Festive Orzo Salad

Even though the summer may be wrapping up and tailgate season is kicking off, the temperature in South Louisiana is still sweltering in the 90 degree range.  For us, tailgating is considered a time honored tradition —  we love spending our Saturdays with friends and family under the Oaks, waiting for the band from Tigerland to come marching down the hill!

On any given Saturday during football season, you will find a menagerie of food being cooked on the parade grounds at LSU — anything from jambalaya, crawfish étouffeé, fried catfish, boudin balls, to gumbo.  As football season wears on, it’s always difficult to know what to take to a tailgate. You don’t want to break the bank in the process of feeding the masses, yet you want to be able to bring something that is not the “same ole, same ole.”  The Festive Orzo Salad in River Road Recipes IV: Warm Welcomes, is a nice addition to this year’s tailgate menu!  You can also add grilled chicken breasts or shrimp to make it a hearty entrée!

Photo by Jessica McVea.

Photo by Jessica McVea.

Festive Orzo Salad, RRR IV, p. 243
Balsamic Vinaigrette
  • 3/4 cup light olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon sugar


  • 1 bunch asparagus spears
  • 16 ounces orzo
  • 1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 1 (2-ounce) can black olives, drained
  • 1 small red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 1 small yellow bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 to 1/2 purple onion, chopped
  • 1/2 (8-ounce) jar sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
Photo by Jessica McVea.

Photo by Jessica McVea.

For the vinaigrette, combine the olive oil, vinegar, mustard, and sugar in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and seal tightly.  Shake to blend.

For the salad, snap off the woody ends of the asparagus spears.  Steam until tender-crisp; drain.  Cut each spear into 4 or 5 portions.  Cook the pasta using the package directions; drain.

Combine the pasta, artichokes, olives, bell peppers, onion and sun-dried tomatoes in a bowl and mix well.  Add the vinaigrette and toss to coat.  Add the asparagus, cheese and basil and mix gently.  Marinate, covered, in the refrigerator for 2 to 10 hours. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.

Photo by Jessica McVea.

Photo by Jessica McVea.

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