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This easy orzo recipe makes a simple side dish that works beautifully with a wide variety of meals. It’s flavorful in its own right but also complements lots of other flavors.

our favorite easy orzo recipe in a bowl with a spoon
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Why we love this recipe

Our favorite easy orzo recipe comes together in a flash from basic ingredients and can round out virtually any meal, from a basic weeknight dinner to a full-fledged fancy dinner party.

Orzo pasta gets boiled in very well-salted water and simply tossed with good butter, lemon juice, grated parmesan or pecorino, and plenty of freshly ground black pepper.

It works underneath or alongside a wide variety of meals, and we especially love it for soaking up dreamy sauces. Try it with our striped bass or roast chicken (minus the potatoes, though don’t let me stop ya really).

What you’ll need

Here’s a glance at the ingredients you’ll need to make this recipe.

step by step
  • Orzo means “barley” in Italian, but orzo pasta is made from semolina just like other pasta. The name refers to the shape, which looks like grains of barley or rice. Orzo is a flexible pasta shape that’s great for hot dishes, pasta salads, and soups.
  • Use a really good-quality butter if you can. Here and virtually everywhere, I start with a cultured, salted butter from grass-fed cows. This sounds fancy but doesn’t have to be. Kerrygold, for example, is sold in most supermarkets at a reasonable price.
  • There’s no substitute for freshly squeezed lemon juice. It adds a beautiful brightness to this recipe.
  • Use pecorinoparmesan or a combination. Pecorino (made with sheep’s milk) is a little bit saltier and tangier, while parmesan is a bit sweeter. They both work very well in this recipe.

How to make it

Here’s an overview of what you’ll do to make our favorite easy orzo recipe. You can see the steps in action in the video that accompanies this post, and get all the details in the recipe card below.

step by step
  1. Boil a pound of orzo in well-salted water, according to the package instructions.
  2. Drain the orzo and return it to the pot. Stir in lots of good butter.
  3. Add lemon juice and stir until the butter is melted.
  4. Add parmesan or pecorino cheese and lots of freshly ground black pepper and give it a good stir. That’s it!

Expert tips and FAQs

What do you mean by well-salted water?

When I say well-salted water, I mean well-salted water. Use about two tablespoons of salt to boil a pound of orzo. That way the water will flavor the dish from the inside out. This goes for all dried pasta recipes. It looks like a lot, but it really makes a difference.

Can I make this recipe in advance? What about leftovers?

Like most simple pasta recipes, this one is quick and easy to make, and it’s at its best shortly after cooking. I don’t recommend going out of your way to make it in advance.

That said, it makes great leftovers. You can take the chill off with a short spin in the microwave and then toss with vegetables and maybe some canned white beans for a great quick lunch. Try halved cherry tomatoes, blanched asparagus cut into bite-sized pieces, and a handful of chopped fresh herbs like basil, parsley and chives.

What to serve with orzo

This side dish is so versatile that there’s almost no limit to what you could serve it with. We especially love:

our favorite easy orzo recipe in a bowl with a spoon

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our favorite easy orzo recipe in a bowl with a spoon
4.48 from 242 votes

Our Favorite Easy Orzo Recipe

By Carolyn Gratzer Cope
This easy orzo recipe makes a simple side dish that works beautifully with a wide variety of meals. It's flavorful in its own right but also complements lots of other flavors.
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 20 minutes
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Ingredients 

  • 1 pound (454 grams) orzo pasta
  • 3 tablespoons (42 grams) good salted butter (such as Kerrygold)
  • ½ cup (60 grams) grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions 

  • Fill a medium pot halfway with water, add 2 tablespoons salt, and bring to a boil.
  • Add orzo, give it one big stir, and then cook undisturbed to al dente according to package instructions. Adjust heat as necessary to maintain a boil or very brisk simmer without letting the pot overflow.
  • Drain pasta and place back into pot.
  • Toss with butter and lemon juice until butter is melted.
  • Stir in parmesan or pecorino and plenty of freshly ground black pepper, and serve.  

Step-by-step video

Notes

  1. Orzo means "barley" in Italian, but orzo pasta is made from semolina just like other pasta. The name refers to the shape, which looks like grains of barley or rice. Orzo is a flexible pasta shape that's great for hot dishes, pasta salads, and soups.
  2. Use a really good-quality butter if you can. Here and virtually everywhere, I start with a cultured, salted butter from grass-fed cows. This sounds fancy but doesn't have to be. Kerrygold, for example, is sold in most supermarkets at a reasonable price.
  3. There's no substitute for freshly squeezed lemon juice. It adds a beautiful brightness to this recipe.
  4. Use pecorino, parmesan or a combination. Pecorino (made with sheep's milk) is a little bit saltier and tangier, while parmesan is a bit sweeter. They both work very well in this recipe.
  5. Like most simple pasta recipes, this one is quick and easy to make, and it's at its best shortly after cooking. I don't recommend going out of your way to make it in advance. 
  6. That said, it makes great leftovers. You can take the chill off with a short spin in the microwave and then toss with vegetables and maybe some canned white beans for a great quick lunch. Try halved cherry tomatoes, blanched asparagus cut into bite-sized pieces, and a handful of chopped fresh herbs like basil, parsley and chives.
  7. I especially like topping this orzo recipe with saucy proteins, like striped bass and roast chicken (minus the potatoes).

Nutrition

Calories: 277kcal, Carbohydrates: 42.9g, Protein: 9.7g, Fat: 7.1g, Fiber: 1.8g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Pasta + Noodles
Cuisine: Italian
Tried this recipe?Mention @umamigirl or tag #umamigirl!

Hungry for more?

Subscribe to Umami Girl’s email updates, and follow along on Instagram.

Hungry for More?
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Carolyn Gratzer Cope Bio Photo

About Carolyn Gratzer Cope

Hi there, I'm Carolyn Gratzer Cope, founder and publisher of Umami Girl. Join me in savoring life, one recipe at a time. I'm a professional recipe developer with training from the French Culinary Institute (now ICE) and a lifetime of studying, appreciating, and sharing food.

4.48 from 242 votes (242 ratings without comment)

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