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Orzo Pasta with Basil & Veggies

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This colorful orzo pasta salad is nutritious, filling, and can be made in about 20 minutes. It’s loaded with green peas, tomatoes, basil, and a simple balsamic dijon dressing that is absolutely delicious!

orzo pasta with tomatoes, green peas, and basil in large black bowl with wooden spoon

This easy vegan pasta salad is always a huge hit at my Food for Life classes. Class participants are consistently amazed at how easy this recipe is to make and the burst of tangy flavor created by the dressing made with only balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, and maple syrup (optional).

overhead photo of orzo pasta with tomatoes, green peas, and basil in white bowl with balsamic vinegar sauce

You will love this orzo pasta salad because it’s…

  • Light
  • Filling
  • Packed with nutrients
  • Simple to make
  • Super flavorful
  • Healthy
  • Delicious

What is exactly orzo?

Many people have never heard of orzo and often ask if it’s a grain, rice, or pasta. The simple answer is that orzo is pasta that has an oval shape and looks a lot to me like slivered almonds.

It is made with flour and is not naturally gluten-free, though there are some gluten-free options available. Personally, I purchase the whole wheat version because my family is not avoiding gluten.

Orzo is commonly used to toss into healthy soup recipes to add texture and heartiness. It’s also widely used in pasta salads with veggies.

saucepan with cooked orzo pasta in water and a wooden spoon

How to cook orzo pasta

Orzo pasta is super simple to make and cooks on the stovetop just like rice in minutes.

  • Begin by heating water in a large saucepan or pot until it boils.
  • Stir in the pasta and pinch of salt (optional) and cover the pot to bring the water back to a boil.
  • Remove the lid once it is boiling and stir to prevent sticking.
  • Cook for approximately 9-minutes stirring occasionally.
  • Continually check past for an al dente texture. You don’t want to overcook it.
  • Drain in a colander and rinse under cool water to stop the cooking process.
  • Now it’s ready to be used in this recipe and others.
white colander with freshly cooked whole wheat orzo pasta

While the orzo is cooking, defrost the frozen green peas by placing them in a strainer or colander and running warm water over them. Set them to the side.

green peas in metal strainer over white bowl

Slice the cherry tomatoes in half and mince fresh basil if using it. Dried basil is also a good choice for this recipe. I sometimes add a combination of both dried and fresh basil.

cutting board with cherry tomatoes slice in half with basil

I am often asked what knives I use and recommend for cooking, and my favorite brand is Victorinox Swiss Army Cutlery. Yes, that’s the same company that makes the Swiss Army Knife. These knives come with a lifetime guarantee and are very reasonably priced. I absolutely love mine.

Next, you’ll want to whisk up the simple dressing that only takes about a minute.

Oil-free pasta dressing

The easy oil-free 3-2-1 dressing used with this dish requires only three ingredients–balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, maple syrup–to be whisked together in a small bowl.

balsamic vinegar, dijion mustard, and maple syrup in white bowls with whisk

If you prefer, the maple syrup can be left out completely, but I think it really adds the perfect flavor to this pasta salad.

large black bowl with cooked orzo pasta, tomatoes, green peas, and spices

In a large bowl, add the balsamic dressing to the cooked orzo, tomatoes, green peas, spices, and basil. Mix together well and toss in a few pine nuts or sesame seeds and a little salt and pepper. Serve immediately or chill first.

two white bowls with orzo vegan pasta salad

*Originally published March 2016.

Recipe adapted from Physicians Committee, Food for Life: Kickstart Your Health.

Tips for making orzo vegan pasta salad

  • If you don’t have cherry tomatoes, diced fresh tomatoes or even canned tomatoes will work.
  • To make this dish gluten-free, you will need to use gluten-free orzo pasta.
  • Be sure not to overcook the pasta because it will become mushy.
  • Though cooked green peas can be used, I highly recommend using the frozen variety for the texture and color.
white bowl filled with vegan orzo pasta salad with veggies

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orzo pasta with tomatoes, green peas, and basil in large black bowl with wooden spoon

Orzo Pasta with Basil & Veggies

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

This colorful orzo pasta salad is nutritious, filling, and can be made in about 20 minutes. It's loaded with green peas, tomatoes, basil, and a simple balsamic dijon sauce that is absolutely delicious!

Ingredients

Orzo Pasta

  • 8 oz orzo pasta, I use whole wheat
  • 1-1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 cup frozen green peas, thawed
  • 1 Tbsp basil, fresh or dry
  • 1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds or pinenuts (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Dressing

Instructions

Orzo Pasta

  1. Cook orzo pasta according to package directions by boiling in water on the stovetop for approximately 9-minutes. Drain and run under cool water in a colander to stop the cooking process.
  2. While the orzo is cooking, defrost the frozen green peas by placing them in a colander and running warm water over them. Set them to the side.
  3. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half and mince fresh basil if using it. Dried basil is also a good choice for this recipe. I sometimes add a combination of both dried and fresh basil.
  4. Next, you'll want to whisk up the simple dressing that only takes about a minute.
  5. In a large bowl, add the balsamic dressing to the cooked orzo, tomatoes, green peas, spices, and basil. Mix together well and toss in a few pine nuts or sesame seeds and a little salt and pepper. Serve immediately or chill first.

    Balsamic Dressing

    1. Whisk together balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, and maple syrup in a small bowl.

    Notes

    Detailed instructions, in-process photos, and my personal helpful tips can be found in the article above.

    TIPS:

    • If you don't have cherry tomatoes, diced fresh tomatoes or even canned tomatoes will work.
    • To make this dish gluten-free, you will need to use gluten-free orzo pasta.
    • Be sure not to overcook the pasta because it will become mushy.
    • Though cooked green peas can be used, I highly recommend using the frozen variety for the texture and color.

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    Nutrition Information:
    Yield: 4
    Amount Per Serving: Calories: 224Total Fat: 3.1gCarbohydrates: 38gFiber: 2.6gProtein: 9.2g

    To obtain the most accurate representation of the nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator. You are solely responsible for ensuring that any nutritional information provided is accurate, complete, and useful.

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