Greek Orzo Salad with Lemon-Basil Tahini Dressing is the perfect side dish to serve at your next barbecue, or to take to a summer pot luck!

White bowl filled with Greek Orzo Salad with Lemon-Basil Tahini Dressing. Dressing is on the side

 

A few years ago, Robert and I spent two weeks in Greece, and we both loved the food – especially the flavorful, colorful salads and the nutty, creamy hummus. I came home and soon started playing around with creating my own version of a Greek-inspired pasta salad, and this Greek Orzo Salad with Lemon-Basil Tahini Dressing is the result.

For the salad, rice-shaped orzo pasta is combined together with artichoke hearts, cheese, Kalamata olives, green peppers and fresh tomatoes. I actually use Mozzarella cheese instead of Greek feta, but you could substitute feta to make this salad truly Greek!

White bowl filled with Greek Orzo Pasta; Lemon-Basil Tahini Dressing is in a glass pitcher on the side

 

Since I love hummus, and the Greek often serve it alongside salad, I decided a tahini dressing would be perfect. Why, you ask? Because tahini is the base in hummus!

So, after several attempts (and trips up the stairs to Robert’s office, with spoonfuls of dressing for him to taste), I finally landed on what we both think is the perfect flavor balance, between the nutty, somewhat bitter taste of tahini and the fresh citrus flavor of lemon, tartness of vinegar and sweetness of honey and basil. The resulting Lemon-Basil Tahini Dressing is fresh, lemon-y, and a bit nutty in flavor.

Small glass pitcher filled with Lemon-Basil Tahini Dressing

 

Note that it’s important for the dressing to sit at least one hour before serving. The flavor changes significantly after the dressing rests!

Greek Orzo Salad with Lemon-Basil Tahini Dressing

White bowl filled with Greek Orzo Pasta; Lemon-Basil Tahini Dressing is in a glass pitcher on the side

Greek Orzo Salad with Lemon-Basil Tahini Dressing is the perfect side dish to serve at your next barbeque, or to take to a summer pot luck!

  • Author: By Lee Clayton Roper
  • Yield: 6 side servings 1x
  • Category: side salads, pasta salads, easy entertaining, vegetarian
Scale

Ingredients

Lemon-Basil Tahini Dressing

  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped or pressed
  • 1 tablespoon honey, or more to taste (see Note)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon lemon balsamic vinegar (can substitute white balsamic vinegar)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste
  • Fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup water – add as needed to thin (see directions)

Greek Orzo Salad

  • 5 ounces dry orzo pasta
  • 1 tablespoon lemon extra virgin olive oil (or regular EVOO)
  • 1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts in water, drained
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh or smoked Mozzarella cheese (can substitute feta cheese crumbles)
  • 1/2 cup pitted ripe olives, preferably Kalamata
  • 1/2 cup seeded and chopped green bell pepper (around 1 medium)
  • 1/2 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved (quartered if large)
  • 1/4 cup chopped shallots
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • Fresh Italian (flat leaf) parsley, for garnish

Instructions

Lemon-Basil Tahini Dressing

  1. Place the tahini and lemon juice in the bowl of a small food processor. Process until smooth.
  2. Add the olive oil, basil, garlic, 1 tablespoon honey, mustard, vinegar, zest and salt; process until smooth.
  3. Slowly add water, a tablespoon at a time, as needed to thin the dressing ( usually use 3 to 4 tablespoons).
  4. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to blend.
  5. Bring to room temperature, taste, and adjust seasonings (ground pepper, honey and/or salt) as needed.

Greek Orzo Salad

  1. Cook the orzo according to package directions. Drain and place in a large mixing bowl. Toss with olive oil. Set aside to cool at room temperature for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking together.
  2. Place the artichoke hearts on a double layer of paper towels. Gently pat dry with a third towel. Cut into quarters.
  3. When the pasta is cooled, stir in a few tablespoons of the Tahini Dressing. Stir in cheese, olives, tomatoes, peppers and shallots. Add the artichoke hearts and remaining dressing. Toss gently to mix. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Serve in a large bowl or platter at room temperature. Garnish with fresh parsley leaves. For a pretty presentation, line the bowl/platter with lettuce leaves.

Notes

Note on honey: I have found that the bitterness of tahini varies significantly by brand – from not bitter at all, to very bitter. As a result, when preparing the dressing you really need to taste and add more honey as needed.

Make ahead: Lemon-Basil Tahini Dressing can be prepared up to 1 week ahead, covered and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before using. It will thicken as it sits, so you’ll want to thin it by whisking in a tablespoon of water. Pasta can be cooked up to 24 hours in advance, placed in a zip top baggie and refrigerated.

Lee Clayton Roper

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I’m Lee Clayton Roper, and I’m passionate about making cooking and entertaining easy, elegant and fun. Here you’ll find scrumptious recipes, helpful tips and seasonal menus that will spark inspiration in your kitchen!
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