Brightly flavored with fresh basil, sun-dried tomatoes, and lemon, vegetarian orzo is creamy and satisfying. Made in one pot, it’s the perfect recipe for family dinners or company!
Why you’ll love it: Have this dinner on the table in just over a half hour! It can be a main dish or side dish.
How long it takes: 35 minutes
Equipment you’ll need: large skillet with lid
Servings: 4 main course
One pot pasta dinners have to be about the best thing ever. No boiling water, no colanders, no stress. This vegetarian orzo recipe combines all the goodness of perfectly cooked pasta, flavorful veggies, lemony sauce and Parmesan cheese into one delicious dish, and you cook it all in one large skillet! It doesn’t get better than that.
This recipe comes from Erin’s cookbook, The Well Plated Cookbook. Erin has been one of my closest friends for years so I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to tell you about her book. Keep reading for more info!
I love how colorful this pasta dish is. Sun-dried tomatoes add a deep red color and so much concentrated tomato flavor. They are little atomic bursts of tomato — slightly chewy, tart, with concentrated tomato flavor. If you haven’t tried cooking with sun-dried tomatoes, this is the perfect recipe to begin with. Soak them in really hot water for a few minutes to unleash the flavor.
Add dark green spinach, sunny lemon, and fresh basil for a beautiful and healthy pasta dinner. Ready in less than 30 minutes and only one pan to wash! Serendipity!
About One pot vegetarian orzo
First, just a quick note about orzo: Even though orzo kinda looks like rice, it’s really a pasta, and you’ll find it with all the other pastas at the grocery store. I love its small size which cooks quickly and isn’t messy to eat. You can buy whole wheat or regular.
There are a lot of orzo recipes on my site. It’s perfect for this bruschetta pasta salad or creamy Southwestern orzo salad, both of which are really popular at picnics and potlucks. Spring orzo salad with arugula, asparagus and toasted pine nuts is a pretty amazing salad, too.
How To Make This Recipe
So how do one pot pasta recipes like this vegetarian orzo work? First, you’ll need one pretty good-sized pan with a tight-fitting lid. I use a large straight sided skillet (psst: it’s not the one in the pictures – see the recipe card for a pan I recommend!).
Begin by sautéing onions and garlic in the pan. Add the dry orzo briefly to coat it with oil and toast a bit. Now, you’re probably thinking, okay, how does the pasta actually get cooked in this one skillet? Here’s the secret: lots of liquid! For this recipe, add two cups of milk and 2 to 3 cups of broth.
That’s a lot of liquid but you’ll be amazed how much of it is absorbed by the orzo as it cooks. You won’t need to drain a bit of it off. In fact, between the starch from the orzo and any extra liquid, you’ll end up with a beautiful creamy sauce. It’s like magic!
While the pasta is cooking, chop the sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, and basil. Zest and juice a lemon, and shred some Parmesan cheese. Have the kids set the table and pour yourself a glass of wine.
Stir the remaining ingredients into the pasta: tomatoes, spinach, lemon zest and juice, red pepper flakes, and basil. Cook for a minute or so to wilt the spinach. Sprinkle in the cheese, stir, and serve!
Vegetarian orzo is a filling meatless main dish, or a delicious side dish. It goes well with lemon salmon or pork medallions with lemon garlic sauce. We also love it with lemon pepper shrimp, a super easy recipe, or grilled marinated chicken (Italian chicken marinade).
About The Well Plated Cookbook
You may be wondering why you should trust me and buy this book since I’m obviously biased.
Here’s why: I know first-hand how high quality every single recipe in this book is. I know, because I know Erin is meticulous and tests each recipe multiple times. I know, because I cooked alongside Erin while the amazingly talented Becky of The Cookie Rookie shot the photographs you’ll find in this book (they’re stunning!). I know, because I know Erin wouldn’t produce anything that wasn’t the highest quality possible.
So, not only did I personally taste countless recipes in this book (how lucky am I?), but I also prepared the recipes. They’re easy to follow, straight-forward, and contain no odd ingredients. They’re a joy to prepare, even if you’re on your 12th recipe of the day. That’s saying something.
Erin’s style of cooking is very similar to mine (approachable, healthy recipes), so if you love Rachel Cooks recipes, you’ll definitely love the recipes in this book.
Here are a few of my personal favorite recipes in the book:
- Lemon Chia Muffins
- Sticky Asian Cauliflower Wings (maybe my number one favorite recipe in the book)
- Ultimate Creamy Mac and Cheese (4 ways!)
- Instant Pot Jambalaya
- Instant Pot Spring Green Farro Risotto
- Grown Up Grilled Cheese (3 ways!) – the Blackberry, Basil, Balsamic & Brie grilled cheese is a must-try!
- Kung Pao Vegetable Stir-Fry
- Vanilla Ricotta Cheesecake with Breezy Berry Sauce
The cookbook claims to contain “fast, healthy recipes you’ll want to eat,” and it’s so true. You guys will LOVE this book.
Another more thing I adore about Erin’s book are the extras that she includes with many of the recipes:
- Pro Tips – These are helpful hints to help you pull off the recipe flawlessly
- Next Level – These are basically bonus recipes! They will show you how to take the recipe to the next level with simple swaps, changes, or additions.
- Market Swaps – Life savers if an ingredient is unavailable or you prefer to use something else.
Convinced yet? Buy The Well Plated Cookbook by clicking here!
Make It Your Own
- Use a different type of pasta. Follow package directions for cooking times.
- Add more protein: cooked chicken, sautéed shrimp, or diced ham could be stirred into the pasta. Cooked bacon or pancetta would be tasty, too.
- Vary the veggies. Instead of spinach, try baby kale or arugula. Any quick-cooking green would work. Or add blanched chopped broccoli, or corn. Like mushrooms? Sauté 8 oz. of sliced mushrooms with the onions.
Make Ahead Idea
- To Freeze: Prepare this one pan pasta and pour it in a greased casserole dish. Wrap securely and freeze for up to 2 months.
- To Reheat: Let the frozen casserole thaw in the fridge overnight, cover with foil, and bake at 350°F for 35 to 40 minutes, depending on the size of the casserole. Remove foil, sprinkle with additional cheese, and bake for 5 minutes, or until cheese melts. Garnish with fresh basil before serving.
Storage & Reheating Tips
- Refrigerate: Store leftovers in a tightly covered container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
- Reheat: Reheat gently on the stove top or in the microwave with a splash of water, broth, or milk if pasta seems a little dry.
Interested in a weekly meal plan (it’s free!) that includes this vegetarian orzo recipe? Take a look at my Meal Plan #16. You’ll find a wholesome recipe for each weekday plus a categorized grocery list. Let me do the planning for you this week!
We’ll be adding a new meal plan weekly. If you’re interested, browse all of our meal plans.
- 1 pkg. (3 oz.) dry-packed sun-dried tomatoes (about ¾ cup tightly-packed cup)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion, cut into ¼-inch dice (about 1 cup)
- 1 lb. uncooked whole wheat orzo pasta (about 2 ½ cups)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 cups nonfat milk (can use 2% or whole milk)
- 2 cups low sodium chicken broth or low sodium vegetable broth, divided (up to 1 cup more, if needed)
- 5 ounces baby spinach, coarsely chopped (about 5 cups)
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, plus additional to taste
- Zest and juice of 1 medium lemon (about 1 teaspoon zest and ¼ cup juice)
- ⅔ cup shredded Parmesan cheese (about 2 ½ oz.) plus additional for serving
- ¼ cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced, divided
- Place the sun-dried tomatoes in a small bowl and cover with very hot water. Let sit to rehydrate while you prepare the orzo.
- In a large Dutch oven or similar large, heavy-bottomed pot with a tight-fitting lid, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot but not yet smoking add the onion and sauté until fragrant and beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the orzo, garlic, salt, and black pepper. Sauté, stirring to combine the ingredients and coat the orzo with the onion and oil. Cook just until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Be careful not to let the garlic burn.
- Slowly stir in the milk and 2 cups of the broth. Bring to a gentle boil, stirring very frequently with a wooden spoon and scraping the spoon along the bottom of the pot to prevent the orzo from sticking. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to a light simmer. Cook until the orzo is al dente, most of the liquid is absorbed, and the orzo is very creamy, 8 to 10 minutes. Lift the lid every few minutes to stir and run the spoon along the bottom to prevent sticking If the pasta looks dry at any point, add several splashes of additional broth as needed to loosen it.
- Drain and roughly chop the sun-dried tomatoes. Add them to the pot. Stir in the spinach, red pepper flakes, lemon zest and juice, Parmesan, and half of the basil. Continue to cook and stir until the spinach is just wilted and the cheese melts, about 1 minute. Taste and season with additional salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes as desired. Serve hot, sprinkled with the remaining basil and additional Parmesan.
- Store leftovers in a tightly covered container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat gently on the stove top or in the microwave with a splash of water, broth, or milk if pasta seems a little dry.
- Makes 8 to10 side dish servings.
- Recipe used with permission from The Well Plated Cookbook by Erin Clarke, published by Avery, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.