Easy Work Lunch! Cold Orzo Pasta Salad


All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2014

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So – I have joined the ranks of the masses & accepted a full-time job.  I am story assisting on an Esquire TV show called – appropriately enough – “Best Bars in America.”  The job is challenging but fun & the hours are long.  The long hours have really cut into my indulging in cooking & lunches, in particular, have been a challenge.  I want something that is good at room temperature (because there is no oven & I loathe microwaves) and it can’t be something stinky, like curry or egg salad, lest I gross out my peers.  I want it to be relatively healthy & light (so I don’t get sleepy) and I want it to be satisfying.

Initially, I bought expensive pre-made things – like quinoa or kale salads.   That got $$ and boring really fast.  My vegan chicken salads have worked nicely – wrapped in lettuce, but you can’t eat that 5 days a week.  So – one morning – with 30 minutes to go before work – I whipped this up from just what I had around.

Like most of my recipes – it is infinitely customizable.

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You can add anything in this bad boy.   I will list what I used in just a moment but the real secret to this salad is the dressing.  I just used a Newman’s Own Italian once & a Ken’s Steakhouse Caesar another – but you can make your own or use a different dressing each time.  I made a TON of this stuff & the real secrets are two-fold:

1) Do not add the tomatoes until the day you are going to eat it because tomatoes really do not do well in the fridge and

2) do not dress it until JUST before you eat it.

So – I would bring a little container of this to work each say & bring a little dressing in a plastic bottle & dress it just before I ate it.  I ate it 4 days in a row.  Here are the ingredients I used:


The bulk of a package of orzo – cooked as directed (but any pasta – shells, penne, butterflies, whatever – will do) and drained & rinsed

Cherry tomatoes – halved

Garbanzo beans

Sliced radishes

Sliced black olives

Chopped cucumber

Chopped red cabbage

Diced basil

Chopped mint

Salad dressing (I used Newman’s Own Lite Italian & Ken’s Caesar alternately but you can use any you prefer – or MAKE yourself)

And I just tossed various portions or each ingredient together & stored it in the fridge (sans tomatoes – that is – because, as I said, tomatoes get yucky in the fridge).

Other things you might add:

Avocado (but not until just before you eat it)



Chopped kale

Feta (or other) cheese

Diced carrots

Diced celery

Diced red onion

Sliced mushrooms

Raisins (or other dried fruit)


Anything, really.  Even vegan (or real) chicken or some cooked shrimp.

See?  EASY!

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2 thoughts on “Easy Work Lunch! Cold Orzo Pasta Salad

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