It’s picnic time!
Which means, you need an epic pasta salad.
Of course, we like pasta salad for picnics or make-ahead meals because it can be served cold or at room temperature and stores well.
This pasta salad gets a little twist with rice-shaped orzo noodles and fresh seafood! Everything cooks in one pot, and then gets mixed in one bowl, making for an effortless meal. Seriously, this dinner, lunch, appetizer will be ready in just 30 minutes!
It’s loaded with fresh ingredients:
- fresh scallions and dill
- lemon juice
- cucumber, tomato, and red onion
Plus, there’s this creamy, salty factor from the feta that will make your mouth water and your eyes roll. I think the feta really makes the salad because there’s nothing too heavy going on, and it just benefits from a little richness.
Ingredient Tip: Instead of pre-crumbled feta, look for feta sold as a block sitting in brine water. Crumble it yourself.
Cooking the Orzo for the Pasta Salad
My number one tip with orzo is to really salt the water it cooks in. That way, your pasta salad will have more flavor, and you just have to make tiny adjustments at the end.
It’s a small noodle, so I like to strain it with a fine mesh strainer inside the sink (rather than a colander).
Orzo is rice-shaped pasta. It’s sold in the pasta section of your grocery store.
I had a little whole wheat orzo leftover from when I made the chicken orzo noodle soup, but I ultimately went with a white pasta noodle for this recipe.
If you want to use a whole wheat noodle, your pasta salad will have more of a nutty flavor and toothsome bite. However, if you’re looking for a more traditional pasta salad experience, I’d go with white noodles.
Super Quick Lemon Olive Oil Dressing
While the orzo noodles are still hot (right after boiling and straining), I like to add the lemon juice and olive oil directly. The reason for this is three-fold.
- Tossing the noodles with the dressing while warm, prevents them from sticking.
- Warm noodles take on seasoning better than cold noodles.
- You don’t need to dirty a bowl because you aren’t trying to emulsify the lemon and olive oil. Just add directly to the salad.
What if an ingredient isn’t in season?
Admittedly, this is an excellent summer lunch, dinner, or appetizer because it’s loaded with peak tomatoes and cucumbers. Let’s say, you aren’t able to find fresh dill, though. You can absolutely leave them out or substitute fennel fronds, mint, or parsley.
You may alter the vegetables in this recipe easily for spring by adding fresh spinach, minced radishes, or peas. Winter is another story. I think you may find this pasta salad a tad on the light side, so I’d recommend making this colorful winter fruit salad, instead.
If you’re making this recipe out of season, be sure to tell us what seasonal vegetables you’re using that work for you!
LEMON ORZO SHRIMP SALAD
- Sea salt
- 6 ounces orzo pasta rice-shaped pasta
- 1 pound shrimp peeled, deveined, and tails removed
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 1/2 lemons juiced
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 small red onion finely chopped
- ½ cup minced scallions white and green parts
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
- 1/2 cucumber seeded, and chopped
- 1 Roma tomato seeded and chopped
- 4 ounces feta cheese
- Boil the pasta and cook the shrimp. Fill a large pot with water, add 1 tablespoons of salt and bring to a boil. Add the orzo and simmer for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally until just shy of al dente. Add the shrimp to the pot with the orzo and continue to cook until the shrimp are opaque, about 1 to 2 minutes. Strain and transfer the shrimp-orzo mixture to a large bowl.
- Dress and toss. Pour the olive oil over the hot pasta. Next add the lemon juice (just use your hands to catch the seeds, and squeeze directly over top). Season with 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Toss to combine.
- Add the fresh ingredients and serve. Add the red onion, scallions, dill, cucumber, tomato, and feta. Stir gently and season to taste. As the pasta sits, the flavors will develop and you may need more salt. Serve at room temperature. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
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