Spicy Orzo Pasta Salad is the perfect picnic salad with orzo, sweet roasted tomatoes, fresh spinach, and toasted walnuts. Seasoned with lemon, garlic and harissa for a spicy and sweet pasta salad with a nutty crunch.
This summer we heard a LOT of bluegrass music. Which is awesome because we love it! Most of the shows we went to involved some sort of picnic. Pasta salads are perfect to tote to picnics! So this orzo pasta salad was invented when I realized we needed food and I hadn’t prepared anything!
That’s when some of the best ideas happen for me. The added pressure of “last minute” eliminates all the over-thinking that usually results in lengthy idea lists and toiling over what would be most delicious. For me, too much time = way less productivity in almost ANYTHING I do.
Anyone else this same way?
As I was rushing around the kitchen, in just these quick + easy steps I created this Spicy Orzo Pasta Salad grabbing cherry tomatoes, spinach, walnuts, lemon, garlic and harissa to give it a spicy kick!
There’s something about the flavors combination of harissa and the walnuts that makes it so delicious!
How to Make this Spicy Orzo PASTA SALAD
What is harissa?
If you’ve never tried harissa seasoning or paste, you need to. It’s a North African seasoning that has spicy red peppers mixed with coriander and cumin and myriad other spices. I went through a harissa craze awhile back from Roasted Tomato Soup with Harissa to Moroccan Vegetable Almond Pilaf. It’s definitely a spice to keep around in your kitchen.
This Spicy Orzo Pasta Salad can be served as a side dish or eaten all by itself with a big spoon! It can be served with grilled chicken at all your summer bbqs.
Spicy Orzo Pasta Salad is the most delicious way to use cherry tomatoes - especially if they're homegrown! Orzo pasta tossed with sweet roasted tomatoes, fresh spinach, toasted walnuts then seasoned with lemon and harissa to create a spicy and sweet pasta salad with a nutty crunch.
- 1 cup toasted walnut pieces
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2.5 Tbs olive oil, divided
- 1/2 tsp Kosher salt, plus a pinch for the tomatoes
- 1/4 tsp black pepper, plus a pinch for the tomatoes
- 8 ounces dry orzo pasta
- 1 zest of 1 lemon + juice of 1/2 of lemon
- 2 tsp harissa seasoning
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1.5 - 2 cups fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese optional
Heat oven to 400 F. Pop the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast for about 5 minutes while the oven is heating. Don't forget to set a timer - nuts can burn so quickly!
On a parchment lined rimmed baking sheet, combine sliced tomatoes with 1 Tbs olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 minutes until juicy and starting to brown.
While the tomatoes are roasting, cook the orzo pasta according to package instructions. Approx. 8 min.
When the pasta is cooked, drain and place in a large mixing bowl. While the pasta is still warm, add 1.5 Tbs olive oil, zest of 1 lemon, juice of half a lemon, garlic, 1/2 tsp Kosher salt and harissa seasoning. Mix well.
Add chopped spinach and walnuts. Gently mix.
Add roasted tomatoes with their juices. Toss to combine.
Top with shredded parmesan cheese.
Serve warm or room temperature.
*Options: add grilled chicken or roasted chickpeas for extra protein.