Sugar Snap Peas with Orzo and Lemon Dill Vinaigrette

This is not your mother’s macaroni salad!

Sugar snap peas are in! I was delighted to find them on the shelf of my local farm stand this week. These spring treasurers are as delicious as they are fleeting, so we eat them as frequently as I can at this time of year. They are at their absolute best simply steamed and tossed with butter and a little salt. 

That is how we had our new batch when our family gathered for the first time in 18 months for a celebration of my husband’s birthday and early Fathers Day. It was a special time, all of us together again, the weather cooperated for our cook-out, and there wasn’t a pea left on the platter when we finished. 

Versatile vegetable

We often have them served up with new baby carrots, in a cold soup, lightly blanched and used as a dipper on a crudité platter, and sauteed with garlic and coconut. But they really shine in salads!

A macaroni salad when I was growing up consisted of macaroni, canned tuna, peas, celery, and onion in a mayonnaise base. We loved it, but it rarely varied. When I think of a “pasta” salad today, it usually has a lighter vinaigrette, and we like to swap out different pastas, often using shells, fusilli, farfalle, or penne. I think of the pasta and vinaigrette as the base, and add lots of whatever is freshest and most delicious at the market. Each salad is pretty much unique.

Let the ingredients lead the way

In this case, the sugar snaps were calling my name, I also gathered beautiful scallions and plump shallots, and had an abundance of dill in my own herb bed, so the best ingredients led the way. I found some lovely Italian orzo at the co-op, and it was perfect here.

My little tip in this recipe is to blanch the peas first and fish them out of the water with a strainer or spider. Don’t drain the water out, it is beautifully flavored by the peas and will add to the taste of the pasta.

This makes a lot! Perfect for a family gathering or cook-out, and since it is made without mayonnaise, it is a much better keeper for outside events. You can substitute a gluten-free pasta if you like. Also, a can of sustainably harvested tuna would be delightful here if you consume fish, or mash up a few anchovies in the dressing!

Sugar Snap and Orzo salad with Lemon Dill Vinaigrette

  • 2 large shallots, finely minced, about 1/3 cup or a little more
  • 3 tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • Zest of two lemons, divided
  • 1 tsp. honey or agave syrup
  • 2 tbsp. minced fresh dill weed, plus garnish
  • 3 scallions, sliced on diagonal, plus garnish
  • 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. fresh black pepper
  • ½ cup fruity olive oil
  • 1 lb. sugar snap peas
  • 1 lb. orzo pasta
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered

            Put a large pot of water on to boil while you prep vegetables.

            In a large bowl, add the shallots, vinegar, lemon juice, zest of one lemon, honey, dill weed, salt, scallions, mustard, salt, pepper, and olive oil and mix well. Let this set while you cook the peas and pasta. This will cut the bite of the shallots.

            Prep the peas by snapping off the stem and removing the string in one movement. Chop the peas on the diagonal into three or four pieces. Once the water is boiling, add 2 tbsp. salt and the peas. Bring back to the boil, and cook for a minute or two, or until the peas are tender. Using a strainer or mesh spider, remove the peas, leaving the water in the pot. Immediately place the peas in a strainer and rinse under cold water until no longer warm. Shake excess moisture off and add to the vinaigrette.

The water you cooked the peas in is now flavored! Don’t throw it out.

            Bring the pea water back to a boil. Not only does this save time and a pot, the water will be delightfully flavored of pea, so you don’t want to waste it! Add the pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain but don’t rinse, the starch adds to the creaminess of the dish. Let cool, then add to the bowl along with the tomatoes.

             Taste and correct the seasoning, it will definitely need more salt and pepper, but make it your own –– do you want more acid? More dill? More lemon? Chill thoroughly so the flavors can mingle.

            Once chilled, plate and garnish with reserved dill, scallions, and the zest of the second lemon. You can also add some edible flowers in case you have some calling from the garden. I love a salad that is beautiful to look at before you even take your first bite.

But now and then, we still want what our mother made…

Sylvia’s Macaroni Tuna Salad

  • 1 lb. elbow macaroni
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, minced
  • 1 cup peas
  • 1 large can tuna fish, drained
  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise
  • Paprika to garnish

      Cook macaroni, rinse, and drain. Place in a large bowl. Add onion, celery, peas, tuna, and mix up gently with mayonnaise. You can add eggs to the top if you like. Garnish with paprika and salt and pepper.

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  1. This sounds delicious!! I look forward to making it.

    1. Thank you! I hope you like it as much as we did!

  2. Sarah Davis says:

    We have a faint joke about macaroni salad because my Dad loves it but won’t fess up to it. The kind with peas and no tuna

    1. You can always tell by who takes a second scoop!

  3. BERNADETTE says:

    I made pasta salad just like Sylvia and I still crave it. Great tip about saving the vegetable water.

    1. Thanks Bernadette! Sylvia was my mom, and I still love hers as well!

      1. BERNADETTE says:

        If you ever want to share a recipe and a story about your Mom, I would love to post it.

      2. Oh, thank you so much Bernadette! I would love that! Let me put my thinking cap on. 💕❤️💕

      3. BERNADETTE says:

        I look forward to hearing back from you. If you have something you want to share, send it to my email: Thanks.

      4. I will, thanks!

  4. I picked some peas this morning but only enough to put on my salad tonight. I will enjoy them. 🙂

    1. It’s one of my favorite seasons! Can’t wait for the English peas to start!

  5. Oh wow, this sounds so fresh and summery! Perfect for this hot weather we’ve been having here, I’d love to try this!

    1. Thank you Nigella! Do give it a try, everyone here seems to enjoy it.

  6. Suzassippi says:

    I might have said this about your food before, but that may be the prettiest salad I have ever seen, and the serving bowl is perfect!

    1. Oh thank you so much for your kind words! It really is a pretty salad, and tasty too. I love decorating salads with edibles to make them special.

  7. chef mimi says:

    I’m so glad you got to enjoy a family get together! What fun. And this salad is so darn pretty. Love the ingredients!!!

    1. Thank you Mimi! Although I’ve seen everyone separately, this was the first time we could all get together with everyone fully vaccinated except youngest child. It was truly a thrill to have my brood all under one roof again. Now I miss them all! Thank you for your comments on the salad, it is really a tasty one!

  8. Diana says:

    I LOVE the use of shallots in your recipe. It’s not used quite as commonly and I enjoy the flavor a lot!

    1. Thank you Diana. I love shallots too, they are a little nicer than a strong onion when used raw in a salad and have their own unique flavor.

  9. That looks great!

  10. Sowmya says:

    Sounds unique and nice. Nice recipe

    1. Thank you Sowmya! It was a hit all around.

  11. Rekha Unni says:


    1. Thank you Rekha! It really is a satisfying salad.

  12. Sherry M says:

    your salad sounds so delightful! so fresh and zingy with all those great flavours. it’s so so pretty too! and that salad bowl is a thing of beauty.

    1. Thank you Sherry! The bowl is one of my favorites, it holds a lot so it’s perfect for a gathering!

  13. Your cooking is top of the line! That picture of the sugar snap peas could be on a magazine cover! You’ve got it all Dorothy!

    1. Ah, thank you so much for those kind words Diane! I just love playing with my food!

  14. Sheree says:

    Looks like my kinda salad

    1. Thanks! It’s my kind of salad too, it gets better as it sits!

      1. Sheree says:

        I have all the ingredients except the sugar snap peas which I’ve put on my shopping list

      2. Happy shopping Sheree!

      3. Sheree says:

        Thanks Dorothy

  15. Looks like a tasty and green celebration Dorothy. Unique!

    1. Thank you! It was yummy indeed!

  16. Beautiful salad Dorothy, I love sugar snap peas and orzo, great combo for a summer pasta salad!

    1. Thank you Jenna! They really go together nicely!

  17. Ally Bean says:

    Both recipes sound good, just in different ways. Thanks for the recipes here.

    1. Thank you Ally! They are vasty different, but the pasta makes both equally satisfying!

  18. Great flavors and colors in this salad. Love the fresh additions! 🙂

    1. Thank you Ronit! The flavors here get even better when kept overnight!

  19. nancyc says:

    What a beautiful salad! And I just love sugar snap peas! 🙂

    1. Thank you! They are so good right now, almost like candy!

  20. Carol Taylor says:

    Such a pretty salad this one sounds delicious , Dorothy 🙂

    1. Thanks Carol! It’s delicious, and feeds a crowd.

  21. Sugar snap peas and dill is absolutely spring-summer for me! I love their flavors and smell! They bring me back to my grandma’s garden! Super delicious 😋

    1. Thank you! Such a wonderful combination of flavors, and so much of the best of the season.

  22. cakefiles says:

    Wow I absolutely need to try this! It sounds gorgeous!

    1. Thanks! It was truly delicious!

  23. Sugar snap peas are so good, most of the time I just use butter with them. This is indeed a tasty way of using them.

    1. You are so right Karen about just a simple butter bath and enjoy! The same with so many wonderful produce items, like corn on the cob!

  24. sunisanthosh says:

    It looks so gorgeous and tempting.

    1. Thank you! The sugar snaps are great this year, can’t get enough of them!

  25. terrie gura says:

    I am so happy that you had a great family celebration! What joy after such a long, isolated year.

    Your “vintage” macaroni salad description made me smile. My mother (and grandmother) made exactly the same salad. And I recall that my mother also sometimes swapped the mayonnaise for cream of mushroom soup and baked it up as tuna casserole for dinner.

    1. I think it was a pretty versatile recipe! Mom did the same thing, but used noodles. She loved egg noodles!

  26. sugar snap peas are the yummiest!

  27. This looks so good! I love orzo!

    1. It’s delightful, isn’t it! Love the texture.

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