Spinach and Orzo Salad

Classic spinach and orzo salad with orzo pasta, fresh spinach, feta cheese, pine nuts, Greek olives, and red onion.

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces orzo pasta
  • Salt
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 6 ounces feta cheese, roughly crumbled
  • 2 ounces Kalamata Greek olives pitted, roughly chopped, about 1/2 cup (about 20 olives)
  • 4 ounces baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion (about half a red onion)
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar (can substitute white vinegar or lemon juice)
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Pinch dried basil
  • Pinch dried tarragon
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method

1 Cook the orzo pasta: Bring to a pot of salted water to a rolling boil (1 Tbsp of salt for every 2 quarts of water). Add the orzo to the pot. Leave uncovered, cook on high heat with a vigorous boil for 8-10 minutes until al dente (cooked, but still a little firm).

Drain. Rinse with cold water to cool quickly.

2 Toast the pine nuts: Toast the pine nuts by heating a small skillet on medium heat. Add the pine nuts and stir occasionally until the pine nuts are lightly browned. Pay attention or you'll burn the pine nuts.

3 Purée half the spinach with 1 Tbsp olive oil, mix with orzo: Take half of the spinach and purée it in a food processor or blender, adding one tablespoon of the olive oil. In a large serving bowl mix the spinach purée olive oil mixture in with cooked orzo until the pasta is well coated with the purée.

4 Mix onion, feta, pine nuts, olives, remaining spinach with the orzo: Roughly chop the other half of the spinach. Then gently mix the spinach, the red onion, feta cheese, pine nuts, and the Kalamata olives in with the orzo.

5 Make dressing: In a small jar, combine the remaining olive oil (2 Tbsp), balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, mustard, dried basil, and dried tarragon. Put a lid on the jar and shake to combine. (You can also just whisk together these ingredients in a small bowl, but the jar method works great to get a good emulsion.)

6 Pour dressing over orzo: Pour over orzo spinach mixture and gently mix in until well incorporated.

Chill for at least an hour before serving.

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Comments

  • Morgan

    This is so delicious! I substituted sundried tomatoes for the olives and omitted the pine nuts (alas, I had none!) Even with those substitutions/ omissions, this is one of the best uses of orzo/spinach I’ve seen, thank you so much!

  • Annie

    Thanks for this wonderful recipe! I made it for a picnic yesterday, and everyone loved it. It tasted fancy but was super easy to make. I like Becca’s idea above of adding grilled shrimp to make it a main — might have to try that next.

  • Jen

    I love this recipe! The pureed spinach is genius (I pureed it with garlic as my partner and I love a ton of garlic). The dijon mustard with the two vinegars gave it a great flavor. I have been looking for new recipes and this will now be in the rotation. This website is great – thank you so much!

  • Sandra

    This was…By far…The best…Pasta salad…EVER!!!!! Perfect combination of flavors! I measured everything except the spinach (pretty much eyeballed that). It was incredible! It’s snowy and cold here in NJ, but it doesn’t stop us from enjoying a nice salad with grilled chicken :) I can’t wait to make this again and especially during the summer time to bring to family and friends, YUMMMMMM!!!! I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again, your recipes are always AMAZING, simple, yet make me feel like a gourmet chef :) Yah!!

  • Teresa

    I made this yesterday and it was good but today it was BETTER! Perhaps a little less oil next time.

  • Amelia

    I made this salad for a BBQ and already two people are requesting this recipe because they loved it. Just as Elise suggests, I played with the ingredient proportions by adding more pine nuts, less cheese and fresh lemon juice as a substitute for the red wine vinegar. Great recipe.

  • Elaine Kampmann

    I notice you toasted the pine nuts, but not the orzo. I make a very similar salad, but always toast the orzo before cooking it. It improves the cooked texture beautifully. You can toast it in the microwave (carefully) in a glass container, or traditionally just like the pine nuts. I would caution about using all the dressing in advance because the orzo soaks it up. I use a little bit of dressing to give flavor and then put the dressing on the table to try and save some calories.

  • Honey

    This tastes exactly like the salad I’ve been buying for $7/lb at the deli and I’m soooo happy to be able to make it on my own. It is delicious and healthy and even my husband who usually doesn’t like anything vinegar-y loves this! You have to try it…you will not be disappointed!

  • Amitha

    Love this recipe! This has all of my favorite ingredients! I’m very much a beginner cook…thanks for making this so easy!

  • Pieg!rl

    I finally got around to making this orzo salad tonight. It tastes wonderful even before chilling in the fridge! But I’m waiting to taste it chilled. Definitely a great recipe for incorporating greens and a great base recipe for “variations on a theme.”

  • D

    Thanks Elise! I made this salad tonight and I love it! I double the quantity and instead of feta, I used cotija cheese. The cotija cheese is a great substitution, but a bit salty. I may use less the next time I make it. The salad did not need any salt at all because of the cotija chese and kalamta olives. I also used whole-wheat orzo. So delicious and I have a lot of leftover for the next few dinners. :)

  • Karen

    This is super-yummy! I find that most orzo recipes contain an excessive quantity of orzo, so this half-part of orzo is perfect! I like my pasta dishes hot, so I skipped all of the chilling. I used a whole onion and carmelized it, and I wilted the chopped the spinach a bit. This one’s a keeper, and I’m going to go through all of my orzo recipes and adjust the orzo ration!

  • D

    What would be a good substitution for feta cheese? Don’t say goat cheese because I don’t like cheese made with goat’s or sheep’s milk.

    Cotija cheese, a Mexican cheese that is also salty and crumbly. ~Elise

  • WJ

    Amazing salad. Very light, and fresh. Perfect for summer. Only thing I do differently, is up the spinach a bit, and in addition to the vinegars, I squeeze fresh lemon juice over the mixed salad.

  • deb

    I think this is Simply Recipes week! This was a wonderful dinner for a sticky, muggy day that we could assemble relatively quickly and not have to stress over finding seasonal ingredients, which you know, is sometimes a big relief. Huzzah!

  • Amelia

    I made this this morning and it tasted great; it’s in the fridge chilling now. I skipped the pine nuts because I don’t care for them, and I accidentally used a tablespoon of mustard (apparently I can’t read), and I skipped the dried tarragon, because I don’t care for tarragon at all.

    My spinach wouldn’t puree in my food processor, though–it was very finely minced, but not saucy. I guess I’ll use the blender next time.

  • Lorelei

    So good! I am on a real orzo kick at the moment, and made this salad this morning to take to work for lunch next week. I have already dipped my spoon into the dish more times than I care to admit! As for number of servings – I’d say it’s more like 6-8. Maybe 4 if you are super hungry!

  • Trevor

    This is a fabulous salad. My wife and I made it this eveing, and I thought it could use a touch of sweet. A bit of honey and a handful of dried cranberries fit the bill. Thanks for all the great recipes!

  • Karin

    I made this salad last night. I absolutely love it. And I plan to try the smoked salmon pasta this weekend. Thanks for the wonderful recipes!

  • Lisa

    Wowie, that looks and sounds fabulous. And here’s me getting pre-farmer’s-market, locally grown spinach on Saturdays! I chuckled at your comment about your parents having to wait till photos are shot before they can eat. My husband jokes that he hasn’t had a hot meal since I started blogging. ;)

  • becca

    Yum! I made this tonight for my husband and I… Just reduced the amount of feta and added grilled shrimp, and it was a perfect main!

    Thanks!

  • Sarah

    Your recipes have never lead me astray, and this one is just as good as all the rest. Though, I think it could use a few more pine nuts, they get lost in all the other flavors.

  • Jen S

    This dish is always a favorite Mediterranean of mine! I agree with you about altering proportions and ingredients. I’ve made one sans spinach with peas or asparagus in a lemon vinaigrette. Next time I’ll try your dressing with tarragon.

  • alamobecky

    Made this salad tonight with your marinated flank steak and it was slammin’! I felt the salad was a bit one-dimensional tang-wise, though, and added 3/4 tsp. of fine sugar and also an extra dash of balsamic vinegar before serving. Next time I’ll just use all balsamic vinegar and forego the red wine vinegar.

    I think you might find, as we did, that the red wine vinegar adds necessary acidity that the balsamic doesn’t. You can also get this acidity from a little lemon juice if you don’t want to use the red wine vinegar. ~Elise

  • Carly

    This was *excellent*… wow. I substituted sun-dried tomatoes (packed in oil, of course) for the olives since I didn’t have any olives on hand, tossed in some chopped fresh mint that I’d gotten from my CSA, and it was outrageously good. I admit, I couldn’t wait the full hour in the fridge, but it was still excellent. can’t wait to try it again today when it’s been completely chilled.

  • cleartrampoline

    I made this last night with a friend and it was delicious! We used fresh basil instead of dried (Cause that’s how I roll) and went a little heavy on the olives because we are olive addicts. It was awesome. Thanks for the great recipe!

  • Carolyn

    I made this last night and it is great! I can see this getting better after chilling for awhile. I could not find pine nuts so used sunflower seeds..So healthy! Thanks for a wonderful recipe.

  • Holy Card Collector

    Just found your interesting site. I’m not familiar with orzo…would this recipe be something that could be made a day ahead and then served? Thanks.

    Yes, you can easily make this a day ahead. ~Elise

  • Katie

    There’s a great online source for orzo as well as other types of dried pasta. Here’s the link: http://www.pappardellesonline.com/servlet/StoreFront
    I first saw this company at Pike’s Place Market, and was very impressed with the different flavor combinations. I think that this salad would be great with one of these orzo varieties. I also was thinking that arugula might be good in this too.

  • LiberalFoodie

    Thank you for this recipe. Is there a reason you use two different types of vinegars?

  • Georgia

    Different ones say they are always looking for different ways to use Orzo. Well, I’m always looking for Orzo and have decided it isn’t available in my neck of the hills. We are transplants here and were used to all kinds of everything. Can I use something similar for the recipe?

  • sK

    Funny, I made something very similar last night but with fresh mozzarella (had some on hand) and a rice wine vinaigrette. Mine definitely needed some help, but I think the kalamata olives are what saved it from being blah. I will definitely try pureeing/chopping the spinach next time (I just tossed it in to wilt with the warm orzo).

  • Pille

    Looks fresh and tasty. I wonder if it would work with real orzo, i.e. barley groats? Or perhaps spelt or farro? I love their nutty taste.
    PS I can just visualise how your parents try to improve your recipes – sounds fun:)