick pieces. Set aside.

Once orzo is cooked, allow the pasta to drain in a mesh strainer and dry for 10 minutes - the drier the pasta, the easier it is for the olive oil to stick to the orzo.

Transfer orzo to a serving bowl or tupperware, then add olive oil, tomatoes, olives and feta and stir in gently. Season with salt to taste (I typically add about 1 teaspoon of salt).

Serve at room temperature or chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes before serving, depending on your preference.

Store leftovers in a tightly sealed in the fridge for up to a week.