I don’t tend to observe Easter with quite the same concentration of festive spirit that I bring to the winter holidays, but I do welcome its approach each year, if only as an opportunity to cook some celebratory springtime food. This simple vegan spring lemon orzo pasta salad has it all: bright, lemony flavor, a bounty of tender spring vegetables, and plenty of herbs.
When I was growing up, my father celebrated Easter as an Anglican, on the Gregorian calendar, while my mother observed Greek Easter, which follows the Julian calendar. The two holidays were often weeks apart, so Easter came twice in my home. My father’s Easter involved the traditional Easter fare: ham, potato salad, hot cross buns, frittatas and other brunch foods. My mother’s was marked by tsoureki bread, avgolemono soup, and what felt like an interminable wait until midnight before we could eat.
It’s Greek Easter that has stayed with me. This year it happens to fall on the same Sunday as regular Easter, so I’m sharing a recipe that’s equally suitable for both iterations of the holiday—or simply as a seasonal, crowd-pleasing dish for sharing with friends. It’s pasta salad, which means that it’s an easy crowd-pleaser, but it’s also packed with Mediterranean ingredients and flavors—artichokes, dill, lemon, and asparagus—so it still feels like a nod to my Greek roots.
The dish can be served either warm, in which case it feels more like a regular pasta dish, or cool, in which case it’s more of a salad (the proportion of vegetables to pasta is pretty high). If you serve it cool, you can pile it over a bed of fresh baby greens. It’s so easy to make, and it will keep nicely in the fridge overnight if you happen to need a last minute dish for preparing in advance and taking with you to a gathering on Sunday.
Simple Vegan Spring Lemon Orzo Pasta Salad
- 1 lb asparagus ends trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 cup green peas fresh or frozen and thawed
- 1 6 or 8-ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts
- 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 12 ounces about 1 3/4 cups orzo pasta*
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
- 1 small clove garlic grated (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon fine salt plus extra as needed
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper plus extra as needed
- 1/4 cup minced fresh dill
- 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
- Optional: 2-4 tablespoons as desired vegan parmesan (I like the Go Veggie brand) or hempesan
- Bring a large pot of salt water to boil. Add the orzo. Cook for about 8 minutes, or until the orzo is al dente and not quite ready. Add the asparagus pieces; cook for another 2 minutes. Add the peas and cook for 1 more minute. Drain the pasta and vegetables.
- While the pasta water is coming to a boil, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice and zest, shallots, garlic (if using), salt, and pepper.
- When the pasta and vegetables are ready, transfer them to a large mixing bowl. Add the dressing and toss everything well to combine. Finally, fold in the chopped parsley and dill, along with the parmesan, if you like. Taste the salad and adjust salt and pepper as needed. Serve.
I’m really partial to the orzo in this recipe, but it would work nicely with any small pasta shape, including macaroni. You can also use pearl barley or Israeli couscous for a more toothsome salad (if you do that, you can steam the vegetables before tossing everything together).
One of my readers recently emailed to ask if I have a special tab with Easter recipes on the site; I don’t, at least not right now, though the question made me realize that I should probably add some specific Holiday search fields to my recipe page! For now, some of my favorite Easter recipes (or recipes that I think would be nice to serve on Easter) include:
Minted pea soup with cashew cream
Cream of celeriac and fennel soup
Tahini mint kale salad
Purple asparagus and quinoa salad with pea shoots
Quinoa citrus and smoked tofu salad
Chickpea pesto pasta salad
Roasted cauliflower lemon pasta
Lemon pepper tempeh and herbed rice bowls
Stuffed cabbage rolls with rice, lentils, and currants
Whole roasted lemon tahini cauliflower
Strawberry rhubarb crumble bars
Whether you’re observing a holiday or not, I wish you a restful and happy weekend ahead, and I’ll be back for some weekend reading.