This Lemon Orzo Pasta Salad is now THE dish I bring to all of our summer get-togethers! Loaded with fresh lemon flavor, tons of herbs, roasted red peppers, summer squash, and tangy feta cheese, it’s secretly simple to prepare and always a crowd-pleaser at every picnic and BBQ!

The lemon orzo pasta salad is tossed in a large bowl.

I’ve always been a BIG fan of pasta salads. (I can thank my Mom’s Italian Dressing Pasta Salad for that obsession!)

So, when I discovered the cute, petite orzo pasta, I knew exactly what I had to make with it!

A little trick I discovered while making the lemony herb dressing was a game-changer. After roasting red peppers in the air fryer for the salad, I popped the flavorful skins into the dressing, gave it a good shake, and let it sit for 20 minutes. The flavors from the peppers melded beautifully with the bright lemon and herbs, completely transforming the vinaigrette.

This flavor-packed dressing, combined with fresh summer produce like yellow squash and zucchini, sliced basil, tangy feta cheese and red onion, makes this pasta salad our go-to in the summer months!

It’s now THE dish I bring to all of our summer BBQs and one of our favorites to make on Salad Sundays! (With a side of the best Balsamic Grilled Chicken if we need extra protein.)

Orzo, squash, red peppers, lemon, olive oil, and herbs are the main ingredients of Lemon Orzo Pasta Salad.
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Ingredients You’ll Need

Notes about the ingredients needed for this Lemon Orzo Pasta Salad recipe are below. Jump to recipe for the exact measurements.

  • Orzo pasta. Often confused and thought to be in the rice family, this is actually a short-cut pasta! It’s got a delightfully chewy texture and adorable appearance. It’s typically made from semolina flour, but many other varieties exist — even gluten-free orzo if you need it!
  • Red peppers. These are the second star of the show. Red peppers are roasted in either the air fryer or the oven (I’ll give you both sets of instructions in the recipe card below!) and then their flesh AND skin are used! Make sure you get red peppers for the best flavor and avoid green bell peppers as they are not nearly as naturally sweet.
  • Squash. Both zucchini and yellow summer squash make up the bulk of the veggies. You can sub one for the other if you need to.
  • Feta cheese. This tangy and salty cheese complements the richer flavors of the red peppers and oil-based vinaigrette.
  • Lemon herb vinaigrette. Fresh lemon juice, zest, a hint of honey, with a good bit of dried oregano and thyme make a homemade dressing that’s got a punch of flavor!
  • Fresh basil. It may seem like an afterthought, but trust me on this — fresh herbs are my secret to taking any salad over the top with flavor!

Can’t find orzo pasta?

This small pasta can sometimes be difficult to find. Feel free to substitute it with other short-cut pastas such as couscous, farfalle, or rotini.

5 Secrets to Healthier Family Dinners
Tips & recipes for getting yummy — and healthy — meals on the table.

How to Make this Lemon Orzo Pasta Salad

Below you’ll find the simple steps to make this Lemon Orzo Pasta Salad recipe. Jump to recipe for the printable instructions.

1. Make the orzo pasta.

Cook the orzo pasta in a large pot of water. Follow the cooking instructions.

How to Prevent Mushy Pasta

Ending up with a mushy pasta salad is the WORST! To prevent this, check your pasta before draining. You want it to be al dente and have a slightly chewy texture. The pasta will soak up some of the dressing in the pasta salad and get even more tender as it sits!

2. Air fry the red bell peppers.

Start by slicing the red bell peppers into pieces, about ½-inch from the core. You should end up with 4 slices from each bell pepper.

Scrape out the membranes and seeds, then discard them. Drizzle the inside of the bell pepper with olive oil and ¼ teaspoon salt. Air fry the bell pepper pieces skin-side up in a single layer. Cook at 400°F for 14 to 15 minutes. (Here are more details on how to Air Fry Roasted Red Peppers.)

When they’re done, place them in a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a plate. Let the pieces steam for 15 minutes, just until the peppers are cool to the touch.

After the bell peppers have cooled, peel and remove the skin from each piece. You’ll want to save 3 to 4 of the larger pieces of blistered skin. Dice the meat into ½-inch pieces.

3. Air fry the zucchini and squash.

While the red peppers are cooking, add the diced squash to a large bowl with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil along with ¾ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper. Toss until everything is coated well.

Spread the coated squash in the air fryer basket in a single layer. Cook at 375°F for 12 to 14 minutes. The squash should be tender.

4. Make the lemon herb dressing.

The easiest way to make this dressing is in a 16-ounce mason jar. Add the olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, red wine vinegar, honey, garlic, oregano, thyme, red pepper, salt, and black pepper. Toss in the reserved pieces of skin from the roasted red pepper.

Shake the dressing ingredients vigorously for 20 to 30 seconds, or until everything is combined. Let the dressing rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.

5. Bring the pasta salad together.

Once everything is ready, it’s time to build the pasta salad. Add the cooked orzo pasta that has been cooled along with the roasted red peppers, roasted squash, crumbled feta cheese, red onion, and basil.

Remove the bell pepper skins from the dressing, then shake again for 10 to 15 seconds. Drizzle the dressing over the salad ingredients. Then, toss until everything is well combined. You can serve this salad immediately, or chill for 3 to 4 hours if you prefer it cold.

The lemon herb dressing is added to the orzo pasta salad ingredients.

Other Vegetables to Add

You can change up the vegetables, or add in extras to change the flavor. Try these for a delicious twist:

  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Cucumber
  • Avocado
  • Asparagus

Prep Ahead and Storage Instructions

  • Prep: This pasta can easily be made ahead of time! Simply make it up and keep in in the fridge. In fact, the flavors are even better the next day.
  • Storage: This pasta salad will last for up to 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator when stored in an airtight container.

More Summer Pasta Salad Recipes

When the warmer weather rolls around, these pasta salad recipes are perfect.

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5 from 2 votes

Lemon Orzo Pasta Salad with Feta

This Lemon Orzo Pasta Salad is now THE dish I bring to all of our summer get-togethers! Loaded with fresh lemon flavor, tons of herbs, roasted red peppers, summer squash, and tangy feta cheese, it's secretly simple to prepare and always a crowd-pleaser at every picnic and BBQ!
The lemon orzo pasta salad is tossed in a large bowl.
Yield 6 servings
Prep 20 minutes
Cook 30 minutes
Total 50 minutes
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Ingredients 

  • 12 oz. orzo pasta
  • 2 small red bell peppers seeds and core removed
  • 1 zucchini squash diced
  • 1 yellow squash diced
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil divided
  • 1 tsp. salt divided, plus more to taste
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • 6 oz. crumbled feta cheese
  • ½ small red onion thinly sliced
  • ½ cup thinly sliced basil

Lemony Herb Salad Dressing

  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 lemon juice and zest
  • 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 garlic clove finely minced
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • ½ tsp. dried thyme
  • ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
  • ½ tsp. salt plus more to taste
  • ¼ tsp. black pepper

Instructions 

  • Preheat air fryer to 400°F.
  • Cook pasta according to package directions.
    12 oz. orzo pasta
  • Slice ½” to the right or left of the bell pepper stems from top to bottom to remove 4 pieces, leaving the core intact. Scrape out and discard any membranes or seeds. Repeat with the other pepper. Drizzle the inside of the pieces with 1 tablespoon oil and sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt.
    2 small red bell peppers, 3 Tbsp. olive oil, 1 tsp. salt
  • Place pepper pieces skin-side up in the preheated air fryer basket and cook for 14-15 minutes, or until the skin is blistered. (See recipe note if roasting in the oven.) Once roasted, add peppers to a large bowl and cover with either plastic wrap or a plate so the steam can finish cooking them. Let rest for 15 minutes, or until the peppers are cool enough to touch.
  • Meanwhile, add the diced squash to a large bowl along with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, ¾ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon black pepper. Toss until the squash is well coated. Add to the air fryer basket in a single layer, reduce the heat to 375°F and cook for 12-14 minutes, or until the squash is tender.
    1 zucchini squash, 1 yellow squash, 3 Tbsp. olive oil, 1 tsp. salt, ½ tsp. black pepper
  • Once the pepper pieces are cooled, peel and remove the skin from each piece of pepper. Reserve 3-4 of the larger pieces of blistered skin. Dice the roasted red peppers into ½” pieces.
  • For the Lemony Herb Dressing: In a 16-oz. mason jar, add the olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, red wine vinegar, honey, garlic, oregano, thyme, red pepper, salt, and black pepper along with the reserved pieces of roasted red pepper skin. Shake vigorously for 20-30 seconds or until the dressing is emulsified. Set this aside to rest for at least 10 minutes.
    ½ cup olive oil, 1 lemon, 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar, 1 Tbsp. honey, 1 garlic clove, 1 tsp. dried oregano, ½ tsp. dried thyme, ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes, ½ tsp. salt, ¼ tsp. black pepper
  • Add the cooled and cooked orzo pasta to a large salad bowl along with the roasted squash, diced roasted bell peppers, feta cheese crumbles, red onion, and basil. Remove the bell pepper skins from the mason jar and shake the salad dressing for another 10-15 seconds to ensure it is emulsified. Drizzle dressing over the salad and toss until well combined. Serve immediately with additional finely chopped fresh parsley or chill for 3-4 hours to serve cold.
    6 oz. crumbled feta cheese, ½ cup thinly sliced basil, ½ small red onion
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5 from 2 votes

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Notes

  • Serving Size: This is calculated based on a serving size for a full meal. If serving as a side, the amount would be cut in half.
  • To roast the red bell peppers and squash in the oven: Preheat it to 450°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and place the bell pepper slices face-down in a single layer. Cook for 25-30 minutes, or until the skin is blistered. You can then place the squash on the same sheet pan, reduce the oven temperature to 425°F, and cook for 20-25 minutes, or until tender.

Nutrition

Calories: 605kcal, Carbohydrates: 68g, Protein: 14g, Fat: 33g, Saturated Fat: 7g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g, Monounsaturated Fat: 19g, Trans Fat: 0.03g, Cholesterol: 25mg, Sodium: 819mg, Potassium: 822mg, Fiber: 7g, Sugar: 10g, Vitamin A: 14812IU, Vitamin C: 93mg, Calcium: 252mg, Iron: 3mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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5 Secrets to Healthier Family Dinners
Tips & recipes for getting yummy — and healthy — meals on the table.

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