There are certain dishes that are restaurant-quality dinners that are just not that hard to make at home. This Creamy Orzo is kind of a poor man’s version of risotto but takes just 20 minutes to make instead of 45 minutes, or whatever. 

That’s not to say that this is exactly risotto because orzo isn’t rice. But, the resulting skillet dish is very flexible and is so creamy and wonderfully rich. I added some asparagus to this version but you’ll see that you could add a huge range of vegetables and protein to it. 

Let’s dive in and make this delicious orzo recipe! 

What is orzo? 

People get very confused about orzo. It looks like large rice so sometimes people (even my wife) get it confused with a rice or a grain, but it’s a straight-up pasta. That means orzo isn’t gluten-free so be careful there! 

Dry orzo pasta

I like orzo though because it cooks really quickly and it also has a lot of surface area so you can use the starch in the orzo to make a really delicious sauce (like this creamy sauce) without too much thought. 

Orzo is in the pasta section at your grocery store, not the grain section! 

Ingredients for Creamy Orzo

Let’s dive into the few ingredients you’ll need for this very fast pasta dinner. 

  • Butter – I like to use butter as the fat for the recipe but you could just as easily use olive oil.
  • Aromatics – Onions and garlic and key for this recipe to build some flavor. Don’t skip them.
  • Italian Seasoning – I like to add this to skillet for a nice flavor boost.
  • Orzo – Obviously! This stuff grows in size so 8 ounces is a good amount. 
  • Liquids – Chicken stock and half and half are the basics I used.
  • Parmesan Cheese – This adds some savory flavor and helps the sauce thicken.
  • Vegetables -I added asparagus, which worked great, but read the substitutions for other ideas. 

How to make the sauce for this orzo

This sauce develops while the orzo pasta cooks. Add the chicken stock to the skillet after you’ve lightly fried the orzo in the butter and then bring it to a slight simmer. Cover and as the orzo cooks, the sauce will thicken.

Simmering orzo.

Adding half and half when the orzo is halfway done cooking will make the sauce even creamier!

Once the orzo is cooked, if the sauce seems too thin, just remove the lid and stir for a minute or two over low heat and the sauce will thicken very quickly.  If the sauce seems too thick and gloopy, thin it out with some water or chicken stock. 

How to cook the asparagus

This is a fast way to cook the veggies in this recipe. When the orzo is about halfway done, add the asparagus straight into the skillet. They will steam while the orzo finished cooking.

Half and half and asparagus added to orzo.

If you add the asparagus to the skillet at the beginning it will get overcooked so be careful there! 

So many substitutions for this creamy orzo!

Let’s dive into the substitutions for this recipe!

  • If you wanted to make this vegetarian, just use veggie stock instead of chicken stock.
  • Change up the vegetables. Mushrooms (sauteed in advance), spinach, or fresh peas.
  • Add some protein to the orzo by topping it with roasted chicken or broiled pork chops.
  • Garnish the dish with different twists from lemon zest to red pepper flakes. 
Creamy Orzo and Asparagus cooked.

What to serve with this orzo recipe

This is a pretty hearty dish and can be the star of dinner on its own with a salad on the side. Maybe this Strawberry salad or this roasted beet salad.

But, this can also be a great side dish (especially reheated) and you could serve it alongside big proteins like steak or even a whole grilled fish

Reheating this orzo dish

Reheating this creamy orzo pasta is easy enough. Add about 1/2 cup of water to a large skillet and once it’s simmering, add the leftover creamy orzo. Stir it as it reheats. The simmering water will bring the sauce back to life quickly and the orzo will be perfectly cooked! 

Creamy orzo in a skillet.

Quick Creamy Orzo

5 from 3 votes
Author: Nick Evans
Servings: 4 Servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
This quick creamy orzo dish is so versatile. It can be served as a main dish or a side. It's perfect for midweek family dinners or fancy enough for hosting!

Equipment

Ingredients 

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ yellow onion, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
  • 8 oz. orzo pasta
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup half and half
  • ½ cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 8 oz asparagus, chopped

Instructions

  • In a large skillet or medium pot, add butter over medium heat. Once melted add minced garlic and onion and cook until they soften. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper and Italian seasoning. 
  • Once vegetables have softened (4-5 minutes), add orzo and cook in the butter for a minute. Then add chicken stock. Bring to a simmer, turn heat down to low, and cover. Cook for six minutes.
  • Then add half and half and aparagus pieces. Cook another 6-7 minutes with lid on. If really liquidy, remove lid for last 2 minutes. Add cheese. Stir together and it should be creamy and smooth. 
    Serve immediately while warm in bowl or as a side dish.

Nutrition

Serving: 1bowl | Calories: 483kcal | Carbohydrates: 55g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 0.3g | Cholesterol: 58mg | Sodium: 791mg | Potassium: 509mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 1027IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 223mg | Iron: 3mg
Course: Main Dishes, Side Dishes
Cuisine: Italian

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Here a few other great recipes to try!