Tomato Basil Mozzarella Orzo Salad Picnic

Tomato Basil Mozzarella Orzo SaladIt is beautiful to live so close to the ocean but once in a while we look forward to breathing fresh sweet mountain air high above the town. Oh how we love the glorious Spring time since the charm of the Santa Barbara country side is never so alive and vibrant as it is now. With temperatures reaching in the high 70 degrees Fahrenheit on some days, everybody seems to be gravitating to the outdoors. Even thought this is the way of life here the whole year around, we still are amazed how one can enjoy a beach walk in the sand and within 15 minutes a hike in the mountains.

Judit Corina Hidden Valley Forest

Tomato Basil Mozzarella Orzo Salad

When we were asked to take a few spring photos from the famous Hidden Valley Ranch (and yes, as you guessed it was also the home in the 1950’s of the iconic “Hidden Valley Ranch Salad Dressing”, created by Steve & Gayle Henson and now this incredible sanctuary is listed with Terry Ryken from Sotheby’s International Realty who showed us this charming property) we both immediately felt excited and formed a quick plan not to go without a little respite to this magical place. Hiking makes one hungry and Hidden Valley has miles and miles of gorgeous trails through the enchanted forest. How about a healthy vegetarian Tomato Basil Mozzarella Orzo Salad and Caprese Sandwiches for a picnic lunch?

Caprese Tomato Mozzarella Basil Sandwich

Tomato Basil Orzo Pasta SaladLuckily we had irresistible dark red, orange and yellow petite heirloom tomatoes, a small fresh green basil plant and a crisp baguette from our morning visit to the local farmers market. Now we all think about what our next tasty meal will be, don’t you? You might know that we have a habit to keep the fridge stocked with fresh Mozzarella and are ashamed to admit we just can’t live without it. By these ingredients you can tell we had a strong craving for something fresh like a Caprese salad for our next lunch or dinner.

Usually we like to take a homemade gourmet sandwich with fresh or roasted vegetables salad alongside to a picnic and with not much time to hand we had to think quick. And so in the next 5 minutes the orzo pasta was bubbling happily in the vegetable broth. We do like to use orzo because this fabulous rice shaped pasta cooks fast and we can add healthy way heartiness to any soup or salad.

Judit Caprese SandwichWhen you cook pasta in wine or broth make sure that you stir the pot more frequently so you don’t end up with the pasta stuck to the bottom. If you do not have broth handy, just add 1 or 2 cubes of Knorr Vegetable Bouillon to the pasta water and it will do the trick. In case you wish to forgo the broth altogether, then add more of the seasonings to balance all the lovely layers of flavors. The orzo has a tendency to overcook easily so we remove it 1-2 minutes earlier than the package instructions and immediately douse it in cold water.

We add the sun-dried tomatoes while the orzo is still a little warm so that the flavor can really get absorbed. When cooled we add the vibrant petite heirloom tomatoes, mozzarella, and the fresh basil leaves. So with the salad ready we quickly packed a little picnic basket with the necessary items for a happy late lunch. The baguette we took whole so the bread would stay crisp and we planned to make the sandwiches right on the ranch.

Orzo Pasta Salad WaterfallTomato Basil Pasta Orzo Salad Wine

The day was splendidly warm as we drove up into the hills to the Hidden Valley retreat, which is aptly named “A Shangri-La of Santa Barbara.” The ranch has a historic lodge dating back to around 1927 and was once the old stagecoach stop on the journey up to Santa Ynez Valley. Magnificent oak trees and miles of trails awaited us and we hoped to glimpse the seasonal waterfalls since it had rained the last weekend.

We were greeted by the little dogs that reside on the property and then with picnic goods and wine in hand we headed down a the forest trails past the masonry stone walls in the direction of a stone path that leads to the waterfall. And we walked and walked until we worked up an even greater hunger and could not wait to start lunch. It felt as if the elves from “Lord of the Rings” should appear any moment on the trails and ask for a bowl of orzo salad, which we would be reluctant to share after carrying it through the woods.

Koehler Sauvingon Blanc Wine Dogs

Corina Judit Hidden Valley Picnic

There was still a little bit of water dripping down the glorious rocks and we set up our picnic at a rustic iron table on a stone terrace in view of the waterfall. Caprese sandwiches were made and tomato basil mozzarella orzo salad was ladled out into bowls and the wine poured. The golden medium bodied Koehler Sauvignon Blanc had an aroma like the wildflowers in the area and the taste was crisp and citrusy laced with a touch of honey. As we sipped on the wine we felt blessed to experience such a beautiful day together as mother and daughter.

Tomato Basil Mozzarella Orzo Salad Recipe

The first time we tasted a tomato, basil and mozzarella salad with sun-dried tomatoes was in Sienna Italy and the deep sun kissed flavors were unforgettable. This simple healthy orzo salad evoked the memory of that time and we gleefully consumed it in the forest with the sounds of birds and hawks creating the background music with the soft flow of water on the rocks as the accompanying instrument.

Tomato Basil Mozzarella Orzo Salad

Tomato Basil Mozzarella Orzo Salad Picnic

Judit + Corina


  • 1 Lb Orzo Pasta
  • 2 cups of Vegetable Broth
  • Citrus Sea Salt
  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2 Tbsp Sun-Dried Tomatoes - finely chopped and the oils
  • 1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
  • 2 Tbsp Chardonnay
  • Freshly ground Pepper
  • Cherry Tomatoes  - halved
  • 4 oz Fresh Mozzarella - cut into small cubes
  • Basil Leaves – thorn to pieces - Set a few pretty leaves aside for decoration


  • In a large pot bring 4 cups water and 2 cups of vegetable broth to boil. Add the orzo pasta, citrus sea salt and a little of the olive oil to the water. Stirring a few times cook until al dente for about 8 minutes or 1 to 2 minutes less than your package directions.
  • Pour the orzo in a strainer with small wholes and run briefly under cold water to stop from getting to soft.
  • Transfer the warm orzo pasta to a large salad bowl add the finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes and toss well together.
  • Drizzle in the leftover olive oil, lemon, Chardonnay and season with citrus sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Toss well together so that the pasta can absorb all that good flavor.
  • You can prepare a day ahead until this point, just cover and refrigerate.
  • Add the Mozzarella cubes, the cherry tomatoes and the torn basil and gently toss the salad. Season with salt and pepper if needed.


We love how a little sun-dried tomato adds burst of flavor to this healthy and simple pasta salad recipe. This bowl of goodness makes a perfect side dish along a BBQ or to take for picnics, and you can serve it warm or cold.


Serving: 4g
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!


This quick to make sandwich tastes even better when eaten in an enchanted forest by a stream.

Caprese Baguette Sandwich


1 French Baguette or 4 small rolls
2 Large Vine Ripe Tomatoes – sliced
8 Slices of Mozzarella
12 fresh Basil Leaves
White Balsamic Vinegar
Organic Olive Oil with Lemon
Citrus Sea Salt and Pepper to taste


Cut Baguette into 3 to 4 inch portions and slice in lengthwise through. Drizzle each half with olive oil and with a little White Balsamic Vinegar. Layer alternatively with tomato and mozzarella slices and a few basil leaves between. Season with citrus sea salt on top of the layers. If you do not have citrus flavored salt then simply squeeze a little lemon on top.

Food & Wine Pairing: Koehler Sauvignon Blanc, Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara County with citrus notes and nice acidity. This drier white wine is perfect to take along on a picnic.

Corina Picnic Tomato Orzo SaladCorina Judit Hidden Valley Forest

This day made us think of the Robert Frost poem:
“The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”
The woods really were lovely and we enjoyed the serene picnic and exploring the many paths. We can’t wait to go back for another delightful lunch.

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  1. says: Jennifer

    Thanks so much for the visit and comment! So excited you have a vegetarian section here! I’m LOVING the rich colors of the tomatoes and those green herbs look amazing, too! Great idea for Orzo! I’ll be posting some wine related items on my blog today, too!

    1. Thank you for the visit too Jennifer and we are planing to post many more delicious vegetarian dishes soon. There are lots of great wines to compliment the lovely vegetable 🙂

  2. What a delicious and simple salad. Can’t wait to make it. This is my first visit to your site and I love it! Your blog epitomizes the California lifestyle – great food, great wine, and the great outdoors. As a New Englander I am jealous. I’ve added you to my bloglovin feed and can’t wait to see future posts!

    1. So glad you visited our food blog Mona and thank you! We do have many days of nice summer weather here, yet New England has such beautiful seasons and architecture that must be very enjoyable as well.

    1. Hello Nami! We are so glad we could inspire you to plan a picnic with your lovely Family soon. The picnic basket been in our family for some time now, and we wish we would use it more often too 🙂

  3. says: Amelia

    Hi J & C, wow…. thanks for sharing your excellent picnic pictures. The salad look very refreshing and appetizing. Your display and presentation is really impressive like from 5 stars hotel. Well done!

    Best regards.

  4. Gorgeous pictures, gorgeous salad! I love anything with tomatoes and basil, and orzo is one of my very favorite pasta shapes for summer salads – this is just perfect! 😀 I especially love that you used a bit of broth as part of the pasta’s cooking “water” – such a simple trick that can really help boost flavor!

    1. Thank you Shelley! Mmm we could eat almost every day something with vine ripe tomatoes and fresh basil too. It makes us very happy when we find vine ripe tomatoes and fresh basil at our local Farmer’s Market. Have a wonderful week 🙂

  5. Of course I am with everyone else on the lovely photos. Thank you for inviting us along on your picnic. Smiling here. The salad looks lovely. The sandwiches are simple, but fresh basil leaves put a snap in tomatoes to die for—–of course I am assuming the bread is freshly baked from a really good bakery. I am making myself hungry.

    1. says: Judit Corina

      Thank you Carol, and it was a pleasure to take you along! You right you can never go wrong with fresh basil and vine ripe tomatoes, and together with fresh mozzarella it becomes a burst of flavor in the mouth. And it is a little addictive too, we did ate most of what we brought along 🙂 The fresh baguette is from our local D’Angelo’s Bakery – with golden brown crust and soft middle is close to perfection.

  6. What a beautiful setting for such a lovely picnic! Looks like you both had a wonderful time. The pasta salad is gorgeous too love all the flavours! We love to hike and picnic here but we never have been lucky with the weather. The Rockies are quite temperamental and we’ve had picnics through hail storms, snow storms, hurricane strength winds but it’s enjoyable every time and a a new story to tell!

    1. says: Judit Corina

      Thank you Coffee and Crumpets, we were so fortunate and thankful for the beautiful day! Oh the majestic Rockies, must be glorious in the spring and hope that the weather will cooperate and let you enjoy a lovely picnic soon 🙂

    1. says: Judit Corina

      Thank you so much Debra! Hidden Valley is a hidden treasure, it is private estate so very few people know about. From the hike to the lunch, it was a lot of fun that day and already planing to go back with friends for another forest picnic. Hope you can pack your basket soon too 🙂

  7. Your photos and recipe really give us a good feel for the Hidden Valley Ranch. I attended UC Santa Barbara in the late 1960’s and would like to again return to explore some of the hidden gems of this area.

  8. says: Emma

    Such a perfect dish (I love orzo, or risoni as we call it) and a perfectly lovely picnic!

    Thanks also for your comment to my blog, I’m so glad I found your site 🙂

    1. says: Judit Corina

      We are glad too Emma! Love “Risoni”, just looked up the name in Italian: “big rice”. It does sound more romantic for this lovely and versatile pasta. Have a wonderful week 🙂

  9. I am jealous of the gorgeous weather! There is snow all over the ground here, and I’m being pushed around constantly by huge gusts of wind.
    This orzo salad also looks good! I have never made anything with orzo before, but I definitely want to now!

    1. says: Judit Corina

      Thank you A Taste Of Madness, and hope your spring will be filled with lovely sunshine soon! You will enjoy orzo, it cooks like pasta and you can eat it cold or warm. We love it in soups too:)

  10. Judit and Corina, you really did an amazing job featuring this beautiful site…having a marvelous picnic! The photos are superb, and the Basil-Orzo-Mozzarella Salad is divine, and delicious. Love the Caprese baguette as well; that would be my choice if I could not find a charming table and chair to sit down on!

    I love the photo of you both…csinos hölgyek vagytok, az biztos!…love the photo of Corina with wine in hand…oh, yes! Never forget good wine for a lovely picnic! Thanks for sharing…Happy Spring!

    1. Oh Elisabeth, thank you so much for such a kind comment! It was a wonderful day in the enchanted forest and we are so happy and thankful that we could share it. The Caprese baguette was quiet delicious, and can’t wait to make it again, this time with a creamy dressing.
      Nagyon szepen Köszönjuk es sok puszit,
      Judit es Corina

  11. says: Juliana

    Beautiful salad…like the ingredients and yes, it is perfect for a picnic basket…awesome pictures…I sure enjoyed them all.
    Hope you both are having a wonderful week 😀

  12. says: Liz

    What an incredible setting!!! And gorgeous photos! And delicious food!!! I’m a huge fan of caprese anything…you’ve made me ravenous!!!

  13. says: Terry

    So glad you had such a wonderful time at the Hidden Valley Ranch! The photos look beautiful and that tomato orzo salad looks very delicious. Hidden Valley is the most serene retreat in the Santa Barbara area.

  14. says: Chantal

    Hi Judith,Hi Corina

    I just discover your blog, I really like it.
    I also like your fresh orzo salad and thanks for making us discover the Hidden Valley Ranch.

    Greetings from Paris

  15. J+C, I enjoyed reading this post for so many reasons. What a gorgeous day filled with natural beauty! Your photographs are simply stunning and I especially enjoyed your prose. The Lord of the Rings reference and the Robert Frost poem inclusion were the icing on the cake. Mother and daughter enjoying early spring together at the ranch (the famous Hidden Valley Ranch) enjoying a fresh orzo salad…for lunch. Sigh. Enchanting in every way!

    1. Thank you Stacy for your lovely comment, and we are so happy to hear that you enjoyed our picnic post. We both love the outdoors and wandering in such a magical location as the Hidden Valley Ranch does bring out the fantasy in our imagination.

  16. says: wokandspoon

    What an amazing picnic. I love that little stone terrace. Did you lug that picnic basket all that way? I bet the picnic was a whole lot lighter on the way back 🙂 Love the colours in your salad!

    1. Thank you WokandSpoon! The whole setting was very charming and just perfect for our peaceful picnic. Have to admit we did get a good workout by carrying all the goodies with us.

  17. says: marcie

    What beautiful photos of you both — so picturesque! Your picnic salad and those Caprese sandwiches look delicious as those are some of my favorite flavors. 🙂 I love that you added Chardonnay to the dressing — what a great idea!

  18. What an inspiring view and place to enjoy a picnic! I would be very satisfied with your salad (mostly because of the mozzarella) and with a good glass of wine, it would make my day. =)

  19. says: Eva Taylor

    Looks like you’re having beautiful weather, at least someone is! A beautiful place to share a lunch and a glass of wine. I like the tip about cooking the pasta in stock or wine, it must add an enormous amount of flavour.

    1. Hello Eva! After our spring rain the forest was so lush and filled with so many wild flowers, it was truly enchanting and looking forward to another visit soon. We love to cook pasta or rice in stock and wine, it does add a deeper flavor to the whole dish. Have wonderful week:)

  20. First visit to your website, so darling. In love with this post, because it not only paints a picture of an awesome meal, but of a joyful experience. LOVE it. Makes me envy you a bit with the nice weather…I live in Minnesota, and it was snowing today…ish. Thanks for sharing, can’t wait to have a picnic!

    1. Thank you so much Kelly and wish we could send you some sunshine to your way! Minnesota must be beautiful in the spring and hope you will be able to enjoy your picnic soon too:)

  21. says: Ted L.

    What beautiful photos and such a tempting looking orzo salad! I love the combination of tomato basil and this salad has it all. Such a very nice spot to have it also!

  22. What a beautiful day out … and a beautiful salad! I’ve possibly said this before, but your little corner of California really does sound a little like Greece. I suspect you get slightly warmer winter temperatures, but it’s sunny here a lot and right next to both mountains and sea. I’ve often thought about making an orzo salad myself, and I love how simple and fresh this one sounds, so pinning this for later! 🙂

    1. It was indeed a magical day Helen! Living in Greece must be a dream with so much history and natural beauty and lets not forget all that glorious food. Hope you will enjoy the orzo salad soon, and now we are pinning to go for another visit to the Greek at the harbor for some delicious Saganaki.