My family loves this Greek-inspired orzo pasta salad with salmon for a light, easy and flavorful meal! We often have this easy and nutritious pasta salad with salmon for dinner, but it’s a great addition to a brunch menu too. The interesting combination of ingredients makes the fresh bright flavors of this easy pasta dish sing! Since it’s best served cold or at room temperature, you can make this orzo salmon pasta dish in advance, which makes my life easier.
What is Orzo Pasta?
I didn’t use orzo pasta much until recently when I had this orzo salmon salad at an event I attended. As a small person who generally does not have a big appetite, I went back for seconds of this dish. The tender, slightly chewy texture of the orzo added a delightful mouthfeel to the salad.
For those unfamiliar with orzo pasta, it is a small, rice-shaped pasta that easily absorbs the flavors of the ingredients it’s paired with. It can be mixed with various vegetables, meats, cheeses, and dressings, allowing for endless combinations and adaptability to personal preferences.
Where Can You Buy Orzo?
You can buy orzo in any supermarket. It should be in the pasta aisle with the other pasta. However, I had some difficulty locating it at the supermarket where I generally do my food shopping. After walking up and down the pasta aisle combing the shelves for orzo, I finally asked the store manager if they carried it. He said they did and walked me over to the pasta aisle. He seemed as surprised as me when he couldn’t find it. Upon searching in his database, he found it in the rice section, two aisles over. Orzo looks like rice, so I get it – but it’s not, and it belongs in the pasta section. Anyway, that’s just a friendly tip in case you go are unable to find orzo pasta where it belongs in your favorite supermarket. Check the rice aisle. Of course, you can always order orzo online too.
Why Use Orzo in the Orzo Salmon Salad?
So many reasons. Orzo pasta salads are typically easy to make, and they can be prepared in advance. This makes them a convenient option for potlucks, picnics, or as a make-ahead meal. In addition, orzo pasta salads are often served cold or at room temperature, so they are perfect for warm weather or as a refreshing side dish. I also like that they are typically light and don’t leave you feeling overly full. Finally, the small, rice-shaped pasta, along with other colorful ingredients, creates an eye-catching presentation that looks very appetizing.
Why Salmon Is a Great Addition to the Orzo Salmon Pasta Salad
Salmon is considered a nutritious food that offers several health benefits due to its rich nutrient profile. Here are some reasons why salmon is good for you:
High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Salmon is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). These essential fatty acids are crucial for brain health, heart health, and reducing inflammation in the body.
Salmon is a good source of high-quality protein, which is essential for building and repairing tissues, supporting the immune system, and maintaining overall health.
Rich in Vitamins and Minerals
Salmon contains a variety of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin D, vitamin B12, selenium, and potassium. Vitamin D is vital for bone health and immune function, while vitamin B12 is important for nerve function and red blood cell production.
Heart Health Benefits
The omega-3 fatty acids in salmon have been linked to various cardiovascular benefits, including reducing triglycerides, lowering blood pressure, and decreasing the risk of heart disease.
The omega-3 fatty acids in salmon are also believed to support brain health and cognitive function, potentially reducing the risk of cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases.
The omega-3 fatty acids and other compounds in salmon have anti-inflammatory effects, which can help reduce inflammation in the body and lower the risk of chronic diseases.
Salmon is a good source of DHA, which is an important component of the retina in the eyes. Consuming omega-3 fatty acids may support eye health and reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration.
Salmon is a filling food, and its protein content can help promote satiety and reduce appetite, making it a valuable addition to a balanced diet for those looking to manage their weight.
It’s important to note that while salmon is a nutritious food, it is just one part of a healthy and balanced diet. For optimal health, it’s essential to consume a variety of nutrient-dense foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other sources of lean protein. If you have specific health concerns or dietary restrictions, it’s always a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian for personalized advice.
Grilled Salmon Vs. Baked Salmon in Orzo Salmon Salad
This orzo salmon pasta recipe calls for grilled salmon, which is easy to prepare and delicious. However, if I make the recipe at night for the next day, I often don’t feel like going outside and firing up the grill. So, I admit, on those nights I cheat a little and bake the salmon instead. Sure, the taste of the final product is a little different, but the salad overall is still really really good.
Easy Orzo Salmon Salad Recipe
- 1 cucumber peeled, halved, seeded and diced
- 4 plum tomatoes diced and drained (you can substitue halved cherry tomatoes for convenience if you like)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup orzo pasta (you can use whole wheat orzo pasta if you like)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1/2 grated lemon (lemon zest)
- 1/3 cup fresh dill chopped
- 1 lb salmon fillets about 1 inch thick
- 1-2 cloves fresh garlic minced
- 1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives, chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta OPTIONAL
- Preheat the grill for the salmon.
- Boil 2 cups water on the stove and bring to a boil for the orzo. Cook orzo until just done (al dente), about 12 minutes, then rinse with cold water and drain.
- Placing a strainer over a bowl, toss cucumber, tomatoes, olives and 1/2 tsp salt and let drain for 20 minutes (It's tempting to skip this step, but don't! You don't want a lot of extra liquid in your salad.)
- Toss orzo with the 1/4 cup oil, 1/3 cup dill, garlic, salt and pepper.
- Coat salmon with 1 tbsp oil, and salt and pepper.
- Grill salmon skin-side up for 4 minutes. Turn and continue to grill about 3 minutes more until barely done. The salmon should be translucent in the center.
- Cool salmon for a bit, then add to the orzo mixture. It should flake easily and integrate into the salad.
- Optional: Mix crumbled feta into the salad.
- Serve room temp or chill in the refrigerator if you prefer a cold salad.
For those of you who want to see the recipe in a larger font (we get it, our 50Plus eyes sometimes need bigger print), here it is!
1 cucumber peeled, halved, seeded and diced
4 plum tomatoes diced and drained (or halved cherry tomatoes, drained – your choice which to use)
1 tsp salt
1 cup orzo pasta (you can use whole wheat orzo pasta if you like)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 grated lemon (lemon zest)
1/3 cup fresh dill chopped
1 lb salmon fillets about 1 inch thick
1-2 cloves fresh garlic minced
1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup crumbled feta (OPTIONAL)
Preheat the grill for the salmon.
Boil 2 cups water on the stove and bring to a boil for the orzo. Cook orzo until just done (al dente), about 12 minutes, then rinse with cold water and drain.
Placing a strainer over a bowl, toss cucumber, tomatoes, olives and 1/2 tsp salt and let drain for 20 minutes (It’s tempting to skip this step, but don’t! You don’t want a lot of extra liquid in your salad.)
Toss orzo with 1/4 cup oil, 1/3 cup dill, garlic, salt and pepper.
Coat salmon with 1 tbsp oil, and salt and pepper.
Grill salmon skin-side up for 4 minutes. Turn and continue to grill for about 3 minutes more until barely done. The salmon should be translucent in the center.
Cool salmon for a bit, then add to the orzo mixture. It should flake easily and integrate into the salad.
Optional: Mix crumbled feta into the salad.
Serve at room temp or chill in the refrigerator if you prefer a cold salad.
Why Orzo Salmon Pasta Salad Is an Excellent Dish for Potlucks and Large Gatherings
This fabulous orzo salmon pasta dish can be made ahead of time, allowing you to focus on other preparations closer to the event. Unlike hot dishes that often require last-minute cooking or reheating, cold pasta salads can be cooked in advance and served at room temperature or chilled. This simplicity saves time and kitchen space during the event. This convenience is especially valuable when hosting or attending large gatherings where there may be many dishes to prepare.
Cold pasta salads are generally served in large bowls or platters, making them easy to transport to potlucks or gatherings. You don’t need to worry about keeping the dish hot or reheating it at the venue. In addition, cold pasta salads are versatile and can be adapted to various seasonal ingredients. They are refreshing in the summer and can be adjusted to include heartier ingredients for colder months.
Finally, orzo salmon salad can be easily made in significant quantities, making them ideal for serving a crowd without much hassle. You can scale up the recipe based on the number of guests attending the event. If there are any leftovers from the potluck or gathering, cold pasta salads usually keep well in the refrigerator for a day or two, making them a tasty and convenient option for future meals.
Overall, the convenience, versatility, and crowd-pleasing nature of this orzo salmon pasta salad make it a perfect addition to potlucks and large gatherings.
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