Be careful with this orzo salad! You can go from “tasting for seasoning” to shoveling it into your mouth before you realize what’s happening. My husband is actually hanging out in the fridge, sneaking bites of it this very second. Why would he do that? Because it’s the most delicious blend of sweet, spicy and tart. It’s an addicting combination of flavors, accented by the crisp tender crunch of grilled summer vegetables and the al dente chew of orzo.
This pasta salad is tossed with a chile lime dressing that’s made with just enough mayonnaise to be creamy without feeling heavy, and plenty of fresh lime to balance the sweet summer corn. You might even be a little unsure about the lime when you first taste the dressing, but trust me and stick with it. That lime is the crux of the whole salad, and it plays so well off of the charred vegetables and smoky chile powder.
You can make this pasta for the best lunch in the office, take it with you on your next summer picnic, or pair it with some grilled chicken and a zesty white wine (I’m looking at you, Vinho Verde!) and you’ve got yourself a dinner that you’ll dream of, come winter.
what’s a good substitute for orzo?
Orzo is a type of pasta that’s shaped like a grain of rice. I love the small pieces of al dente pasta, especially when they’re coated in this creamy chipotle lime dressing and tossed with sweet crunchy corn, but orzo is not mandatory for this delicious pasta salad.
Any small pasta shape, like ditalini or stelline, can easily be substituted for orzo.
If you only have larger pasta on hand (bowties, macaroni, or shells for example), just keep in mind that you may need to make more dressing for everything to be well coated.
If you want to go a different route with this pasta salad, you can always opt out of the pasta and try it with a grain. Quinoa, farro, and even rice could all be used instead of orzo for a delicious version of this summer salad.
Luckily, orzo is becoming widely available and most large grocery stores carry it (even in whole wheat versions!) and as always, you can find it on Amazon!
orzo salad with grilled corn, zucchini and lime
serves 4- 6 | recipe adapted from Food and Wine
4 ears corn, shucked
4 small zucchini, halved
2 tbsp olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 lb orzo
1 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped
chile lime dressing
5 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp mayonnaise
5 tbsp fresh lime juice (from about 2 1/2 limes)
1/2 tsp chile powder
1/4 tsp cayenne (optional)
Preheat grill to medium heat. On a baking sheet, toss corn and zucchini with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and black pepper. Grill vegetables until crisp tender and lightly charred, 5- 8 minutes for the zucchini (depending on size) and 12- 15 minutes for the corn. Set vegetables aside to cool. Chop the zucchini and cut the corn kernels off the cob, then place them in a large bowl.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season with salt and cook the orzo until al dente. Drain and rinse pasta under cold water to stop the cooking, then toss around in a fine mesh strainer to shake off excess water. Transfer orzo and cilantro to the bowl with the vegetables.
To make the dressing, combine 5 tablespoons of olive oil, mayonnaise, lime juice, chile powder, cayenne (if using), 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. Taste and adjust with more salt or pepper if needed (the dressing will taste pretty tart, but it will be perfect when the sweet corn is mixed in).
Pour dressing into the bowl with the vegetables and orzo and toss to coat. Taste, adjust with more salt or black pepper. Transfer to a large bowl or platter and serve.
This orzo salad can be eaten at room temperature or cold. It will keep, refrigerated and covered, for up to 4 days.
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