Italian Orzo Pasta Salad Recipe with Fresh Basil

The weather is finally starting to warm up down here, although I know half the country is buried under snow! When I think of warm weather recipes, one of the first things that comes to mind is 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.  What I really love about it 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!

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Easy orzo pasta salad recipe

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.

easy Italian dressing recipes


Growing Fresh Basil for 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.

Orzo pasta salad recipe with fresh basil

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.

Italian Orzo Pasta Salad Recipe with Fresh Basil

Easy Italian orzo pasta salad recipe with fresh basil

Yields 4 servings

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.

15 minPrep Time

15 minTotal Time

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  • 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

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