Orzo Salad with Spinach, Feta and Lemon

orzo salad 1 Orzo Salad with Spinach, Feta and Lemon

Look, I have something for you! That’s not baking, nor dessert. Something that can be called into service for barbecues and potlucks all summer long, or hang out in your fridge and wait for you to need a scoop of something real instead of a handful of chips or another piece of raisin toast. I feel like I’ve been shortchanging y’all lately, and when I was reminded of this salad – and how delicious it is – I got all tingly (as W said this morning when he woke up with his hand asleep for the first time: “it feels all sparkly, like a fuzzy peach”) – and wanted to rush home and tell you about it immediately. Of course it took me a day or two. Mostly because everybody ate it.

This is something my mom and I came up with years ago – like decades – to bring to a baby shower. I have little memory of whose (I have it narrowed down, but can’t be sure) but I do remember this salad. (Priorities.) It has orzo, and spinach, and purple onion, and lemon… we tossed things in without measuring, and when it disappeared and people asked for the recipe we figured we had better remember how we made it. The next time we used rice, and it quickly became that go-to recipe we used any time we had to bring something somewhere. Until we didn’t.

And then my mom made it on Saturday. (We had a Food Revolution Day dinner. It was great. I was so distracted by worry that there might not be enough food -there was- that I forgot my camera.)

orzo salad 2 Orzo Salad with Spinach, Feta and Lemon

Orzo – that slippery little pointy-ended pasta that looks like giant grains of rice – are generally overlooked as a base for a salad. (Or for anything, really. Does anyone outside of Italy cook with orzo anymore?) Its size is perfect for salads, slipping into the nooks and crannies between veggies, and never getting soggy. I highly recommend it – especially with lots of fresh spinach (it’s back in my garden already!), lemon and feta. And if you have juniors, pick up the salad bowl and bring it to the park with as many forks as there are people.

Orzo Salad with Spinach, Feta and Lemon

1 1/2 cups orzo (small rice-shaped pasta)
1 small bunch fresh spinach or half a bag of prewashed spinach
half a purple onion, finely chopped
1/2 – 1 cup crumbled feta
grated zest and juice of a lemon (about 3 Tbsp.)
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
2 Tbsp. canola or olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the orzo according to the package directions; drain well, running under cool water to cool it down, then dump into a bowl.

Thinly slice your spinach: tack a bunch of leaves, roll them up tightly and slice through the whole bunch – or just tear it in with your hands. The method you choose will likely depend on the salad’s final destination. Add the onion, feta and lemon zest.

Squeeze the lemon juice over the salad, and drizzle with the rice vinegar, oil, salt and pepper. Toss to coat well. Taste it and adjust the seasonings if it needs it. Serve right away or refrigerate until you’re ready for it. Serves 4-8.

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May 22 2012 07:40 pm | one dish and salads and vegetarian

52 Responses to “Orzo Salad with Spinach, Feta and Lemon”

  1. Angie on 22 May 2012 at 8:03 pm #

    Mmmm… looks yummy! I love orzo and use it often, both warm and cold. Thanks for this – my family loves feta and lemon – it will be perfect with dinner tomorrow night!

  2. Cathy N on 22 May 2012 at 8:23 pm #

    Funny thing – we had orzo with peas, caramelized onions and parmesan cheese to go along with our grilled chicken breasts and corn on the cob just last night. It was the first time my husband had ever had it and although he would have preferred rice (his motto “To have a good day all you have to do is eat rice.” …something he picked up while in India) this came in as a very strong second. I love orzo and will definitely do this one! Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. Carolyn on 23 May 2012 at 5:24 am #

    I’m lovin all of the salad recipes you’re posting. I’ve made every single salad recipe you’ve posted in the last 2 months, and everyone is a winner. I’m going to get the ingredients for this one on my way home, and this will be on the table tonight.

  4. Anonymous on 23 May 2012 at 7:30 am #

    I ,too, invented that recipe a few summers ago. What to make to go along some grilled chicken with what is already in the fridge/pantry. It is a family favourite and we make it on a regular basis.
    Thanks for your posts. I read them every morning :)

  5. Barb on 23 May 2012 at 6:45 pm #

    Sounds very light and fresh!

  6. Kate on 23 May 2012 at 10:39 pm #

    Long time reader, first time commenter ;) I made this salad last weekend out of Spilling the Beans – it was a HUGE hit, and inspired my sister in law to go hunting for dried beans, grains, Tupperware to hold them all, and of course the cookbook! I am a huge fan of the book (I have made over half of the recipes already), and it has really changed the way we eat at home. Thanks!

  7. Jennifer B. on 24 May 2012 at 7:20 am #

    As a side note, try adding toasted pine nuts next time … it really elevates the whole salad. If you’re planning to have it sit for a while, keep the pine nuts in a different container and throw a handful or two in just before serving.

  8. rose on 24 May 2012 at 9:27 am #

    Hi Julie

    Made this salad last night using brown rice. Perfect! And it will be a ‘go-to’ recipe now as well. I too, love the salad posts. They’re often easy and quick and healthy!
    Are you coming out to the Vancouver eats event at the beginning of June?


  9. gwendolyn on 24 May 2012 at 12:27 pm #

    I love orzo for pasta salads, as well as Israeli couscous. I chop up the veggies into bite-sized bits as well and then I can eat it all easily with a spoon.

    This looks great!

  10. jake on 24 May 2012 at 1:42 pm #


    The spinach is up in the garden. Sounds like a great summer dish for lunch, or a side with BBQ. Definitely going to make it.

    Any favorite rhubarb recipes? – my plant is enormous this year, and perfect crimson red. I need time to make a pie.


  11. stacey snacks on 26 May 2012 at 8:15 am #

    I have a ton of spinach in my garden, so made this simple recipe last night to go with cedar plank salmon.
    I was so tempted to throw in olives and tomatoes, but resisted and stuck to the spinach only! Delish!
    I will post it next week. Thanks Julie!

  12. Elizabeth on 28 May 2012 at 3:30 pm #

    Made this tonight with brown rice…. soooo tempted to add some olives, but the bright lemon flavour might be overwhelmed.

  13. Naomi on 30 May 2012 at 7:12 pm #

    I’ve never followed a blog before, but I’m glad I chose to follow yours. Everything I’ve tried so far has been delicious! I may have gone slightly overboard with the lemon, but I was enjoying the smell so much that I just keep squeezing away. Regardless, it was another hit :)

  14. Shauna on 08 Jun 2012 at 12:10 pm #

    I just made this and could not stop eating big “tastes” from the spoon. So delicious!
    I’m curious, have you ever made it with couscous?

  15. Brandy on 12 Jun 2012 at 4:05 pm #

    I love the idea of adding cheese, but I’m just not a fan of feta. Any ideas on another cheese that would be a comparable replacement?

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    I used couscous since that’s all I had on hand–delicious!

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