Orzo Salad with Lemon and Butternut
This Orzo Salad with Lemon and Butternut Squash is the perfect salad. It’s tangy, bright, and filled with creamy goat cheese, sweet roasted butternut squash, and nutty pine nuts. It’s a delicious fall salad and so pretty, too!
Every part of this easy Orzo Salad with Lemon and Butternut Squash is heavenly. I love the al dente texture of DeLallo’s earthy whole grain orzo combined with the creamy goat cheese and squash cubes. The sharpness of the bright green arugula and deep red radicchio balance the flavors, and the sweet, lemony dressing brings it all together. This post is sponsored by Delallo.
Orzo Salad with Lemon and Butternut
There’s so much going on in this salad, and every bite is an explosion of flavor! It’s also a beautiful salad – serve it in a pretty bowl that accentuates the colors in the salad, and it’ll be the talk of the table!
Why I love Orzo Salad with Butternut Squash
I love serving this salad as a light lunch with friends, but it’s also delicious as a side dish with a hearty fall or winter dinner. See all my suggestions below!
The heart of this pasta salad is the short orzo pasta (noodle). We always choose Italian-made DeLallo, because it’s a a high quality pasta. It’s also my favorite! Be sure to cook the pasta al denté to absorb the dressing better.
Gather these ingredients
- DeLallo whole wheat orzo
- Dried cranberries
- Olive oil
- Goat cheese – chilled and crumbled.
- Butternut squash – 2 packages of pre-cut Trader Joe’s squash or see below.
- Pine nuts – toasted.
- Pepitas – toasted.
- Radicchio – Thinly sliced.
For the Lemon Balsamic Dressing
- Lemon juice – from a fresh lemon.
- Lemon zest – from that same lemon.
- Thyme – Fresh thyme, minced.
- Salt and pepper
- DeLallo Golden Balsamic Vinegar
- Olive oil – Good quality olive oil.
- Maple syrup – Use real maple syrup for the best flavor.
- White balsamic vinegar
- Mayonnaise – Regular or low-fat is fine.
What are pine nuts?
Pine nuts aren’t nuts at all but are seeds from a pinecone. All pinecones produce seeds, but only some varieties of pine trees produce seeds that are large enough to be harvested and eaten. Because of the long growing time and laborious harvesting methods, pine nuts can be pricy, but their sweet, crunchy flavor is remarkable and oh-so-delicious!
How to make the best orzo pasta salad
- Preheat your oven to 400-F, line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and put it in the oven while it is preheating.
- Toss the butternut squash cubes with olive oil and salt, then, when the oven is hot, add the squash cubes to the pan in an even layer and bake until golden.
- Cook the DeLallo whole wheat orzo in salt water according to package directions. I use about 1 ½ tablespoons of Diamond kosher salt and cook for about 6-7 minutes for perfectly al dente pasta.
- Chop the radicchio and make the dressing by mixing the lemon juice, zest, thyme, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, maple syrup, mayonnaise, and vinegars. Whisk until emulsified and season with salt and pepper.
- Toss the cooked and drained pasta with cranberries, goat cheese, butternut squash, arugula, pine nuts, pepitas, and radicchio.
- Pour the dressing over the top and toss to coat. Adjust the salt and pepper.
- Transfer the salad to a serving bowl and chill before serving.
Tips & substitutions
This is an easy orzo salad recipe! Here are my tips and variations to make it perfect every time!
- Craisins or unsweetened dried cranberries are great in this salad, but so too are dried cherries.
- Add the dried fruit to the warm pasta to help hydrate and plump them.
- A bit of mayonnaise in the dressing might seem odd, but it adds creaminess and helps keep the dressing from separating. You can also use Dijon mustard if you like it tangier.
- Put the dressing ingredients into a jar with a tightly fitting lid and shake it to combine. You can also then pour it right from the jar.
- Adjust the seasoning before serving.
- Pre-cut butternut squash is so easy, but you can cut it yourself. You’ll need about 3-4 cups of 1.5-2-inch cubes.
- You don’t want the noodles to become mushy, so make sure and rinse and drain the pasta and make sure it’s cool before adding the other ingredients.
- No pine nuts? Try walnuts, or just add extra pepitas.
This is a stunning lunch salad, but it’s also a colorful and tasty appetizer or side dish. I love pairing it with other fall-inspired fare like Sweet Potato Buttermilk Biscuits, roasted pork tenderloin, Orange Spiced Salmon, and Roasted Balsamic Chicken.
Store any leftover Orzo Salad with Lemon and Butternut Squash in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days. Add a drizzle of olive oil before tossing and serving the leftovers if it looks a bit dry.
Check out these awesome pasta salad recipes while you’re here
Get the Recipe:
Orzo Salad with Lemon and Butternut Squash
- 1 lb Delallo Whole Wheat Orzo
- 1 c dried cranberries or cherries
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 4 oz goat cheese, chilled and crumbled
- 24 oz butternut squash, cubed (2 packages precut squash from Trader Joe's, or 3-4 cups of 1 1/2-2’’ thick cubes)
- 4 c arugula, about 3 oz
- ¼ c pine nuts, toasted (substitute toasted walnuts or additional pepitas)
- ⅓ c roasted pepitas
- ½ head raddichio, thinly sliced
Lemon Balsamic Dressing:
- 1 ½ Tbsp lemon juice and 1/2 tsp zest
- ½ tsp lemon zest
- 2 tsp minced thyme
- 1 tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 2 Tbsp DeLallo Golden Balsamic Vinegar
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 ½ Tbsp maple syrup
- 2 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar
- 1 Tbsp mayonnaise
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large sheet tray with parchment and place in the oven to preheat.
- Toss butternut cubes in 1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil and about 3/4 tsp salt. Once the oven and the pan are preheated, add the squash to the pan and spread in an even layer. Bake 22-28 minutes until golden. Let cool.
While the butternut roasts, cook the pasta:
- In a large pot, cook pasta according to package directions (make sure to salt the water with about 1 1/2 Tbsp salt. I boil mine 6-7 minutes for el dente. Drain the pasta, rinse with cold water, then transfer to a bowl. Add the cranberries and 2 Tbsp olive oil. Stir to combine, then refrigerate until cool.
- As the pasta cools, chop the radicchio, gather remaining ingredients, and make the dressing.
- To make the dressing, mix together the lemon juice and zest, minced thyme, 2 Tbsp olive oil, maple syrup, mayonnaise, balsamic, and salt and pepper (plus more to taste).
- In a large bowl, combine the cooled pasta and cranberries, goat cheese, butternut, arugula, pine nuts, pepitas, and radicchio. Pour over the dressing and toss. Taste for additional salt and pepper, then transfer a serving bowl. Serve chilled as a side dish or for lunch.