I have carried around this orzo pasta salad recipe for 25 years, from D.C. to California and back. It lives in a red and white-checked recipe binder whose cover reads, “Surefire Recipes: They Set Off the Fire Alarm Every Time.” Ha ha. My mom gave me this binder when I graduated college so I could collect recipes (physical cards! can you imagine?) that I loved. I had moved into an apartment in the lovely Georgetown area of D.C. with two friends, where we lived our best 20-something single lives and learned to cook, so as to not spend all our money on going out to eat.
My roommate Tiffany introduced us to her mom’s orzo pasta salad recipe, which I diligently copied in red ink on a small square of paper that I then tucked into my recipe book. Over the years, I’ve made some small tweaks to the recipe, and I never even look at the original recipe card. But I keep it nonetheless, because opening that binder brings back the memory of every old friend or family member whom I once begged for a recipe and then painstakingly added it to my book. (Can your Pinterest do that?)
But back to the recipe. I’ll put this orzo pasta salad recipe up there as one of the most useful recipes of all time. It easily does double duty as a vegan or vegetarian main course, or as the perfect side dish to almost anything. It’s built for a crowd, and is perfect for bringing to a potluck or a summer BBQ. And it’s wonderful for lunch—for years, I made a batch on the weekend, and then portioned it out to bring to the office for lunch all week. Best of all, it takes barely longer to make than it takes to boil your pasta. Try it, and let me know what you think. You may find yourself adding it to your own recipe book, either digital or old-school.
How to Make Orzo Pasta Salad with Black Beans and Corn
This orzo pasta salad recipe is super easy to make. First, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Prep the other ingredients while waiting for water to boil: chop red pepper into 1/2-inch chunks, and rinse the black beans and corn. Add the orzo and cook until just done, according to package instructions (around 9-10 minutes). While orzo is cooking, make the dressing by whisking together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic salt, and pepper in a large bowl.
When orzo is finished cooking, drain it and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process and cool off the pasta before adding in the toppings. Pour the pasta into the large bowl with the dressing, and stir until all the dressing is incorporated. Then stir in red pepper, corn, black beans, and parsley. Season to taste with salt and black pepper—or extra garlic salt, if you prefer.
- Corn: In the summer, I like to use fresh corn in this recipe. The easiest way to cook just a few ears of corn is to microwave them: trim the top leaves and corn silk, but leave them in their husks. Put the corn on a plate and microwave for 3-4 minutes (3 minutes for 1-2 ears of corn, 4 minutes for 3-4 ears). Wait a few minutes for them to cool before you peel them, and then slice kernels off the cob using a large chef’s knife. See this recipe on thekitchn.com for more details on microwaving corn. If you do want to use canned corn, I highly recommend Green Giant steamed crisp corn—I’ve used it for years, and the corn is always crisp and never soggy. (Not being paid to say that, just really like that corn!)
- Black Beans: You don’t need to use low-sodium black beans, but I prefer them because it allows me to choose my own level of salt to add to the salad. If you use regular black beans, you may want to dial back the garlic salt, and add more in at the end if you think the salad needs it.
- Feta Cheese: If you want make this orzo salad a heartier vegetarian main, add some feta cheese. It’s a delicious addition to this salad.
How Long Will Orzo Pasta Salad Last?
This pasta salad will last 3-5 days, stored in an airtight container in your refrigerator. No need to heat it up when you’re ready to serve—just take it out and eat!
Can You Freeze Orzo Pasta Salad?
Yes, with reservations. If you’re intending to make this ahead of time and freeze it, you’ll want to undercook the orzo by a minute or two until it’s just barely al dente. Pasta that has been frozen and then defrosted will be softer when you reheat it. And, I’d leave out the parsley as fresh herbs will brown when frozen. If you have extra orzo pasta salad that you want to freeze, you can freeze it—though the pasta may be slightly softer than ideal when you thaw it and reheat it. If you freeze it, try to eat it within a month because cooked pasta can dry out.
Is Orzo Pasta Healthier Than Rice?
Sadly, no. Though orzo pasta resembles rice, it is just as much pasta as spaghetti or ziti. However, I do find that you can pack your orzo pasta dishes with veggies, perhaps more so than with other pastas. And, it’s also available as whole wheat orzo, which has a higher fiber content.
If you love orzo like I do, you might want to also try my Creamy Orzo Chicken with Red Peppers and Mushrooms. Or, if you’re looking for other pasta dishes, check out my Angel Hair Pasta with Olives and Capers, Israeli Couscous with Chicken and Vegetables, or Shrimp Pasta with Tomatoes, Feta, and Olives.
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 can corn (11 oz.)
- 1 can low-sodium black beans (15 oz.)
- 8 oz orzo pasta
- 1/4 c. chopped parsley
- kosher salt, to taste
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 3 T. olive oil
- 3 T. balsamic vinegar
- 3/4 t. garlic salt
- 1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.
- Prep the other ingredients while waiting for water to boil: chop red pepper into 1/2-inch chunks, and rinse black beans and corn.
- Add the orzo to the boiling water and cook until just done, according to package instructions (around 9-10 minutes).
- While orzo is cooking, make the dressing by whisking together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic salt, and pepper in a large bowl.
- When orzo is finished cooking, drain it and rinse with cold water. Then add to large bowl with the dressing and stir until all the dressing is incorporated.
- Stir in red pepper, corn, black beans, and parsley.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper—or extra garlic salt, if you prefer.
Orzo pasta salad can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 384 Total Fat: 12g Saturated Fat: 2g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 10g Cholesterol: 0mg Sodium: 738mg Carbohydrates: 58g Fiber: 11g Sugar: 7g Protein: 13g