Say hello to warmer days, grilled hot dogs, and refreshing summer salads. This Lemon Orzo Salad with Roasted Tomatoes and Goat Cheese is the perfect summer pasta salad, and it’s only 5 INGREDIENTS! Yup, you heard that right. With only 20 minutes and five ingredients you’re well on your way to the ultimate barbecue.
Lemon Orzo Salad
If there were ever a pasta salad for you to make this summer, let it be this Lemon Orzo Salad. And gosh, I’m pretty proud of this one. First of all, it only has FIVE ingredients. Yup five. And an infinite amount of flavor, which can sometimes be hard to do with only five ingredients. Here’s what’s happening:
- Perfectly aldente orzo pasta
- Slow-roasted cherry tomatoes that caramelize until irresistibly sweet and juicy
- Hearty spinach
- And a zippy lemon, tomato “juice,” and goat cheese dressing
- The most creamy, tangy, sweet, salty, saucy orzo salad on the planet
The real star of the show in our lemon orzo salad are the slow-roasted tomatoes. Because they roast low and slow, they caramelize and produce the most wonderful juice that mixes with the goat cheese for a flavor-packed dressing to coat the orzo and spinach. It’s actually kind of magical.
Serve room temperature or cold, either way, this is going to be a staple on your summer table!
Ingredients in Lemon Orzo Pasta Salad
Cherry tomatoes. I like big plump cherry tomatoes, but you can also use grape tomatoes or a mix of small heirloom cherry tomatoes. We’ll talk about it more below, but when you roast the tomatoes, they produce the most delicious sweet and savory juice we’ll use for the dressing.
Orzo. I am obsessed with orzo (this One Pot Creamy Orzo is one of our favorite side dishes). It’s quick-cooking, super versatile, and my kids inhale it. While it looks like rice, it’s actually just pasta shaped like rice, so don’t be fooled. You cook it exactly as you would any other pasta – in a big pot of water seasoned generously with salt.
Spinach. A few large handfuls is all you need, but if you’re a spinach aficionado, feel free to add more.
Lemon Juice. While most pasta salads call for a laundry list of ingredients for a dressing, all you need for this is one is two ingredients, lemon being the first.
Goat Cheese. The second ingredient for our “dressing” is goat cheese. When it mixes with the juices of the tomatoes, lemon juice, and a little bit of salt, you have the perfect accidental dressing.
How to make Lemon Orzo Salad
Roast the tomatoes. Slow-roasting the tomatoes at a 300-degree temperature creates tomatoes that are caramelized, sweet and infinitely more delicious than they would be raw. Plus, their juices as they cook create a sauce or dressing of sorts that’s way bette than anything you’ll find in a bottle.
All you need to do is arrange the tomatoes on a baking sheet and pop them into the oven. About halfway through cooking, I sprinkle them with a little bit of salt and then let them finish doing their thing. Once they come out of the oven I like to let them cool until they’re either room temperature or slightly warm.
It’s important for the tomatoes to not be super hot, otherwise it will liquify the goat cheese, and all you really want is for the goat cheese to slowly melt into the pasta, tomatoes, and spinach.
Cook the pasta. Add the orzo to a big pot of boiling water, be sure to season with plenty of salt. Cook the orzo just until it’s aldente, and then throw the spinach in. Give it a stir and then right when the spinach wilts, drain in a colander and rinse under cold water until everything is chilled.
Toss. Transfer the orzo, spinach, tomatoes, lemon juice, and crumbled goat cheese to a large bowl. Toss just until everything is evenly distributed. If you want a more “sauce-like” salad, toss everything together until the goat cheese has completely melted into the tomatoes and juices.
Serve. So you can serve this lemon orzo salad two ways. First, warm or at room temperature. If you do this, the orzo salad will be very “saucy” (see last picture). It’s almost like a warm or room temp pasta dish instead of a cold pasta salad, and it’s SO good.
Second, toss and chill for one hour. This will solidify the goat cheese a little bit after mixing, making a thicker lemon orzo salad. Also SO delicious.
Can I make this in advance?
Yes! See notes above about the consistency you’ll get when you serve it right away versus later on after chilling. If you want to make this in advance, feel free to do it 1-2 days in advance. Serve right out of the fridge if you want it to stay super chilled and thick, or let it sit out at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving it you want it more room temperature.
Substitutions and Tips and Tricks for Recipe Success
- Swap out the cherry tomatoes for grape tomatoes if that’s all you can find
- Double up the spinach for a more veggie-heavy lemon orzo salad
- Be sure to only cook the orzo until it’s aldente. It can get mushy if you cook it any longer.
- Running the orzo and spinach under cool water after cooking helps to stop the cooking process of the orzo and the spinach, locking in that beautiful green color.
- If you want to add in additional ingredients, chopped kalamata olives would be a nice addition
For more easy summer salads, check out these recipes
- This Cucumber and Chickpea Salad is hearty, refreshing, and super healthy. It’s tossed in a super simple tahini and sumac dressing, served with plenty of red bell peppers and red onion.
- Feta Caesar salad is another fun orzo pasta salad. Just as the name implies, this takes all of our favorite components of a classic caesar salad and turns it into an orzo pasta salad.
- This Chopped Tuscan Salad is one of our favorites! And you can buy everything at the salad bar.
Lemon Orzo Salad with Roasted Tomatoes and Goat Cheese
- 24 oz cherry tomatoes
- 1 tsp kosher salt, divided
- 2 1/2 cups orzo
- 2 cups packed spinach
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 4 oz goat cheese, crumbled
- 1/8 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
- baking sheet
- Mixing bowl
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Add tomatoes to a medium baking sheet. Roast tomatoes for 50-55 minutes until caramelized and starting to burst. Half way through cooking, sprinkle with half a teaspoon salt. Cool slightly.
- Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil,season with salt. Add orzo. Cook until just under aldente. When the pasta is just under aldente, add the spinach. Cook just until wilted, about 1 minute. Drain and run under cold water until chilled.
- Add pasta and spinach to a large bowl. Transfer cooked tomatoes (it's ok if they are still a little warm, just make sure they aren't hot) on top along with any accumulated juices, lemon juice, crumbled goat cheese, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Toss just until combined. Season with salt and pepper. Serve room temperature or cold.
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