Doesn’t this Spinach orzo salad look amazing? It’s just 20 minutes to make, too, start to finish.
I am not a huge pasta salad person. They’re too oily for me and too much cold pasta without enough flavor. Needless to say, when I make a pasta salad (and I have two that I love), it’s going to have a kick of flavor and not be your traditional salad. This spinach orzo salad fits the bill perfectly.
It is the dish that I have been asked to make for my relative’s Fourth of July celebration every year for the last several years, and this year, I had to make it a second time this week because my husband wanted to have even more of it. I love all the flavors in it and how they meld together, and I love the fact that it’s ready in twenty minutes (yes, I timed myself), not counting the time you want to let it hang out in the fridge for all the flavors to marinate.
The dressing has so many great flavor components to it, but it isn’t overpowering. My son was able to pick out the lemon and “something” that was familiar that I am pretty sure is the cumin he recognizes from some of the other meat dishes I use it in regularly. Little Miss, I discovered, is my olive afficionado, so adding these along with her other favorites of garlic, capers and green onions means this salad is an all around winner.
One of the other things I tend to find missing from a pasta salad is the crunch. They tend to be to soft all around. Aside from only cooking the orzo to al dente (which means a five minute cook time), the toasted pine nuts add a great little crunch in addition to their flavor.
Whatever it is, the marriage of ingredients in this spinach orzo salad are perfect, whether it’s for a summer bbq or a comforting dinner in the winter. Orzo is a great pick for this salad, too. It’s shaped like rice but a bit bigger, so it helps keep all the ingredients together in your bite rather than the more traditional pasta salad cuts that end up with more air than flavor.
Spinach Orzo Salad Instructions
Yes, this spinach orzo salad takes just twenty minutes to make. It’s truly that quick – perfect for those last minute entertainment events where you have to bring something.
Start by boiling a pot of salted water for your orzo. While it’s coming to a boil, start on your dressing ingredients. I mix everything in my measuring cup, which means one less dirty dish to wash, but feel free to use a separate bowl. Add your vinegar, oil, and lemon juice to your measuring cup (or bowl). Add in the cumin, pepper, mustard, oregano, and thyme. Whisk and set aside.
In a small pan, add your pine nuts and turn the heat to medium. Every time you finish with an ingredient, return to shake the pan to ensure that none of the nuts burn. Once they reach a lovely brown on many but not all of them and give you a great nutty fragrance, remove the pan from the stove and turn off the heat.
Once your pasta water is boiling, add your orzo and set your timer for five minutes.
Mince your garlic and add it to your dressing, stirring just to get the garlic incorporated. On your cutting board, lightly chop your olives, just running your knife through them once or twice. You want nice big pieces but not a whole olive in a bite. Slices your green onions thinly – this is about one large or two smaller stalks using both the white and green parts.
Add your spinach to a large bowl. It will look like a ton of spinach, but I promise it isn’t too much.
When the timer goes off for the orzo, drain it but do not rinse it. You want the starch to stay on your pasta and for it to remain as hot as possible. Immediately add it to your spinach and spread it out so that the steam from the hot orzo starts to wilt your spinach leaves. Finish chopping, or rinse and drain your capers.
Add the dressing to your pasta and spinach and stir with a large spatula. You’ll be surprised to see that the spinach is already wilting down, though it still looks like a lot of spinach for the amount of orzo. Stir for a minute or so to ensure the spinach and orzo – and most importantly the heat – are evenly distributed.
Add your olives, capers, and green onions and stir again.
This is the point where I add my spinach orzo salad to my serving dish. Once it’s transferred, I cover it tightly with plastic wrap to finish the wilting process and set it in the fridge to marinate for a couple hours before serving. This is also a great make ahead the day before dish.
Just before serving my spinach orzo salad, I crumble my feta and add it. Top with the pine nuts, and you’re ready for a great pasta salad with a ton of flavor and a Mediterranean vibe. Spinach orzo salad – of course it has that vibe!
I’m on call for my spinach orzo salad. What’s your most requested holiday dish?
Orzo is a rice shaped pasta that works perfectly for this Mediterranean inspired pasta salad that takes just twenty minutes to prepare.
- 1 lb orzo
- 1/2 c Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1/4 c white wine vinegar
- 1/4 c lemon juice
- 1 t Dijon mustard
- pinch of dried thyme
- 1/2 t dried oregano
- 1/4 t ground cumin
- 1 t black pepper
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 c Kalamata olives, pitted and rough chopped
- 1/2 c green onions, sliced thinly (1 large or two smaller)
- 2 t capers, rinsed and drained
- 8oz spinach leaves
- 1/2 c feta cheese, crumbled
- 1/4 c pine nuts, toasted
- Place a pot of water on to boil. In a small pan, add you pine nuts and turn the heat to medium. Shake your pan frequently to ensure they don't burn, and cook until lightly browned and fragrant.
- While your water is boiling and when not shaking your nuts, add your olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, and mustard to a small bowl. Add the thyme, oregano, cumin, and pepper and whisk until all is incorporated.
- Add pasta to boiling water and set your timer for five minutes. Drain your pasta but do not rinse at the five minute mark.
- While your orzo is cooking, mince your garlic and add it to your dressing, stirring just enough to get it mixed in a little.
- Rough chop your olives to get nice size pieces but not whole olives for your salad. Slice your green onion thinly, including both the white and green portions. Drain and rinse your capers. Set these aside. Add your spinach leaves to a large bowl.
- Once your orzo timer has gone off, drain your pasta and immediately add it over your spinach. Spread it out so that your orzo covers the spinach leaves, and let the heat start to wilt your spinach. Finish chopping or prepping any of the other ingredients.
- Pour your dressing over the orzo and stir so that the spinach and orzo are thoroughly mixed together and coated in the dressing. You'll notice that the volume of spinach has significantly decreased.
- Add the olives, green onions, and capers. Stir again to distribute.
- Place the salad in your serving bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place in your fridge to let the flavors meld for at least two hours if you can.
- When you are ready to serve, crumble your feta and add it to the top of your salad. Top with the pine nuts and serve. This salad will last for two days in the fridge.