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Orzo Caprese Salad

If you're looking for the perfect summer pasta salad, make this Orzo Caprese Salad! It's bursting with flavor from sweet tomatoes, tangy balsamic glaze and vinegar, and fresh, fragrant basil. The little orzo pasta goes so well with this salad!

Make sure to read the recipe tips below for lots of tasty add-in ideas.

Orzo caprese salad with balsamic glaze in a bowl
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Summer orzo salad

This orzo salad would scream "summer" to me if it could talk!

The classic Caprese salad combination of juicy tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and balsamic vinegar goes so well with tender cooked orzo pasta. This orzo Caprese salad is so easy to make that it doesn't even need a separate "dressing" - just mix everything together in a bowl and the orzo will be seasoned with delicious balsamic flavor. 

A fork with orzo, tomato, and fresh mozzarella and balsamic vinegar

It's the perfect summer salad and it's great for summer entertaining, from Memorial Day, a graduation party menu, 4th of July side dish idea, to your Labor Day menu. It's ALWAYS a hit at every summer BBQ and get together.

I love going to my backyard to grab warm, fragrant fresh cherry tomatoes and fresh basil for this lightened up pasta salad. And even when I don't have fresh tomatoes and basil from my little urban garden, it's still an amazing salad to make with store-bought tomatoes and basil.

Make sure to use fresh basil for this salad (not dry basil!) and get the sweetest tomatoes you can find. I love cherry tomatoes or Campari tomatoes for their flavor and cute little shape, perfect for an orzo salad.

Orzo Caprese Salad on a plate

Related recipe: Orzo Coleslaw Salad

Ingredients

  • 4 oz uncooked orzo (just under 1.25 cups, or half of a 16-oz box)
  • Salted water to cook orzo
  • 2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, halved (see recipe notes below)
  • 2 cups small mozzarella balls (also known as mozzarella pearls) - I prefer the ones marinated in oil with seasonings, but the dry-packed ones are fine too! See notes below for tips
  • ¼ cup fresh Genovese basil leaves, tightly packed
  • ¼ - ½ teaspoon each salt and ground black pepper (or use more to taste)
  • 2-3 tablespoons balsamic glaze (or a little more, to taste)
  • 2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (or to taste)
  • See notes below for optional add-in ideas!
Ingredients for Orzo Caprese Salad laid out

Related recipe: Roasted Tomato and Pesto Crostini with Balsamic Glaze

Ingredient tips and substitutions

  • Tomatoes: you can use more or less than 2 cups, to taste. You can use Campari tomatoes, just cut them into quarters or eights instead of halves
  • Mozzarella balls: make sure to use fresh mozzarella instead of the low moisture mozzarella. When making this recipe for guests, I typically use whole mozzarella balls and use a little more than 2 cups, just because mozzarella always has that "wow" factor and I like to be generous with it! When making this Caprese salad just for us at home, I half or even quarter the mozzarella balls and use about 1-1.5 cups so I can use less of the mozzarella but still get the delicious fresh mozzarella in every bite. This helps reduce the total calories in the salad and helps make it more budget-friendly. If you don't have fresh mozzarella, you can use cubed low moisture mozzarella.
    • If your mozzarella balls are packed in oil, you don't need to add any extra oil. If yours are vacuum-sealed, then you can add a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil to the salad.
  • Fresh basil: Make sure to use fresh basil for this salad, obviously! Be gentle when handling and slicing the leaves so they don't bruise so much. Use a sharp knife to slice basil leaves neatly into ribbons, or use herb scissors for the best cuts without bruising the basil. 
  • Orzo substitutions: Any small pasta would work in this recipe, or even larger pasta shapes, such as elbows, bow ties, or anything else you have.
  • Balsamic glaze and balsamic vinegar: I love the combination of both balsamic glaze and vinegar for this recipe. The glaze adds a little sweetness to balance out the tanginess of the balsamic vinegar. If you really love balsamic vinegar, you can skip the glaze and just make the salad extra vinegary. Maybe just add a splash of olive oil to help balance the vinegar and add more liquid to the dressing. 
Overhead photo of orzo caprese salad with fresh mozzarella

Instructions

Step 1: Cook the orzo in salted water according to the package instructions, typically 7-9 minutes for al dente. Drain and rinse the orzo under cold water so it's no longer hot. It's your choice whether to rinse until it's warm, or until it's chilled.

Step 2: While the orzo is cooking, prepare the rest of the ingredients: slice the tomatoes in half, slice the mozzarella pearls in half if you choose to do so, cut the basil into ribbons.

Close up of sliced basil

Step 3: In a large bowl, combine the cooked orzo with the rest of the ingredients and stir together. Adjust to taste salt, pepper, or with additional balsamic glaze if you want more sweetness or balsamic vinegar if you want more tang. You can also drizzle some balsamic glaze on top of the salad and garnish with fresh basil for serving. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 24 hours before serving.

Orzo caprese salad ingredients in a mixing bowl

Optional add-ins

Try adding the following ingredients to this easy orzo salad:

  • Chopped cucumber (for more veggies!)
  • Chopped salami or other cold cuts (to go for a whole antipasto or Italian hoagie/sub vibe)
  • Marinated artichoke hearts
  • Diced red onion or shallots
  • Minced garlic
  • A splash of olive oil or flavored olive oil, such as roasted garlic olive oil or basil-infused oil (I recommend adding this if your mozzarella balls are not marinated in oil)
  • Chickpeas (for fiber and plant-based protein)
  • Red pepper flakes (for spice—go easy on these because they get spicy quickly)

About that balsamic glaze...

Balsamic glaze is one of my FAVORITE ingredients!! It makes an amazing addition to so many dishes, such as this fig and goat cheese flatbread, this grilled vegetable salad, this green beans with cranberries side dish. It makes a great dip for this fried brie appetizer. It is also amazing drizzled over a salad instead of dressing.

I've NEVER had a bottle of this stuff go bad or expire, I always use it up!!

Enjoy this Caprese Orzo Salad, my friends!!

Looking for more summer salads?

If you enjoyed this recipe, let me know with a comment and a star rating below. And don't forget to share it on Facebook and save it on Pinterest for later!

Overhead photo of orzo caprese salad with tomatoes and mozzarella
Print Recipe
5 from 2 votes

Orzo Caprese Salad

This EASY, delicious Orzo Caprese Salad is ready in 20 minutes and is bursting with fresh summer flavor! The perfect summer side dish or light vegetarian lunch. Make sure to read the notes below the recipe for ingredient tips and lots of delicious add-in ideas.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time20 mins
Course: Main Course, Salad
Cuisine: American
Diet: Vegetarian
Servings: 8 appetizer portions, or 4 lunch portions
Author: Kate

Ingredients

  • 4 oz orzo (just under 1.25 cups, or half of a 16-oz box)
  • salted water to cook orzo
  • 2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes halved (see recipe notes below)
  • 2 cups small mozzarella balls (also known as mozzarella pearls) - I prefer the ones marinated in oil with seasonings, but the vacuum-packed ones are fine too! See notes below for tips
  • ¼ cup fresh Genovese basil leaves tightly packed
  • ¼ - ½ teaspoon sea salt or to taste
  • ¼ - ½ teaspoon ground black pepper or to taste
  • 2-3 tablespoons balsamic glaze or a little more, to taste
  • 2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar or to taste
  • See notes below for optional add-in ideas!

Instructions

  • Cook the orzo in salted water according to the package instructions, typically 7-9 minutes for al dente. Drain and rinse the orzo under cold water so it's no longer hot. It's your choice whether to rinse until it's warm, or until it's chilled.
  • While the orzo is cooking, prepare the rest of the ingredients: slice the tomatoes in half, slice the mozzarella pearls in half if you choose to do so, cut the basil leaves into thin ribbons (I love using herb scissors!).
  • In a large bowl, combine the cooked orzo with the rest of the ingredients and stir together. Adjust to taste salt, peppper, or with additional balsamic glaze if you want more sweetness or balsamic vinegar if you want more tang. You can also drizzle some balsamic glaze on top of the salad and garnish with fresh basil for serving.
    Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 24 hours before serving.

Notes

Ingredient tips and substitutions
  • Tomatoes: You can use more or less than 2 cups to add more veggies to the salad. You can use Campari tomatoes, just cut them into quarters or eights instead of halves.
  • Mozzarella balls: Make sure to use fresh mozzarella instead of the low moisture mozzarella. You can cut the mozzarella balls in half if you want more mozzarella pieces throughout the salad. If your mozzarella balls are in oil, you don't need to add any extra oil. If yours are vacuum-sealed, then you can add a tablespoon of olive oil to the salad.
  • Orzo substitutions: Any pasta you have on hand would work, as long as it's not noodle-shaped.
  • Balsamic glaze and balsamic vinegar: I love the combination of both the glaze and the vinegar—the glaze adds a little sweetness to balance out the vinegar. If you really love balsamic vinegar, you can skip the glaze and just make the salad vinegary. Maybe just add a splash of olive oil to help balance the vinegar and add more liquid to the dressing.
Optional add-ins:
  • Chopped cucumber (for more veggies!)
  • Chopped salami or other cold cuts (to go for a whole antipasto or Italian hoagie/sub vibe)
  • Marinated artichoke hearts
  • Diced red onion or shallots
  • Minced garlic
  • Splash of extra virgin olive oil or flavored olive oil, such as roasted garlic olive oil or basil-infused oil (I recommend adding this if your mozzarella balls are not marinated in oil)
    Chickpeas (for fiber and plant-based protein)
  • Red pepper flakes (just a pinch, the salad gets spicy quickly)
The nutrition facts are estimated for 8 servings and are not guaranteed to be accurate. Work with a professional nutritionist or dietician if tracking calories or nutrients is important to you.

Nutrition

Calories: 111kcal (6%) | Carbohydrates: 15g (5%) | Protein: 5g (10%) | Fat: 3g (5%) | Saturated Fat: 2g (10%) | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 11mg (4%) | Sodium: 166mg (7%) | Potassium: 129mg (4%) | Fiber: 1g (4%) | Sugar: 3g (3%) | Vitamin A: 277IU (6%) | Vitamin C: 8mg (10%) | Calcium: 79mg (8%) | Iron: 1mg (6%)

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Aldo

Friday 15th of July 2022

Easy and delicious, thank you!

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