Pasta Salad for Parties, Potlucks, and Picnics

Orzo, preserved lemons, olives, veggies and pine nuts make the perfect salad for parties, potlucks and picnics.

A Lemony Orzo Salad

This recipe makes a huge bowl of pasta! This salad can be served hot, cold or at room temperature making it a great dish for parties, potlucks, and picnics, or really – just anytime you want it. There’s no meat, mayo, egg or anything to go bad if it sits out for a few hours.

When I make it for the two of us, we usually get two meals and a couple of lunches. Yes – we can make a meal out of it, it’s so good! Bobby eats the leftovers cold. I prefer them warm or at room temperature so I’ll microwave mine for about a minute. Sometimes we’ll add a little more protein to the salad by sauteing a few Creole seasoned shrimp in some butter and serving on top of the pasta.

This particular recipe calls for preserved lemons, but if you don’t have any [shame on you – just kidding] – you can make a quickie preserved lemon with lemon zest, juice, and salt while you’re cooking up the recipe. Check out the Kitchen Notes on how to do this.

Kitchen Notes

Quickie Preserved Lemons

You can buy preserved lemons or make them. I make a pint each fall and it lasts all year. However, if I run out before my new batch is ready (which does happen), I make a quickie preserved lemon. It’s not the same as the real thing, but it works in a pinch. Just put the following together the night before.

Preserved Lemons in less than 24 hoursLemon peel becomes preserved lemons overnight




The Piñon nuts

Yes – Piñon nuts (pine nuts), are quite expensive, but I LOVE THEM so I buy them in large bags from a warehouse store. There is also the fact that some people get a strange reaction from them or just don’t just like them. Therefore, I have tested this pasta for alternatives. The best alternative is pumpkin seed. Chopped almonds also work. Whichever you use, be sure to toast them. Walnuts absolutely did NOT work, and pecans (my favorite of all nuts) are just O.K.

The fresh herbs

Well, you can’t beat fresh basil with pasta, but there are other fresh herbs that work well. I grow my own herbs so I mix and match a lot. Fresh basil, mint, parsley, and thyme all work well. You could use them solo or as a blend. Whatever you have or whatever you like.

Onion and Bell Peppers

If you are making this for a large group, I would recommend using a large onion and large bell pepper just to make a bigger batch. You get plenty of cooked orzo from a 12 ounce bag, so a little extra on the veggies certainly won’t hurt this salad.

Additional Vegetables

Recently I had a request for a salad with A LOT of vegetables.  For the occasion, this was the perfect salad, but needed more veggies.  So I added a cup of copped artichoke hearts and 1/2 pound of sauteed mushrooms, and eliminated the feta. The feedback was very positive. 🙂  You could also add lightly cooked broccoli, asparagus, corn, or wilted greens such as spinach or Swiss chard.

Making a meal out of it

As I mentioned earlier, we can make a meal out of this pasta salad. Sometimes we’ll just eat it by itself, but other times, we’ll add a little extra protein. Here are some suggestions for adding more protein (for 2):

Shrimp: Season ½ pound of raw, peeled and deveined shrimp with ½ tsp. Creole seasoning (or any spicy seasoning blend). Sauté in 1 Tbsp. butter for 3 minutes. Pour over two servings of pasta.

Chicken: If you have some leftover chicken, just chop it up and toss into the salad. If you don’t, then slice up an uncooked chicken breast, and prepare it the same way I prepare the shrimp.

Leftover Grilled Steak: Sliced the steak. Heat some olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat, and QUICKLY reheat the steak in the hot oil. Place the steak beside or on top of the salad and top with the oil.

Vegetarian (Egg omelet): Whisk 3 eggs with ¼ cup milk, a little salt and pepper, and some fresh basil (or tarragon or thyme). Add ½ Tbsp. butter to a medium size skillet over medium-low heat. When the foam subsides, add the eggs and cook over medium-low heat until almost set. When the omelet has set enough to flip, flip it and let it finish cooking. Cut the omelet into strips and gentle stir into salad or just lay on top.

O.K. – I’ll stop here, because there’s 101 other variations for this recipe and I could go on and on.  Hope you give this salad a try.  If you do, please let me know how it turns out.

This Lemony Orzo Pasta Salad has been linked to the following blog hops.  Be sure to click on the links for more delicious recipes.

Fat Tuesday Blog Hop, Traditional TuesdaysThe Gallery of Favorites, Katherine Martinelli’s Pasta Hop, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, Summer Salad Sundays, Showcase Your Talent Thursday, Mom’s Test Meal Monday, Made With Love Monday .

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36 Responses to “Pasta Salad for Parties, Potlucks, and Picnics”

  1. Mark Dursteler December 29, 2016 at 4:02 am #

    I’ve been absent for some time, but now I remember why I used to love this blog. Thank you, I’ll try and check back more frequently. How frequently you update your web site?

  2. Jill T November 13, 2016 at 1:27 pm #

    I just made this salad. I had most of the ingredients available. I had been looking for a recipe to use the preserved lemons I had just purchased and was anxious to use.
    This recipe is a keeper, it is adaptable in so many ways.
    The only thing I did differently, not part of the recipe, was to add a tiny bit of anchovy after sauteing the vegetables and garlic, I let it go for no more than a minute or so.
    I had left over rotisserie chicken which I added to my serving.
    It is very tasty, it is a keeper and I will definitely make it again.

    • mj November 15, 2016 at 6:19 pm #

      Jill, Thanks SO MUCH for your comment! Glad you enjoyed the recipe and were successful in adapting it to your tastes and ingredients. It is a keeper isn’t it? 🙂 I think we make it different every time. Thanks for sharing your adaptation.

  3. Su Anne Armstrong December 10, 2015 at 3:18 pm #

    Artichoke hearts are a wonderful addition to this pasta salad. It is one of a very few recipes where I can use whole wheat pasta and Ted doesn’t notice. We had it first with seared Salmon fillets and then with sautéed shrimp. Outrageously good with both. Thank you, thank you.

    • mj December 13, 2015 at 7:02 pm #

      Totally agree about the artichokes! I hardly ever leave them out. I’ve never used whole wheat pasta. Bobby never been a big fan of ww pasta either. I’ll have to try it in this recipe. Thanks for the heads up. 🙂 It does go great with seafood doesn’t it? Thanks so much for your comments!

  4. Adelina Priddis September 1, 2013 at 8:08 pm #

    I can’t resist once you added in the shrimp! Thank you for sharing on Foodie Friday

  5. Deb@CookingOnTheFrontBurner August 30, 2013 at 6:45 am #

    Saw this on Food Friday – my 2 favorites – lemon and orzo! Pinned!

    • mj August 30, 2013 at 9:47 am #

      Thanks for stopping by Deb!

  6. Javelin Warrior July 11, 2013 at 2:51 pm #

    I love orzo salads – there’s something about the tiny grains of pasta and the way they cling to everything else that’s just so satisfying. And the lemon with olives sounds delicious. I could definitely see making this with some roasted shrimp or grilled steak…

    • mj July 12, 2013 at 9:47 am #

      Thanks Mark! This salad is definitely a winner. I always take it to potlucks and it’s a big hit!

  7. Jaime @ Mom's Test Kitchen September 5, 2012 at 11:38 am #

    This looks really good! I’ve never actually tried orzo before! Thanks so much for linking to Mom’s Test Meal Mondays!

    • mj September 18, 2012 at 8:29 am #

      Thanks Jaime! I love making pasta salads with orzo! It blends right in with all of the other ingredients and the salad isn’t heavy as some pasta salads tend to be.

  8. Lori Lynn August 31, 2012 at 10:04 am #

    Sounds like an awesome recipe.
    Great for an outdoor picnic…

  9. Debbie @ Easy Natural Food July 4, 2012 at 4:08 pm #

    Sounds super duper tasty, and I’m a huge kalmata olive fan! Love the Greek/Mediterranean flavors in this salad. Thanks for sharing this with Summer Salad Sundays, look forward to seeing you again soon!

  10. April @ The 21st Century Housewife January 31, 2012 at 11:56 am #

    What a fabulous go to recipe! I love that you have tried and tested so many variations too. This is such a useful and delicious post!! Thank you for sharing it with the Gallery of Favorites.

  11. Beth @ Aunt B's Kitchen January 30, 2012 at 2:18 pm #

    This looks wonderful! I’ve pinned it. Hope that’s okay with you. 🙂

  12. Alea Milham January 28, 2012 at 7:42 pm #

    Your lemony orzo salad looks lovely and delicious! We often enjoy having pasta salad for lunch. i like it because I can make it ahead and have it waiting in the fridge. Thanks for sharing this recipe with the Gallery.

  13. Elsa January 28, 2012 at 10:26 am #

    Looks lovely! I just told my husband this morning that I need to make something with my orzo pasta. 🙂

  14. German Mama October 28, 2011 at 7:04 am #

    This looks so yummy. I love pasta salads that are not drenched in mayonnaise.

  15. The Mistress of Spices July 25, 2011 at 4:08 am #

    Lovely! Actually I have a BBQ to go to this weekend and was thinking of making something along this line. Maybe I will use this recipe! I love the addition of the preserved lemon juice…very intriguing!

    • mj July 25, 2011 at 8:53 am #

      I do hope you try it! It’s a great salad and is great for parties! Thank you for your comments!

  16. mj July 13, 2011 at 8:10 pm #

    Thank y’all for your comments and for dropping by! Hope to see you again soon.

  17. Joanne July 12, 2011 at 7:03 pm #

    Mmmm i love orzo!!! This looks delicious!

  18. Janet July 8, 2011 at 2:43 pm #

    Mmmmm, looks great. Can’t wait to try it (and I’ll report, too). Love the preserved lemons recipe (and the short cut … always helpful), but what else do you use preserved lemons in?

    • mj July 8, 2011 at 7:56 pm #

      Preserved lemons are actually one of my favorite condiments. I use them in roast chicken, braised chicken, several pasta dishes, lemon rice and risotto, and in salads. You can use them like you use capers. Hope you enjoy!

  19. Carolyn Jung July 2, 2011 at 3:19 pm #

    Summer is made for orzo salads. The slender, tiny, rice-shaped pasta makes it so that you get a forkful of everything in one glorious bite.

  20. The Farmers Wife June 30, 2011 at 3:42 pm #

    Oh I just adore this recipe! So fresh and delicious, the perfect pasta salad for a hot summer day. And all the veggies in it add such a beautiful color to the dish… YUM!

    • mj June 30, 2011 at 4:51 pm #

      Thank you!

  21. mj June 30, 2011 at 1:16 pm #

    Thanks for the nice comments Kelly! I hope you make the preserved lemons. Those are my MOST favorite condiment. A little goes a long way and they add such a freshness to any dish. I look forward to to trying some of your recipes.

  22. Kelly June 30, 2011 at 1:00 pm #

    Ooo this looks absolutely delicious and so healthy! I learned something new with the preserved lemons, love it! Great blog you have here and so glad to be your newest follower! 🙂

  23. sally June 29, 2011 at 8:25 pm #

    Thanks for sharing your quickie preserved lemon recipe. I’ve never made preserved lemons and would love to hear how you make your pints of lemons. Your orzo salad also sounds great!

    • mj June 29, 2011 at 10:58 pm #

      Sally – A recipe for preserved lemons will be coming soon! I need to make a new batch and get a picture. The quickie recipe really doesn’t have time to “preserve” the zest in just 30 minutes, but it’s still better than just zest and juice. If you could let it sit overnight, it would be closer to the real thing.


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