Italian Orzo Pasta Salad Recipe with Fresh Basil

Last Updated on June 8, 2019 by Diane Hoffmaster

When I think of warm weather recipes, one of the first things that comes to mind is homemade pasta salad.  I whipped up this Italian orzo pasta salad recipe recently and it took less than 15 minutes from start to finish. It’s an easy pasta recipe to take to your next back yard barbecue or neighborhood pool party.  

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Homemade Pasta Salads for the WIN!

What I really love about pasta salad  is that you can cook the pasta and assemble the dish in the morning while the temps are relatively cool.  Then just stick it in the refrigerator and pull out to serve at dinner time.  Not heating up the oven in the late afternoon just makes sense in the heat of summer, right? If you are looking for more easy basil recipes, check out my homemade bruschetta!   

Love this Italian orzo pasta salad recipe?  Try these easy summer recipes too! 

Orzo vs Rice: What’s the Difference?

So, what is orzo?  It looks like rice, right? Can you substitute rice for orzo in this recipe?  Really, no.  That just won’t work. They are a similar shape but taste absolutely nothing alike.  Technically, both orzo pasta and rice are in the grain family but orzo has the consistency of any other pasta and rice is much drier and chewier.  This Italian orzo pasta salad recipe will NOT taste right with rice.  If you absolutely don’t have any orzo, use an elbow macaroni instead. Check out Southern Living for more about orzo pasta. 

Easy orzo pasta salad recipe

How do you keep pasta salad from drying out?

Fresh pasta salad is delicious but the longer it sits, the less tasty it becomes.  How do you prevent pasta salads from drying out?  Let me give you a little bit of a tip!  First, cook the macaroni noodles until they are “al dente”. The,  drain them in a colander and rinse  them with cool water to remove any excess starch.

After they are drained, pour the pasta into a mixing bowl and toss it  with a little olive oil.  That will keep prevent the pasta from sticking and will also prevent them from soaking up your dressing ingredients. If this Italian orzo pasta salad recipe does end up a bit dry after a few days, just add more Italian dressing. 

easy Italian dressing recipes

Growing Fresh Basil for Italian Pasta Salads

One thing I love about this easy orzo pasta salad is that it uses so many ingredients that are abundant in the heat of summer.  Basil grows like a weed on my patio. I am always looking for ways to use fresh basil besides making homemade pesto.   If you have never grown fresh basil, you need to try your hand at herb gardening. Check out my post about how to start an herb garden and use your fresh basil in all sorts of pasta salad recipes this summer.

How long is pasta salad good in the refrigerator?

So, you made up a big batch of this Italian orzo pasta salad recipe and now you have leftovers.  What do you do with them?  Stick them in the fridge, of course.  How long is pasta salad good for in the refrigerator?  If you use a mayonnaise based dressing, eat it within 3 to 5 days.  This pasta salad recipe uses an Italian dressing rather than mayonnaise so it will stay good a little bit longer but certainly toss it after 7 days max.  

Orzo pasta salad recipe with fresh basil

Italian pasta salads are so easy to make!

Between the basil, cherry tomatoes and fresh cucumbers, the flavors in this Italian orzo pasta salad recipe are absolutely delicious.  Of course, you have to add in some fresh mozzarella as well because everything tastes better with cheese, right?  I’m sure you could skip it if you really wanted to make this vegan or lower in fat but that would just be a crying shame!

More Basil Recipes to Try

Depending on how creative you are or how much time you have, you can whip up your own Italian dressing fairly easily.  I chose to use what I already had in the fridge but there are lots of easy Italian dressing recipes out there if you are looking for inspiration. You can also make homemade Italian seasoning so you always have it on hand.

What goes with cold pasta salad?

So, you have your cold pasta salad but don’t know what to serve it with.  This is a light and easy summer recipe so keep your accompanying dishes equally light and refreshing.  Grilled chicken breast goes well with it if you want a meat entree.  If not, a cool melon soup made with cantaloupe or honeydew pairs well with a pasta salad. 

Easy Italian orzo pasta salad recipe with fresh basil


Italian Orzo Pasta Salad Recipe with Fresh Basil

Yield: 6 servings

Italian Orzo Pasta Salad Recipe with Fresh Basil

Italian Orzo Pasta Salad Recipe with Fresh Basil

Looking for an easy pasta salad? This Italian orzo pasta salad recipe is quick and simple to make. An orzo salad recipe that really highlights the flavors of summer.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Additional Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 15 minutes


  • 1 small cucumber, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 3 to 4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cubed
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup Italian dressing
  • 8 ounces orzo, cooked according to package directions and cooled to room temperature


  1. Place cooked orzo in a large, glass bowl
  2. Add vegetables, basil and cheese
  3. Pour dressing over the top and mix
  4. Chill for 2 to 3 hours and enjoy

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 273Total Fat: 14gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 45mgSodium: 392mgCarbohydrates: 21gFiber: 1gSugar: 3gProtein: 16g

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