This pesto orzo salad is made with creamy ricotta and salty pistachios for a uniquely delicious pasta dish! You can enjoy this recipe served warm or cold!

pesto orzo salad
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I’ve been on an orzo pasta kick lately. I love how quickly it cooks and it’s easy to keep a box in my pantry for a last-minute lunch. This pesto orzo salad is one of my favorites. Creamy ricotta combines with savory pesto to create a flavorful sauce. I added peas to get in more green veggies and pistachios for crunch and texture. If you want a different twist on pesto, try my pesto calabrese recipe!

What is orzo?

Orzo is a small pasta that’s shaped like rice. Some people get it confused with rice because it looks so similar, but it cooks just like any other pasta! You can make it on the stovetop, in an Instant Pot or even in a rice cooker! Because of its small shape, it cooks quickly.


The Best Store-Bought Pesto

Store-bought pesto can be hit or miss. I checked America’s Test Kitchen’s recommendation for the best store-bought pesto and it did not disappoint! I bought Buitoni’s Basil Pesto, which is sold in the refrigerated section at the grocery store. It’s the best pre-made pesto I’ve tried! I also like Trader Joe’s Kale & Pine Nut pesto if you can’t find Buitoni’s. If you have leftover pesto, try this pesto rice for a flavorful side dish or add a drizzle of pesto to this vegan flatbread pizza.

pesto orzo salad ingredients

Ingredients & Substitutions

I used frozen peas and defrosted them in the microwave, but you can also use canned peas. I added roasted and salted pistachios for a salty crunch, but you could substitute with pine nuts. For an added salty flavor, I sprinkled Pecorino Romano on top, but you could substitute it with Parmesan if desired. If you wanted to make this recipe vegan, use a vegan ricotta like this one from Kite Hill and skip the Pecorino Romano.

Tips & Tricks

  • I prefer to eat this pasta warm, but if you plan to serve it cold, I recommend cooking the pasta a little past al dente, as it will firm up when chilled.
  • The leftovers reheat well, but you may need to add a splash of water, if it dries out in the microwave.
  • Adjust the seasonings based on the pesto. You may need to add additional salt and pepper.
orzo pasta in a bowl with ricotta and pesto

How to Store Leftovers

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge. To reheat, microwave on 50% power for 1 minute intervals, until heated. You may need to add a splash of water to the dish if it begins to dry out. If you have extra orzo, I recommend tossing it in a little olive oil before storing in the fridge. That can help prevent it from clumping. You can add it to soups or salads, or toss with your favorite pasta sauce.

More Orzo Recipes

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orzo pesto pasta

Pesto Orzo Salad

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 2 reviews
  • Author: Liz Thomson
  • Prep Time: 7 minutes
  • Cook Time: 8 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegetarian


This pesto orzo salad is made with creamy ricotta and salty pistachios for a uniquely delicious pasta dish! You can enjoy this recipe served warm or cold!


Units Scale
  • 1 lb orzo pasta
  • 1/4 cup reserved pasta water
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 3 tablespoons pesto
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 2 tablespoons pistachios
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice, plus 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese


  1. Cook the orzo according to package directions, reserving ½ cup of pasta water.
  2. In a bowl, combine the ricotta, pesto, lemon juice, lemon zest, and 1/4 cup of the pasta water.
  3. In a larger bowl, combine the cooked orzo, peas, and pistachios with the ricotta mixture. If the mixture is too dry, add the remaining pasta water.
  4. Sprinkle with shredded Pecorino Romano