Home » Spring Orzo Salad with Pesto Vinaigrette

Spring Orzo Salad with Pesto Vinaigrette

Pesto pasta salad is an all-time favorite! This pasta salad uses simple ingredients to make a simple pesto vinaigrette served with tender orzo pasta and spring produce to make for a perfect side dish or light meal in the warmer months.


When we got back from Florida, I worked a crazy work week, and hopped into a 3-day ice hockey tournament the very next weekend. I went from total relaxation to total chaos and my body is still in shock. While I never WANT to lose a hockey game, I wasn’t necessarily SAD about only playing 2 hockey games on Sunday versus 3. I was able to come home, get some adulting done, and take a long shower followed by a long nap. Sure, I felt immense guilt over “wasting” our first 70 degree spring day, but I desperately needed the recharge. 

I’ve been telling my family that I’m on a mission to make us “meat-light” these days (hockey tournament chicken wings aside, that is) in an effort to do our part in leading a healthy life and respecting our planet. It has been pretty enjoyable to go “meat light” and it’s with thanks to fresh flavors and good quality ingredients like fresh basil pesto. This pesto vinaigrette on this spring orzo pasta salad totally hits the spot and doesn’t take much time at all to whip up!


  • Sides and Mains: This fresh pasta salad is perfect as a main dish or side dish, you choose! 
  • Vegetarian Delight: This is a perfect dish to offer up to your vegetarian friends and family, or simply a great way to increase your consumption of fresh veggies. This pesto orzo salad recipe is full of all of my favorite things from artichoke hearts to peas to fresh asparagus!
  • Weeknight Warriors: Ready in 30 minute or less, this little pasta dish is ideal for weeknight dinners!  


  • Pesto: If you want to keep things simple, you can buy store-bought pesto that sold in jars near the pasta sauces. However, I prefer to make homemade basil pesto and would recommend Basil Pesto with Pine Nuts, Sunflower Seeds, and Lemon or Arugula-Basil Pesto. It’s fun to use a variety of nuts or seeds to lower the cost on making your own pesto (or make nut-free*, if desired) – pine nuts are pricy! If you own a food processor and/or grow fresh basil, homemade pesto is well worth the time and effort and freezes super well!
  • Lemon: Lemon zest and lemon juice are both used to create a pesto lemon vinaigrette that provides ultimate freshness! Feel free to use additional red wine vinegar in place of lemon juice, if preferred.
  • Red Wine Vinegar: White wine vinegar or white balsamic vinegar are both good substitute for red wine vinegar.
  • Orzo: This rice-shaped pasta, sometimes called risoni, is quick cooking and perfect in pasta salad recipes. Be sure the cooked orzo is cooked al dente so that it can absorb the vinaigrette and fresh flavors. If you prefer to use another small pasta shape, any will work well!
  • Asparagus: The season for asparagus peaks around April in the US, but good asparagus can be found through June. Fresh is best in this recipe and blanching the asparagus before rinsing it with cold water and been the most consistent way I’ve found to cook asparagus WELL. 
  • Peas: Fresh or frozen green peas work great. If you use canned, drain and add directly to the salad versus to the pot to boil.
  • Artichoke Hearts: Canned artichokes in water are an under-used recipe ingredient! They are perfect for spring and require zero effort! Drain and throw them on in! That said, if you don’t like or can’t access canned artichoke hearts, you can certainly omit them.
  • Spinach: I love the pre-washed baby spinach that can be found as spinach only or mixed with other greens such as arugula and spring mix greens. Any of these greens works great!


  • This salad is best served day of preparation and at room temperature. If you refrigerate for any length of time, allow to come to room temperature before serving.
  • Store this pesto orzo pasta salad in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days.
  • If you want to make this meal a bit more sizable or to cater to your omnivore friends and family, consider adding diced chicken breast, baked salmon, or cooked shrimp for a bit of additional protein or to make into more of a “meal”. 
  • Double the pesto vinaigrette recipe; use half for this recipe and store the balance in small jar to use throughout the week ahead in various ways.


Can I use gluten-free orzo or another gluten-free pasta?

Absolutely! There are chickpea, lentil, and gluten-free pasta alternatives out there that will all work well in this recipe. Cook according to package directions, reducing by 3-4 minutes for account for when the veggies are added to the pasta water.

What can this pesto vinaigrette be used for other than a pasta salad?

The sky is the limit! I would recommend serving the vinaigrette as a salad dressing, marinade, or drizzle on roasted vegetables. I love love love this pesto vinaigrette!

Does all asparagus need to have the thicker ends trimmed or removed?

No! Look at your fresh asparagus to see if the thicker ends appear woody or tough. Cut off any portion that looks like it would be difficult to chew. The thicker the stalks, the more likely a little trimming would be advisable for best results.

What other ingredients can be added to this pasta salad?

There’s no shortage of options! A few ingredients I would recommend trying include: pearled fresh mozzarella, sundried tomatoes, goat cheese, and/or grape or cherry tomatoes. A handful of chiffonade-sliced basil will also provide LOTS of fresh basil flavor.


  • Vegetarian
  • Easily made vegan if using a cheese-free pesto recipe or product
  • High in fiber with nearly 8 grams per serving
  • Easily made nut-free* with a homemade pesto using seeds vs nuts (or a nut-free pesto, if you can find it in grocery stores)

Spring Orzo Salad with Pesto Vinaigrette

Spring Orzo Salad with Pesto Vinaigrette

Yield: 7 entrée servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

This pasta salad uses simple ingredients to make a simple pesto vinaigrette served with tender orzo pasta and spring produce to make for a perfect side dish or light meal in the warmer months.


Pesto Vinaigrette:

  • 1/2 cup prepared basil pesto
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 3 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Orzo Salad:

  • 1 lb uncooked orzo
  • 1 lb asparagus, woody ends removed and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 (15 oz) can artichoke hearts in water, drained
  • 3 oz fresh baby spinach


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add the orzo, stir, and cook for 6 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk together all of the vinaigrette ingredients until well-combined.
  3. Add the asparagus to the pot with the orzo and boil for 2 minutes. Add the frozen peas and cook for 1-2 minutes longer.
  4. Drain and rinse with cold running water. Place into a large bowl and dress with the vinaigrette; toss well to coat.
  5. Add the artichoke quarters and baby spinach; toss until combined and serve.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 7 Serving Size: 1/7 recipe (about 2 cups)
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 348Total Fat: 8.7gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 5mgSodium: 511mgCarbohydrates: 57.9gFiber: 7.7gSugar: 4.6gProtein: 11.9g

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Love basil and all things pesto? It’s a favorite of mine, too!

Be well,

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