Summer is this Asparagus Tomato and Grilled Corn Orzo Pasta Salad! Tender asparagus, grilled corn and cherry tomatoes are tossed with feta, fresh basil and drizzled with a simple balsamic vinaigrette. So incredibly flavorful and simple to throw together! Serves 24 (1/2 cup) servings.
I’m SO excited to share this pasta salad recipe with you!
A while ago we were at a cookout with good friends and had one of the best meals we’ve ate in a long time. It’s true. There’s something about when other people cook for you amiright?! There were chicken and beef kebabs, these sweet and spicy baked beans and this amazing orzo pasta salad.
I was standing in the kitchen watching my friend Melissa (Hi Melissa!) throw together this simple pasta salad. Her version, which obviously inspired this version (and really isn’t much different) had cherry tomatoes, asparagus, crumbled feta cheese and she drizzled the whole thing with a balsamic vinaigrette. It was so simple and incredibly delicious. Together Pat and I put a major dent in her salad and equally loved it the same.
So I made it the following week. And when Pat got home from work on Monday and he took one look at the salad and asked if it was “the salad“. All the while he was piling an impressive mound of it onto his plate. I may or may not have done the same. I will never tell.
To Make This Asparagus, Tomato and Grilled Corn Orzo Pasta Salad You Will Need:
for the balsamic dressing:
- garlic – This adds distinct and punchy flavor to the pasta salad.
- kosher salt – You need this in order to draw out flavor.
- freshly ground black pepper – This will add some subtle bite and flavor.
- balsamic vinegar – For tang and acidity.
- olive oil – This adds richness and will round out the dressing.
for the salad:
- orzo pasta – A fun rice shaped pasta that works great in pasta salad.
- fine salt – sea salt or pink himalayan. This is for salting water and seasoning the pasta while it cooks.
- sweet corn on the cob – Adds flavor and pops of sweetness.
- asparagus – Gives this salad an earthy and mildly bitter flavor.
- cherry tomatoes – Adds a burst of sweetness and acidity.
- feta – This adds a salty, tangy and creamy texture.
- fresh basil – Will add a fresh herbaceous flavor.
- kosher salt – For seasoning pasta salad to taste.
- freshly ground black pepper – This will add some subtle bite and flavor. Season salad to taste.
MAKE THE DRESSING:
In a jar or container with a tight-fitting lid add; 2 cloves grated or minced fresh garlic , 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar and 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil.
Secure the lid and shake well to combine.
Make The Pasta:
The hardest part, and I use that term loosely, is cooking the pasta. I just bring a large pot of water to a boil, dump in a palm-full (about 1 to 2 tablespoons) of fine sea salt and then add in 1 pound of pasta. It’s a good idea to stir the pasta every couple of minutes.
Once cooked, drain the pasta into a colander and rinse with cool water. Doing this rinses off any of the starch clinging to the pasta, which in turn keeps the pasta from sticking together. It also halts any further cooking and cools the pasta down so you can quickly make the salad.
I only ever rinse pasta for cold pasta salads. I pretty sure it’s considered a culinary sin otherwise.
Cook the Asparagus:
Preheat your oven to 500°. Spray a small, rimmed sheet pan with olive oil spray. Arrange 12 ounces or 1 bunch trimmed asparagus on the pan, lightly spray with olive oil.
Roast for 6 minutes for thin asparagus and 8 minutes if the stems are thick. Rotate the pan halfway through roasting.
You can also grill the asparagus following the same steps (spray with nonstick spray and add to a grill basket) and grilling on your preheated 500° grill. Or, blanch asparagus in salted boiling water for 4 minutes or so. Once cool enough to handle, transfer to a cutting board and cut into 1-inch pieces.
Grill The Corn:
Meanwhile, preheat your grill to 400° or preheat a grill pan on your stovetop. Spray your corn on the cob with avocado oil or olive oil and grill for about 8 to 10 minutes or until bright yellow and charred in spots. Let cool until safe to handle and slice off of the cob.
Build The Orzo Salad:
Then toss the rinsed and drained cooked pasta into a large mixing bowl with 1 pint halved cherry tomatoes, the grilled corn kernels and roasted asparagus.
Next add in 4 ounces crumbled feta and 1 to 2 tablespoons of thinly sliced basil leaves.
Toss well to combine.
Pour 2/3 of the dressing over top. I like to save the rest of the dressing for pouring over the salad right before serving.
Toss one last time, taste and season with salt and pepper to your preference.
Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Transfer to a serving bowl, pour the rest of the dressing over top and sprinkle with more feta and some freshly ground black pepper!
We ate this corn orzo salad along with grilled chicken, roasted potatoes and slices of grilled bread. It’s the perfect summer meal.
The grilled sweet corn with the fresh and slightly acidic cherry tomatoes mixed with the salty feta, pair perfectly with the earthy asparagus. And the fresh basil and balsamic dressing ties this whole dish together.
Asparagus Tomato and Grilled Corn Orzo Pasta Salad
Serves 24 (1/2 cup) servings.
FOR THE VINAIGRETTE:
- 2 garlic cloves grated
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
FOR THE ORZO PASTA SALAD:
- 16 ounces dried orzo pasta
- fine sea salt for seasoning the pasta water
- 2 to 3 ears sweet corn
- olive oil spray or avocado oil spray
- 1 bunch asparagus
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes halved
- 4 ounces feta cheese crumbled
- 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves thinly sliced
- kosher salt to taste
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
MAKE THE DRESSING:
Add garlic, slat, black pepper, vinegar and oil to a jar. Secure the lid and shake well to combine.
MAKE THE SALAD:
Cook The Pasta: Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add in the sea salt to the water along with the pasta. Stir and cook, following the instructions on your package. Once cooked, drain and rinse with cold water.
Cook The Asparagus: Preheat your oven to 500°. Trim off the bottom inch/inch and a half (or so) of each asparagus stalk.
Spray a small, rimmed sheet pan with olive oil spray. Arrange 12 ounces or 1 small bunch trimmed asparagus on the pan, lightly spray with olive oil and season with kosher salt and ground black pepper. Roast for 6 minutes for thin asparagus and 8 minutes if the stems are thick. Rotate the pan halfway through roasting.
Once cool enough to handle, transfer to a cutting board and cut into roughly 1-inch pieces
Grill The Corn: Preheat your grill to 400° or heat a grill pan. Spray your corn on the cob with avocado oil or olive oil and grill for about 8 to 10 minutes (turning every so often) or until bright yellow and charred in spots.
Let cool and slice off of the cob.
To a large mixing bowl add the orzo, corn, tomatoes, asparagus pieces and feta cheese. Add in the basil and toss a few times. Pour in a little of the dressing, season with salt and pepper to taste and then toss to combine.
Serve immediately or chill until ready to serve. Pour reserved dressing over top when ready to serve and sprinkle with extra feta and black pepper.
If making this in advance, I would add the ingredients to a bowl and then pour in the dressing right before serving.
Other Ways To Cook Asparagus:
You can also grill the asparagus following the same steps (trim and spray asparagus), add to a grill basket and grill on your preheated 500° grill.
Or, blanch asparagus in salted boiling water for 4 minutes or so.