Creamy Spinach Parmesan Orzo

Creamy Spinach Parmesan Orzo

What comes to mind when you see or hear the word “Orzo.”

Could it be the 6 Orzo families who were living in New York City (USA) in the 1920’s.

Or could it be Caffè d’orzo – a type of hot drink, originating in Italy.

Caffè d’orzo or Barley Coffee

Most of us though think of the small, rice-shaped pasta that is traditionally used in soups or salads. 

Orzo is a very versatile pasta that has been widely adapted by chefs in Italy and America for both main courses, as well as side dishes, including soups and pasta salads.

Though it originated in Italy – Orzo has been used in multiple cuisines such as Greek, Turkish and Spanish for centuries.

Isn’t Orzo Actually a Form of Rice

Simply put, Rice is rice, while orzo is rice-shaped pasta.

Rice and orzo share characteristics, but the two foods are not identical or the same.

Both rice and orzo are versatile and interchangeable.

Orzo can be used in place of rice to make a Pilaf or orzo can be a replacement to make a Risotto.

Chicken and Pumpkin Orzotto

Creamy Spinach Parmesan Orzo

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small yellow onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 1/2 cups dried orzo pasta

2 cups chicken or vegetable broth

2 cups whole milk

2 cups packed baby spinach, coarsely chopped

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or pot over medium-high heat until shimmering.

Next, add the onion and sauté until softened and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and orzo, season with salt and pepper, and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Next, stir in the broth and milk and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the orzo is al dente and most of the liquid is absorbed and has formed a creamy sauce, about 10 minutes or according to package instructions.

If the orzo isn’t completely cooked once this has happened, you can add another splash or two of broth to the pot and continue to simmer until it has.

Creamy Spinach Parmesan Orzo

Next add the spinach and Parmesan and stir in until the spinach has just wilted and the cheese melts, about 1 minute.

Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Garnish with additional cheese if desired.

Chicken and Pumpkin Orzotto

Chicken and Pumpkin Orzotto

Orzo pasta takes the place of Arborio rice in this quick and creamy chicken and pumpkin orzotto.

If your looking for a Risotto recipe, try our tasty Pumpkin Pecan Risotto with Dried Cranberries and Goat Cheese or the Bacon and Sweet Pea Risotto.

What Is Orzo

Orzo, also known as risoni, is a short-cut pasta, shaped like a large grain of rice. It is traditionally made from white flour, but it can also be made of whole grain.

Whole Grain Orzo Pasta

In Italy, where orzo originates, is classified as pastina or “little pasta,” which is a category of small, shaped pastas.

Orzo is typically used in many Italian dishes, including soups, pasta salads, grain bowls, and other dishes where a petite pasta is needed.

Orzo can be made like rice with a two-to-one ratio of water to dried pasta and will offer a creamier texture. The best part? Your cooking time will be about half of what it takes to make a pot of white rice.

Chicken and Pumpkin Orzotto

Orzo is a fun, versatile pasta that can not only be served as a side dish in place of rice, but can also be prepared as a risotto dish.

Risotto is a dish that requires a specific type of rice — arborio — as well as plenty of patience and continual stirring to get the texture just right.

However, using orzo can be more forgiving and takes less time. Plus, the starch from the pasta will give a nice creamy texture to your meal.

1 pound chicken thighs, skinless, boneless, diced, seasoned with salt and pepper

2 tbsp olive oil

6 tbsp butter unsalted, divided

1 small onion chopped

4 cloves garlic minced

2 cups orzo dry

4 cups chicken broth

2 cups cream

1 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

2 tbsp fresh parsley chopped

Stir 4 cups of the chicken broth with pumpkin puree in large sauce pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a bowl. Turn heat to low.

In a large skillet over medium heat add 2 tablespoons of butter and melt. Next add diced chicken and cook until chicken is oblique. Remove chicken from pan and set aside in a small bowl.

In the same large skillet, add the olive oil, 4 tablespoons of butter and allow butter to melt, about 30 seconds.

Next, stir in the onion and garlic and sauté until the onion softens and the garlic becomes aromatic, about 2 minutes.

Add the orzo to the skillet and stir until orzo starts to toast lightly, about 2 minutes. This will give it a nutty flavor.

Add one cup of the broth mixture to orzo and stir until liquid is absorbed. Continue adding a half cup of the mixture at a time, stirring often between additions, until liquid is absorbed.

Cook until orzo is tender and mixture is creamy.

If orzotto is too thick, stir in an additional ½ cup broth until loosened but not soupy. 

Next stir in the Parmesan cheese and fresh parsley. Add the chicken and vegetables and mix until combined.

Plate and serve immediately.

Chicken and Pumpkin Orzotto