Easy Creamy Warm Orzo Lemon Salad

Orzo Lemon Salad topped with creamy bocconcini cheese is bliss at a summer picnic.

Looking to learn how to make the best homemade Orzo Lemon Salad?

We’ve traveled throughout Italy and love to recreate our favourite dishes at home. Orzo pasta salad is a quick and affordable lunch or dinner idea. It pairs perfectly with fresh seafood, grilled meats or vegetarian side dishes.

This easy one pot dinner is a big hit for school lunches, family barbecues or a last minute midweek meal.

Our Orzo Lemon Salad recipe is nut free and egg free. If you substitute the chicken broth for vegetable stock it is vegetarian friendly.

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Travel to Italy by Cooking Orzo Lemon Salad at Home

I love traveling to Europe. During my first visit to the continent I traveled for 5 months by train and plane. I had the opportunity to eat my way through Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales, Portugal, Spain, France, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, Croatia, Bosnia, Hungary, Slovakia, Greece, Turkey and Italy.

What I love most about traveling to Italy is the opportunity to sample unique dishes in each region and city. The dishes in Tuscany (Florence, Pisa, Volterra, Saturnia, Pitigliano, Sorano, Montalcino, Siena) are unique from what you’d find in Venice, Modena, Milan, Rome, and Amalfi Coast.

Enjoy a taste of the Mediterranean at home by preparing Warm Orzo Lemon Salad. The recipe features Italian food staples such as olive oil, lemon, garlic and two cheeses: bocconcini and Parmigiano Reggiano.

Ingredients you'll need to make Orzo Lemon Salad.
Ingredients you’ll need to make Orzo Lemon Salad.

Where To Eat Orzo Lemon Salad

If you live in a large city in Canada or America you’ll likely have access to a local Italian restaurant that serves traditional pastas and salads.

Haven’t traveled to Italy before? It may be helpful to first sample Orzo Lemon Salad at a local Italian restaurant to better understand how the dish might be served. Order an orzo pasta dish or fresh salad off the menu to get some creative ideas on what ingredients to include in your recipe.

In Toronto, popular Italian restaurants in Yorkville, King West and Ossington that may serve Orzo Lemon Salad include Bar Vendetta, Buca, Superpoint, Amano, Fabbrica, Oretta, FIGO, Nodo, Locale Mercatto, The Good Son, Taverna Mercatto, Ascari Enoteca, Il Fornello or Gusto 101.

After frying orzo in onions sauté with zucchini, spinach and kale.
After frying orzo in onions sauté with zucchini, spinach and kale.

What is Orzo?

Orzo, Italian for “barley” due to its resemblance to the grain in its unprocessed form, is a small rice-shaped pasta. It’s classified among pasta as “pastina” — a category of tiny shapes commonly used for soups.

In traditional Italian cooking, orzo is used in soups and broths, but it’s also great as a side dish and in pasta salads. It’s popular across Europe, particularly in Greece, where it’s known as krithiraki.

Orzo is made with semolina flour. Despite its similarities to rice, it is definitively not gluten-free. As with most pastas, it’s worth spending more for a quality product that uses semolina with a higher protein content. This creates a sturdier pasta that stands up better to cooking without getting mushy.

Simmer orzo with vegetables, herbs an lemon zest until just before al dente.
Simmer orzo with vegetables, herbs an lemon zest until just before al dente.

How To Make Orzo Lemon Salad

  1. This easy one pot dinner recipe requires a large non-stick pan. Begin by melting butter with garlic and onion.
  2. Stir in the orzo and fry until the pasta is toasted and turns golden brown. This brings out delicious flavours in the pasta.
  3. Stir in the zucchini, spinach, kale, thyme and lemon zest. Add sherry, a portion of the broth and lemon juice and cook until the vegetables have wilted. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Add the remaining broth and cook until just before al dente. The pasta will continue to cook as it cools an we want to ensure this warm Orzo Lemon Salad is not mushy when served.
  5. Stir in cream and parmesan then serve family-style in a large bowl topped with lemon wedges and Bocconcini cheese.
Cook orzo mixture with lemon juice, sherry and chicken stock.
Cook orzo mixture with lemon juice, sherry and chicken stock.

Orzo Lemon Salad Tips

What we love about this Orzo Lemon Salad recipe is how well the ingredients marinate. We suggest making a little extra as the dish keeps well in the fridge for 2-3 days.

If you’d like to add an additional crunch to the salad we suggest adding a few cups of additional chopped kale to the finished dish. Toss the hot orzo mixture with fresh kale and it will slightly wilt before guests are ready to eat. You can reduce the proportion of carbs in the recipe by boosting the salad with additional healthy greens like kale or spinach.

We love cooking with sherry but if you don’t have it in your liquor cabinet feel free to substitute with vermouth, marsala or a dry white wine.

We’ve used a Spanish cooking onions and garlic in this recipe but you could substitute for shallots or a sweet vidalia onion instead.

We’ve flavoured the warm salad with thyme but you can also add additional herbs such as chives, oregano, rosemary, sage or tarragon depending on your tastes.

If you’re vegetarian feel free to swap the chicken broth with a substitute like mushroom or vegetable stock.

We’ve used parmesan cheese but you could substitute with other aged cheeses such as Gruyere, Cheddar, Manchego, Beemster or Mimolette.

If your grocery store is out of bocconcini, another fresh mozzarella or even cow’s milk feta would do the trick for the salad’s topping.

Make the Orzo Lemon Salad creamy by adding grated parmesan cheese.
Make the Orzo Lemon Salad creamy by adding grated parmesan cheese.

What To Serve with Orzo Lemon Salad

We like to enjoy Orzo Lemon Salad all year long but it’s most popular in our family during summer barbecues.

We suggest making the salad one to two hours before you hope to serve it. That will give the dish time to cool so you can serve it warm.

This fresh pasta dish offers a flavour profile bursting with citrus, fragrant herbs and vegetal aromas from the zucchini, spinach and kale. It pairs well with barbecued shrimp and salmon. It’s also a popular side dish for burger, sausages or steaks fired up on the grill.

We suggest enjoying any leftovers for lunch. Travel with Tupperware to work and quickly microwave to reheat and enjoy oozing melted bocconcini cheese!

Serve Orzo Lemon Salad warm with sliced bocconcini cheese.
Serve Orzo Lemon Salad warm with sliced bocconcini cheese.

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Best Warm Orzo Lemon Salad Recipe

Print Recipe
5 from 2 votes

Warm Orzo Lemon Salad

Looking to learn how to make quick & easy Italian Lemon Orzo Salad? Our healthy pasta salad is served warm topped wtih slices of bocconcini cheese.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time50 mins
Course: Appetizer, Salad
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 6
Calories: 682kcal

Equipment

  • stove
  • Large sauce pan
  • French knife
  • cheese grater

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/4 cup Spanish onion minced
  • 16 oz Orzo pasta
  • 2 cups Kale packed down and sliced
  • 1 Zucchini minced
  • 12 oz Spinach
  • 2 tbsp Thyme
  • 2 1/2 cups Chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup Sherry
  • 2 tbsp Lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp Lemon rind
  • 1/2 cup Table cream
  • 3/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano grated
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 cup Bocconcini sliced

Instructions

  • Melt butter in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and onion and sauté for 1 minute.
  • Stir in the orzo. Cook until golden and toasted, about 3 minutes. Stir in the zucchini, spinach, kale, thyme and lemon zest. Cook until spinach is wilted. Add 1/2 cup broth, sherry and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Slowly add in the remaining broth. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer. Stirring often, simmer 9-10 minutes, or until the orzo is al dente and the dish becomes creamy.
  • Stir in the cream and Parmesan. Cook for another 3 minutes to thicken.
  • Serve Warm Orzo Lemon Salad family-style. Garnish with sliced Bocconcini cheese.

Nutrition

Calories: 682kcal | Carbohydrates: 98.7g | Protein: 26.1g | Fat: 20.7g | Saturated Fat: 11.4g | Cholesterol: 52mg | Sodium: 730mg | Potassium: 1105mg | Fiber: 8.2g | Sugar: 9.1g | Calcium: 315mg | Iron: 9mg

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