This cheesy orzo recipe is comforting, creamy, and simple to make in one pot! It's a delicious side dish for a variety of main courses.
Why you'll love it
Are you an orzo convert yet? It honestly might be my favorite pasta shape. It's just so versatile and a fantastic alternative to rice, and this cheesy side dish is possibly the best orzo creation I've come up with. Nothing beats orzo cooked al dente for the perfect bite, all smothered in cheese.
This cheesy orzo is basically like a grown-up, elevated mac and cheese. It's less involved to make but something a little different and every bit as mouthwatering with a combo of cheddar and parmesan. Think of it as a sort of cheesy risotto... but with pasta!
Ingredients you'll need
- Olive oil and butter - a classic duo to sauté our aromatics
- Onion and garlic - my two favorites to immediately infuse flavor into any dish
- Orzo - this small rice-shaped pasta pairs with the cheesy sauce very well and is a crowd pleaser
- Broth - use either chicken broth or vegetable broth depending on your tastes or dietary requirements
- Cream - a bit of heavy cream brings this sauce over the top. I wouldn't recommend skipping or subbing it for anything with a lower fat content.
- Parmesan and cheddar cheese - combining the two makes the comforting sauce even more decadent. Use an old/sharp cheddar and fresh parm.
How to make cheesy orzo
This is an overview, and full ingredients & instructions are in the recipe card below.
- In a soup pot, sauté the onion in the oil and butter for 3-4 minutes, then stir in the garlic and uncooked orzo and continue cooking for a couple more minutes.
- Stir in the broth and cream, and then reduce the heat and simmer it for 10 minutes once it starts to bubble.
- Take the pot off the heat, stir in the cheeses, and then cover the pot and let it sit for a few minutes until it thickens up a bit more.
- Season with salt & pepper as needed, and enjoy!
Tips for success
- I recommend grating your own cheese for the best results. They will taste and melt so much better than the bagged kind. To grate the cheddar I use this grater, and to grate the parmesan I use my Microplane.
- As with any one pot recipe, stoves and pots can vary, so you may need to use your discretion. If the pot appears to be going dry before the pasta has cooked, turn down the heat, and you may need to add a splash more liquid. If there seems to be too much liquid once cooking time as elapsed, simply cover the pot and let it sit a bit longer. The orzo will absorb the liquid fast and thicken more as it cools.
- Because this is a one pot recipe, if you want to use a different kind of pasta, you may need to do a little experimenting as the liquid measurements may need to be adjusted.
What to serve with this recipe
- Since this orzo side dish has plenty of rich sauce, it's a great complement to meaty main dishes. It would be great with my Parmesan Crusted Chicken, these Baked Chicken Tenders, or Easy Pan Seared Pork Chops.
- To make it a complete meal, serve a simple green salad with homemade Ranch or Creamy Balsamic dressing.
Leftovers and storage
- Store leftovers of this orzo for 3-4 days in a covered container in the fridge.
- Reheat over a low heat in a saucepan until warmed through. You could also microwave in 30-second increments.
- I don't suggest freezing this one. Pasta and anything with dairy won't come out the same.
Questions about this cheesy orzo recipe? Did you make it? Let's chat in the comments below!
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 medium onion chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 cup uncooked orzo pasta
- 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 cup heavy/whipping cream
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 2 cups sharp cheddar grated
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Add the oil, butter, and onion to a pot over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion for 3-4 minutes.
- Add the garlic and orzo. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring often (this infuses the orzo with more flavor and toasts it a bit).
- Stir in the chicken broth and cream. Once it starts to bubble, continue cooking for 10 minutes, uncovered, stirring fairly often. You will likely need to turn the heat down a bit (to medium or even medium-low). You want it to gently bubble vs. furiously boil, and you don't want the liquid to reduce too much before the pasta has cooked.
- Take the pot off the heat, stir in the cheeses, and cover the pot for 4-5 minutes or until it has thickened up to your liking (this recipe is meant to have a lot of sauce but will thicken a little more as it cools - orzo absorbs liquid quite fast). Season with salt & pepper as needed.
- Orzo is pasta. If you want to make this with rice, you may have to adjust liquid measurements and cooking time (it would be a different recipe).
- Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy only and should be construed as an estimate rather than a guarantee. Ingredients can vary and Salt & Lavender makes no guarantees to the accuracy of this information.