Abigail Monti / Daily Nexus

With heatwave after heatwave rolling through Isla Vista, it’s time to put warm winter dishes to the side. I mean, what’s more uncomfortable than forcing down hot soup in 80-degree weather? Save yourself some sweat and try out this super easy, chilled pasta salad instead. 

The best part about this recipe is its versatility. Pretty much every ingredient can be switched out without consequence. Don’t have broccoli and bell pepper but have zucchini and asparagus? Sure, throw them in. Prefer another type of salad dressing? Any Italian or vinaigrette dressing will work just fine. Want to go vegetarian? Leave out the sausage and lose no flavor. Any combination is a good combination — trust me, I’ve tried them all.

Ingredients (makes 4 servings): 

  • 1 cup uncooked orzo
  • 1/2 cup broccoli florets 
  • 1/2 cup bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chickpeas
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup black olives, halved
  • 2 to 3 Italian sausage links, chopped
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta
  • 1/4 balsamic salad dressing
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Heat the oven to 425 F.
  2. In a pot of boiling, salted water, cook the orzo according to the directions on its box. Once done, transfer the orzo to a large bowl and add a little olive oil to prevent the pasta from sticking together. Set the bowl aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, add the broccoli, bell pepper, chickpeas, sausage and olive oil. Mix to coat the ingredients with the olive oil thoroughly, then transfer to a baking tray. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook in the oven for about 15 minutes, mixing halfway through. Once done, let cool for a few minutes, then add to the bowl with the orzo.
  4. Place the bowl in the fridge for 30 minutes, or until chilled. 
  5. Add the tomatoes, olives and feta to the pasta mixture. Drizzle with balsamic dressing, and mix to coat.

If you often find yourself in a time crunch around mealtimes due to class, work or the surf, you can make this dish in advance and keep it in the fridge until you need to eat it. The salad dressing acts as a marinade, meaning it only gets better with time. I recommend taking advantage of the sun and bringing this pasta salad with you on your next beach picnic!

A version of this article appeared on page 14 of the April 14, 2022 version of the Daily Nexus.