The summer season of cooking has begun! All projections are showing it’s going to be another hot one. Nothing hits like a light and fresh salad that’s easy to make, can be made ahead, and eaten for a couple of days.

This salad is so versatile, so I classify it as a zero waste recipe, and, it fits into a DASH plan as well. It can be served as a side dish, you can add different veggies or herbs to it, or some crumbled feta cheese instead of Parmesan. You could turn it into an entree by adding protein – canned tuna, beans, or roasted chicken.

Use whatever you have on hand, however I love the zucchini for this salad. The key to this salad is to pan-fry the zucchini slices in hot olive oil. While it’s easy, it’s a little tedious to flip each piece, but it’s worth the time. You will work in batches, about one batch per zucchini. Add the zucchini in one layer into a pan of hot oil, cook about 2-3 minutes per side, flipping each piece once. This builds flavor, and it allows the zucchini to hold its shape, and not get mushy in the salad. If you have a grill, you could slice the zucchini lengthwise instead, coat with olive oil, and grill, turning once. Once grilled, chop the slices into bit-sized pieces.

Hope you enjoy it!

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Zucchini Tomato Orzo Salad

You'll love this light and fresh salad. You can use more or less tomatoes or zucchini, or any veggies or herbs you have on hand.
Servings 6 servings
Author Rosanne Rust MS RDN,



  • 3 small-medium zucchini
  • 1 cup orzo pasta
  • 2 TB olive oil, divided
  • 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 2 TB chopped, fresh basil garnish
  • 2 TB grated Parmesan cheese optional garnish


  • 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 TB lemon balsamic vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
  • 1 TB dijon mustard
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • Ground black pepper to taste


  • Slice the zucchini evenly into thin (1/4-inch) slices. Set aside, and get pasta water ready.
  • Bring a 3-quart pot of water to boil. Add a teaspoon of salt to the water. When it comes to a full boil, add the orzo and stir. Cook according to al dente package directions (about 6-7 minutes), stirring occasionally. Drain, but do not rinse, and set aside. If it gets a little sticky, add a teaspoon of olive oil and fluff.
  • While the pasta water boils, heat a a large aluminum pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add olive oil and heat for 1 minute.
  • In batches, add zucchini slices, in one layer, to pan. Let them cook about 2-3 minutes per side, and turn only once, when they are lightly browned. Work in batches (about one batch per zucchini). Add more oil if needed. Set each batch aside in a large serving bowl while you fry the next batch.
    Cook the orzo while the zucchini slices fry.
  • Make the dressing - add the juice from one lemon, olive oil, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper to a medium bowl or 2-cup glass measuring cup. Whisk until combined.
  • Add the sliced tomatoes to the zucchini bowl. Lightly salt the tomatoes. Add the orzo and mix together gently. Pour the dressing over the orzo-vegetable mixture. Mix until well-coated. Season with more salt and pepper if desired. Refrigerate for an hour, or overnight.
  • When ready to serve, toss the salad, then garnish with basil and grated Parmesan.


Use whatever fresh or dried herbs you have.
Add feta cheese in place of Parmesan if desired.
To make it a main dish, add leftover cooked chicken or a can of tuna to add protein.