Make this easy caprese orzo salad recipe for a simple and delicious side dish tonight. Mixed with homemade basil vinaigrette, it’s a great make ahead recipe, too!

Bowl of caprese orzo salad with cherry tomatoes, basil leaves, and basil vinaigrette surrounding the bowl

This caprese orzo pasta salad is bursting with cherry tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil. The simple flavors work wonderfully together when mixed with orzo pasta and a homemade basil vinaigrette. It makes an excellent side dish to serve with your favorite entrees.

This recipe works as a make ahead dish, so you can work it into your weekly meal prep rotation or bring it to a summer cookout. As a Registered Dietitian, I’m all about fresh and healthy recipes that you can prep ahead of time!

What is caprese salad?

A caprese salad is a light and simple Italian salad comprised of fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced tomatoes, and basil. It’s typically seasoned with salt and pepper, plus olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Caprese salad is said to have originated from the island of Capri.

Ingredients in caprese orzo salad

You need a few simple ingredients to make this vegetarian, nut free orzo pasta salad:

  • Orzo pasta: A tiny, rice shaped pasta, orzo is also be called risoni.
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Pearl mozzarella cheese: These tiny balls of fresh mozzarella cheese are the perfect size pairing for the small orzo pasta.
  • Fresh basil
  • Ingredients to make basil vinaigrette: basil, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, garlic, shallot, salt, and pepper

Substitution suggestions for ingredients and dietary restrictions

  • Make it gluten free. Use gluten-free orzo pasta
  • Make it vegan. Use vegan mozzarella cheese or avocado in place of the mozzarella. Swap out honey for maple syrup for the basil vinaigrette.
  • Use another small pasta shape. If you don’t want to use orzo pasta, you can swap it out for another tiny pasta shape such as ditalini, small pasta shells, orichete, or pearled couscous.
  • Omit the basil vinaigrette. This caprese orzo salad is equally as delicious simply dressed with balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.
  • If you can’t find pearl mozzarella cheese, you can buy a larger ball of fresh mozzarella and chop it up into small pieces.
Caprese orzo salad ingredients in bowls on a grey background

How to make caprese orzo salad

First, cook the orzo in salted water according to package instructions. It usually takes about 7 minutes to cook orzo pasta. Let the orzo cool to room temperature.

Wash the cherry tomatoes and slice them in half. Chop up the basil into thin strips. Drain the pearl mozzarella from the water.

Prepare the basil vinaigrette: put all of the ingredients into a food processor fitted with an S blade. Blend it up until everything is smooth and completely mixed together.

Combine the cooled orzo pasta, cherry tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella cheese in a large mixing bowl. Pour over about half of the basil vinaigrette, and toss everything together. Add salt and pepper + more salad dressing to taste.

Storing orzo pasta salad

This orzo pasta salad holds up very well when prepared ahead of time. It should stay good in the fridge for 3-5 days in an airtight container. It tastes great right from the fridge!

If serving this salad at a cookout or BBQ, keep it in the fridge or a well-insulated cooler until just ready to serve. Practice good food safety and don’t leave this dish (or any dish) out for more than two hours, or more than one hour if the weather is over 90 degrees.

Hand drizzling basil vinaigrette over orzo pasta salad in a bowl

Tomatoes nutrition benefits

Tomatoes are a highly nutritious food to include in your diet. Technically a fruit, one cup of cherry tomatoes provides:

  • 2 grams of dietary fiber
  • 353 mg potassium (10 percent of your daily needs)
  • 34 percent of your daily Vitamin C needs
  • Many beneficial forms of Vitamin A, including lycopene, zeaxanthin, and lutein.

The lycopene in tomatoes acts as a powerful antioxidant. This compound has been linked to reduced risk of prostate cancer and supports heart health. The two other forms of Vitamin A found in tomatoes, zeaxanthin and lutein, are beneficial for eye health.

Basil nutrition benefits

This caprese orzo salad recipe provides a double dose of basil, both raw in the salad and in the basil salad dressing! Basil and other fresh herbs are nutritious additions to any diet. Basil contains several micronutrients, including Vitamin A, Vitamin K, and manganese.

Basil also has antioxidant compounds, which help fight inflammation and keep our cells healthy.

Caprese orzo salad in a bowl with a gold serving spoon

Recipe pairings

This orzo pasta salad pairs perfectly with a variety of different proteins to make it a well balanced meal! Try it with:

Let me know if you love this recipe by leaving a comment or star rating below, and check out Instagram and Pinterest for more healthy lifestyle inspiration. Thanks for stopping by!

Print

Caprese Orzo Salad

Bowl of caprese orzo salad with cherry tomatoes, basil leaves, and basil vinaigrette surrounding the bowl

Make this easy caprese orzo salad recipe for a simple and delicious side dish tonight. Mixed with homemade basil vinaigrette, it’s a great make ahead recipe, too!

  • Author: Alex Aldeborgh
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: serves 46 1x
  • Category: side dish
  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Ingredients

Scale

Caprese Orzo Salad

  • 1 cup dry orzo pasta
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup packed basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 cup pearl mozzarella balls, drained from water
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Basil Vinaigrette

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tbsp honey
  • 2 cups basil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup shallot, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Instructions

  1. Cook orzo according to package instructions in salted water. Strain and let it cool to room temperature.
  2. Prepare the basil vinaigrette – add all the ingredients to a food processor and blend it up until smooth and cohesive, about 30 seconds – 1 minute.
  3. Combine the cooked orzo, cherry tomatoes basil, and pearl mozzarella balls in a large mixing bowl. Pour about half of the basil vinaigrette dressing over the salad plus a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. 
  4. Mix everything up to coat the ingredients in the salad dressing. Add more dressing as desired.
  5. Enjoy cold or at room temperature.

Notes

Tip for quickly cooling cooked orzo: Spread the cooked orzo in a thin, even layer on a cookie sheet. Place the cookie sheet in the fridge for 10-15 minutes, and the orzo should be cool enough to add to pasta salad.

Substitution suggestions for ingredients and dietary restrictions

  • Make it gluten free. Use gluten-free orzo pasta
  • Make it vegan. Use vegan mozzarella cheese or avocado in place of the mozzarella. Swap out honey for maple syrup for the basil vinaigrette.
  • Use another small pasta shape. If you don’t want to use orzo pasta, you can swap it out for another tiny pasta shape such as ditalini, small pasta shells, orichete, or pearled couscous.
  • Omit the basil vinaigrette. This caprese orzo salad is equally as delicious simply dressed with balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.
  • If you can’t find pearl mozzarella cheese, you can buy a larger ball of fresh mozzarella and chop it up into small pieces.

Keywords: caprese orzo salad, orzo pasta salad, pearl mozzarella

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Bowl of caprese orzo salad with cherry tomatoes, basil leaves, and basil vinaigrette surrounding the bowl