Vegetarian Pasta Salad

This vegetarian pasta salad is inspired by the traditional Italian ingredients of juicy ripe tomatoes, creamy mozzarella, fragrant basil and salty flavoursome olives. It is made with the rice shaped orzo pasta, which is less well known, but works really well in the salad as its size and shape really compliments the other ingredients and doesn't dominate the fork - allowing you to get a full mouthful of all the flavours and ingredients. The salad also has cannellini beans for protein and peppers for extra texture and crunch. 

Like other vegetarian pasta salads, this goes down well at a BBQ or as part of a buffet. It is also great to make to serve in a packed lunch as it travels well and is a really satisfying dish to keep you going for the rest of the afternoon!

Serves 6

Preparation time: 10 minutes (much of which can be done whilst the pasta is cooking)

Cooking time: 10 minutes (or according to the pasta cooking instructions)

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Ingredients for Vegetarian Pasta Salad:

  • 200g / 2 cups Orzo pasta
  • 32 Black Olives (stones removed)
  • 12 Cherry Tomatoes
  • 8 Tablespoons Cannellini Beans
  • 1 Red, Orange or Yellow Pepper
  • 20 Mozzarella Pearls
  • Handful Fresh Basil

For the dressing:

  • 6 Tablespoons Olive Oil (Extra Virgin if possible)
  • 6 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons Pesto (Shop bought is fine!)

Equipment Needed:

  • Saucepan
  • Colander
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Chopping board and sharp knife
  • Can opener
  • Measuring spoons
  • Glass jar, or other container with a tight sealed lid
  • Kitchen towel


  1. Place the Orzo pasta in a large pan of boiling salted water. Cook according to the packet instructions. Drain into the colander and then rinse immediately with cold water so that the pasta does not continue to cook and to avoid the pasta getting glutinous and sticky whilst it is cooling down.
  2. Prepare the vegetables for the salad. Chop the tomatoes in quarters and the olives in half. Remove the seeds, stem and pith from the pepper and cut the flesh into bite sized pieces. Place all these vegetables into the large mixing bowl.
  3. Add the cooled pasta to the bowl.
  4. Open the can of cannellini beans and drain (you can use the same colander as you used for the pasta to save washing up!) rinse well to remove any of the stickiness from the liquid that the beans were preserved in. Add 8 tablespoons of beans to the salad bowl. (Any left over beans can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days)
  5. Remove the mozzarella pearls from the whey liquid that they are stored in. Pat dry the little balls (using kitchen towel) and cut each pearl into quarters. Add these to the pasta salad and give it a thorough stir to mix.
  6. Next make the dressing - Place the olive oil, balsamic vinegar and pesto into a jar and screw the lid on tightly. Give the jar a really good shake until all the ingredients are combined. Pour over the vegetarian pasta salad and stir well. The amount of dressing in this recipe should be just right for the amount of ingredients in the bowl, but dressing is a personal preference, so feel free to add more or less according to taste.
  7. Decant the pasta salad into a nice serving dish.
  8. Roughly chop the basil leaves and garnish the salad. Serve immediately. 

This is best made and eaten within a few hours. However, any left overs can be stored in the fridge and eaten the next day. It will still taste fine a couple of days later, but the pasta and the mozzarella will start to discolour after 24 hours and so it won't look as appetising.