To celebrate the spring season, I’m sharing this fresh, bright and irresistible asparagus orzo salad recipe. It’s bursting with fresh and zesty Mediterranean flavors. There are lots of herbs, fresh seasonal vegetables, and all the other things that make a pasta salad great! This salad is delicious as a main dish as well as a side and of course is perfect for the first picnics and barbecues of the season!
Asparagus Orzo Salad Ingredients:
Here’s what I use to make this pasta salad recipe. I love all these flavors together, but of course feel free to sub in and out your favorite ingredients.
- Orzo (also known as Kritharaki (in Greece) or Risoni (Italy) or simply Reisnudeln (Germany)
- White beans (for extra protein! chickpeas would also work well)
- Spring vegetables (asparagus, fennel and spinach, plus red onion and a little garlic)
- Herbs (parsley, mint and dill)
- Lemon (feel free to add a litte zest if you like)
- Capers (for a little extra Mediterranean liveliness)
- Olive oil, salt, pepper (cause what’s a pasta salad without it?)
- Cheese (parmesan is dreamy with this salad)
- Pine nuts (for a little extra crunch and flavor, slivered almonds would also be nice)
Ideally, a spring or summer pasta salad should be made with the freshest seasonal vegetables available. So sometimes the vegetable add-ins are things like steamed green beans and sweet cherry tomatoes, or radishes and cucumbers (or a personal favorite, marinated artichokes and young arugula leaves) but this month is it all about asparagus. For the pasta, I like using orzo for this particular recipe, since I want every bite to be full of fresh ingredients, rather than letting pasta take the stage. But any of favorite pasta would of course be fine.
Asparagus Orzo Salad with Herbs and Lemon
- 350 g uncooked orzo (or other pasta shape)
- 2 large handfuls baby spinach, chopped
- 1 x 400 g can white beans (cannellini beans), rinsed and drained
- 500 gr green asparagus, ends trimmed and diagonally sliced into bites sized pieces
- 1 small fennel, cored, thinly sliced
- a small red onion, diced
- 1 garlic minced
- 1 small bunch flat-leaf parsley, roughly-chopped
- 2 tablespoons freshly chopped dill
- 1 tablespoon freshly chopped mint
- 1,5 tablespoon capers (in brine), coarsely chopped
- 1,5 - 2 lemons juiced
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- sea salt and freshly-cracked black pepper, to taste
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted
- 25 g parmesan cheese, finely grated (or more)
Cook the orzo pasta in a medium pot of generously-salted water until al dente (according to package instructions). Drain the pasta, then rinse thoroughly in a strainer with cold water until the pasta is chilled. Drain well and transfer to a large salad bowl.
Meanwhile, fill a large saucepan with 2,5cm of water, and set up a collapsible steamer inside. Bring the water to a boil, lay the asparagus in the steamer, cover, and steam until crisp-tender, about 2-3 mins (depending on thickness of spears). Rinse the asparagus under cold water until cool. Drain and add to the bowl with the pasta.
NOTE: See tips below for alternative method.
Add the remaining ingredients to the salad bowl. Toss until well combined. Taste, and season with a few generous pinches of salt and pepper, to taste.
Feel free to add a little extra lemon juice if you’d like an extra-lemony salad.
Serve and enjoy!
PS) Leftovers are perfect to pack up for lunch the next day.
- I like to steam my asparagus but it can also be cooked with the pasta. Cut the asparagus on the diagonal into bite-sized pieces and about 3 minutes before the pasta is done, stir the asparagus in with the pasta. Then drain everything together and rinse under cold water until cool.
- Cannellini beans are a great addition to any salad. I used canned beans since they are a quick and easy addition to any weekday salad. If you have time or are able to plan ahead, I recommend preparing dried beans as home cooked beans taste worlds better. And if you're going to the time, you may as well make a batch -- they freeze beautifully. Or get a pressure cooker. or Instant Pot. This saves lots of time!
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