This one pot Italian sausage orzo recipe is easy, creamy, and comes together fast for a comforting and delicious weeknight dinner.
You may also like my Tomato Orzo with Chicken Sausage and Broccoli for a lighter option or this Lemon Chicken Orzo.
Why you'll love it
Orzo is one of my favorite pastas to cook. The way we're preparing it here is fairly similar to a risotto, but it's way simpler and easier than working with rice. We paired it with tasty Italian sausage, baby spinach, and a rich and creamy parmesan sauce.
This also happens to be a 30-minute one pot meal, which saves on clean-up and is handy when you don't have a lot of time to spend in the kitchen! The little ones will also enjoy this dinner, and it's a hassle-free way to get meat, veggies, and hearty pasta in a single dish.
Ingredients for it
- Sausage - I used mild Italian sausage. You can use ground sausage meat to save time vs. buying whole sausages.
- Onion - use any variety, but we prefer Vidalia (sweet) onion
- Garlic - if you're a big fan of garlic, feel free to add in even more
- Red pepper flakes - they don't make this dish spicy. It just adds a gentle warmth.
- Orzo - it's a rice-shaped small variety of pasta. You'll find it with all the other kinds of pasta at the grocery store
- Chicken broth - to add more savory flavor to the sauce
- Heavy cream - to make the sauce creamy and luxurious
- Parmesan - I always recommend grating your own parmesan cheese. It tastes and melts much better! I used my Microplane to grate it for this recipe.
- Spinach - we love adding it for a pop of freshness, but you're welcome to leave it out if you prefer
How to make orzo with Italian sausage
This is an overview, and full ingredients & instructions are in the recipe card below.
- In a soup pot, cook the crumbled sausage meat for 5 minutes, then add the onions and continue cooking for a few more minutes until browned.
- Stir in the garlic, red pepper flakes, and orzo, followed by the chicken broth and cream. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Take the pot off the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese and spinach, then cover for a few minutes until the spinach has wilted and the liquid has absorbed more.
- As with any one pot pasta dish, the liquid quantities work as tested on my stove, but pots/stoves/temperatures may vary from my kitchen to yours, so if you feel like it needs more liquid, add another splash of broth or cream. If it seems too wet, let it sit for a bit longer, and it'll soak any excess liquid up in a few minutes.
Substitutions and variations
- Want to add some heat? Use spicy Italian sausage or double the crushed red pepper flakes.
- I wouldn't recommend subbing the heavy cream for anything with a lower fat content. It won't thicken up the same or be as rich and tasty and may even curdle.
- Try swapping half the chicken broth with dry white wine (e.g. sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio, or chardonnay) for an elegant touch.
- Orzo is pasta, not rice, even though it looks very similar. If you want to sub the orzo for rice, you may need to adjust liquid measurements and timing since rice usually takes longer.
What to serve with it
- It's a meal in itself, but you can absolutely serve it with a side salad. We recommend this Arugula Salad with Fennel and Cheese or mixed greens with this creamy balsamic dressing.
- If you do want to go all out, try a slice of this Extra Cheesy Garlic Bread.
Leftovers and storage
- This orzo recipe will keep in the fridge for a few days, but keep in mind that it's best when eaten fresh since the pasta will continue to absorb liquid.
- We don't recommend freezing this one because of the dairy content.
- To reheat, simply warm it through in a small saucepan over a low heat, stirring every so often.
Questions about this Italian sausage orzo pasta recipe? Let me know in the comments below! As always, if you make one of my recipes, tag me #saltandlavender on Instagram.
Italian Sausage Orzo
- 16 ounces Italian sausage see note
- 1/2 medium onion chopped
- 3-4 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes optional, or more to taste
- 1 cup uncooked orzo pasta
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup heavy/whipping cream
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
- 2 cups (packed) fresh baby spinach
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Add the sausage meat to a soup pot/Dutch oven. Over medium-high heat, cook it for 5 minutes.
- Stir in the onions and continue cooking for another 5 minutes or so, until the sausage is nicely browned and the onion has softened.
- Stir in the garlic, red pepper flakes, and orzo, and cook for around 30 seconds.
- Stir in the chicken broth and cream. Once it starts to bubble, continue cooking for 10 minutes, uncovered, stirring fairly often (or else the orzo may stick to the bottom of the pot). You will likely need to turn the heat down a bit (to medium or even medium-low). It should gently bubble vs. boil (you don't want the liquid to reduce too much before the pasta has cooked).
- Take the pot off the heat, stir in the parmesan and spinach, and cover the pot for 3-5 minutes or until it has thickened up to your liking. Season with salt & pepper as needed and serve immediately. See more troubleshooting tips in the notes below.
- For the sausage, you can use anything in the ballpark of 16 oz/1 lb. Here in Canada I buy a 500g pack of Johnsonville mild Italian sausages and take the meat out of the casings.
- As with any one pot pasta dish, the liquid quantities work as tested in my kitchen, but pots/stoves/temperatures can vary, so if you feel like it needs more liquid, add another splash of broth or cream. If it seems too wet, let it sit for a bit longer, and it'll soak any excess liquid up within a few minutes.
- Orzo is pasta. If you want to make this with rice, you may have to adjust liquid measurements and cooking time (I have not tested this).
- Serves 4-6 depending on how much people eat/what else it's served with.
- 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.
Made it with protein pasta!
Jennifer Kelsch says
I love this recipe. I make freezer meals for my elderly mother. This is perfect for that and she absolutely loves it. Thank you so much for sharing this.
Aww that's so nice to hear!! 🙂 Love that.
Ariel P says
I’m ashamed to admit how much I make this. It’s excellent! Thanks!
Haha it's all good!!
A Murphy says
Made this tonight. The lemon was amazing! Added lemon juice at the end and served with toasted bread crumbs on top.
Glad to hear it!
This is my go to Recipe! My kids love this. I have to say I have tried all different meats and different vegetables. My kids favorite is Blackened chicken, Spinach and asparagus. I am constantly on your site using your recipes. Thank You so much and Bravo 👏
You're very welcome, Maria. I'm thrilled that you're loving the recipes! Appreciate your 5-star review! XO
Leah Falzone says
I made this last night, and kids loved it. Did swap peas for the spinach and added a tablespoon of lemon juice and 1/4 cup of shredded fontina cheese.
I hope this isn't a dumb question but do you cook the orzo before adding it? I am definitely making this this week!
Hi! Nope, it cooks in the sauce and releases the starch to thicken the sauce as it cooks. 🙂 Just an FYI - if something is to be pre-cooked, I will always indicate that in the recipe/ingredients list. Hope you enjoy the recipe. Let me know how it goes!
Every recipe you share is SOSOSO good!!!!!!!!!! I always know when it’s your recipe it’s going to be a hit!!!! I already love everything about this. I am going to make mine with Chicken Italian Sausage.. Can’t wait. Thanks for all your shares!!!!!
Aww that's so nice to hear. Thank you!!
We loved this! I might add some zucchini or something next time to give it a bit more heft, but it had such a great flavor. I asked my husband if he would want to eat it again and he said “emphatic yes”!
That's great to hear!! 🙂
I absolutely love this dish. As a new grad, I was looking for easy and filling meals to take to work for lunch. This re-heats very well and tastes just as good as fresh off the stove. I've sent the recipe to my parents, they've made it with rice and liked it just as much! This is on my regular rotation and I don't think I'll ever get tired of it!
I'm so happy to hear that!! 😀 Thank you!
Sally Bailey says
This is DELICIOUS! I had it without any meat, but we cooked some chorizo on the side for my son. Winner!
Fantastic!! Thank you for your review, Sally!
Delicious, I added a red bell pepper and doubled the spinach.👍
Excellent! So happy you enjoyed it, Deb!
Tina Walnock says
OMG is all I have to say!!!
Thanks, Tina! 😀
Julia B says
This looks delicious! Could you use coconut cream or oatmilk instead of cream? Thank you!
Hi! I've only tested it with cream. Some readers have used half-and-half. I can't speak of results for a dairy-free alternative, but you may want to read through the comments - someone might have a tip. I think oat milk or coconut cream will for sure change the flavor. Maybe try Silk's dairy-free whipping cream? Let me know if you do end up experimenting.
Wow! This dish is absolutely delicious!
Aww thank you!
Made this last week and I have to say it was quite good. It was easy and so quick to make that I had it on the table in about 1/2 hour. I didn’t have any heavy cream so I used half and half, worked great. I also covered the pot for the first 5 minutes when cooking the pasta as I live at a higher elevation and water tends to boil more quickly. I just wanted to make sure the pasta was able to fully absorb the liquid before it all cooked out. I will definitely be making this again. Thanks for sharing!
You're very welcome!
This recipe was SO good! I used venison Italian sausage from my buck from this past fall. Amazing! Will definitely double the recipe going forward to guarantee we have leftovers! My family of four left zero! 🙂 Greatest problem to have.
I'm thrilled you enjoyed it!!
Dianne Martone says
I was wondering if I could use couse couse instead of orzo??
Hi! I've only tested it with orzo. You could definitely give it a try, though. I'd keep a close eye on if you need to add more liquid or cook it for longer.
Oops forgot to leave a star rating. Needs more then 5 ⭐️! I made a double batch and there were no left overs! Everyone called the orzo rice. 😂 from young to teenagers to adults everyone was raving about this dish! Thank you!!! I had orzo and wanted a recipe to use it in.