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Spring orzo pasta salad recipe at lynnecurry.com.

Two Simple Ways to Make Your Pasta Salad Sing

Can you feel it in the air?

Barbecue and potluck season are about to begin. What do you have up your sleeve?

If it’s a pasta salad, then this post is for you.

Or, if you’re just looking for an easy recipe to straddle the spring and summer seasons, I’ve got an easy, crowd-pleasing orzo pasta salad that celebrates four spring ingredients: radish, snap peas, scallions and mint.

It stands up all on its own for your next potluck or quick meatless dinner. Or, serve it as a side for grilled fish, chicken or steak.

Steak with spring orzo pasta salad at lynnecurry.com.
Spring orzo pasta salad is an easy-to-make side dish for grilled steak and other meats.

Let’s be honest. Pasta salad often looks and sounds better than it tastes. Even when it includes enticing ingredients.

Two Ways to Make Tastier Pasta Salad

There are a couple of issues with pasta salad, in my view.

First, cold pasta just doesn’t have that much flavor. {Like anything when it gets cold, the flavors fade away.} So, when you’re making a pasta salad served cold,* you’ve got to amp up the flavors of the pasta itself.

*For the best flavors, let your pasta salad come to room temperature for about one hour before serving.

Dress the pasta while it’s warm.

How simple is that? This dressing should be a little heavy on the acid–whether it’s lemon juice, balsamic vinegar or sherry vinegar. For this recipe, I used mild white balsamic vinegar, made from white grape must aged in wood. {I’ve got a substitute for you in the recipe if you do not have any.}

You can do this step well in advance of tossing the pasta with the rest of the ingredients and then let the pasta cool to room temperature.

Balance the ingredient proportions.

The second issue with pasta salads in my opinion is that they rely a bit too much on the pasta. In other words, the proportions are pasta heavy and so the other ingredients play second fiddle.

I like to switch things around so that the pasta is the supporting player and the seasonal ingredients are the stars. That means using less pasta or a shape that doesn’t dominate every bite, like orzo.

Spring orzo pasta salad recipe at lynnecurry.com.

Once you’ve followed the principles of well-seasoned pasta plus good proportions, it almost doesn’t matter what you add in. So long as the ingredients are great tasting and, ideally, seasonal.

So for this time of year, instead of going for lackluster tomatoes, I’m using snap peas, red radish, scallions and fresh mint. It’s a mild-mannered pasta salad that sings with freshness, color and crunch.

Because it’s still spring here in the mountains. I’ll be at the opening of our farmers’ market foraging for great spring ingredients to inspire more meals for Memorial Day weekend. Whatever the weather, enjoy the long weekend!

What’s your favorite type of pasta salad? Let me know in the comments below or tag a photo #lynnesforage on Instagram or Facebook.

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Spring orzo pasta salad recipe at lynnecurry.com.
5 from 1 vote
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Orzo Pasta Salad with Snap Peas, Radish & Mint

A quintessentially spring pasta salad, this is loaded with shaved radish, snap peas and mint. The dressing is added while the pasta is still hot and then the other ingredients are added later, at your convenience. Serve this on its own for a meatless main dish or as a side for any grilled fish or meats.

Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 8 people
Author Lynne Curry

Ingredients

  • 1 pound orzo pasta
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 12 ounces (about 4 cups) snap peas
  • 1 bunch trimmed red radish, very thinly sliced cut in half if larger than 1 inch in diameter
  • 4 scallions, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup mint, coarsely chopped

Instructions

  1. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water to al dente. Drain well and transfer to a mixing bowl. While it is still warm, toss it with the olive oil, vinegar and season with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and pepper. Stir once or twice as it cools.

  2. Cut half of the snap peas in half on the bias. Slice the other half lengthwise to expose the peas to have spilled peas in your salad. 

  3. When the pasta has cooled, add the snap peas, radish, scallion and mint. Toss well and taste for seasoning, adding additional 1/4 salt as necessary.

Recipe Notes

To substitute the white balsamic vinegar, combine 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar with 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar.

Comments

  1. Loved this dish at a potluck!
    Now I will have to plant some radishes!

    1. Happy to hear that, Kathy. Radishes are so easy to grow–and quick!

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