Prepared Mediterranean-style, this nutty Toasted Orzo Pasta Recipe with Garlic, Parmesan and Sun-dried Tomatoes will steal the show next to your favorite protein. You can even serve it as a quick and easy vegetarian meal on its own; it will feed 4 people as a vegetarian main and about 6 or so as a side dish.
It was a superb complement to our top sirloin and veggie kebabs. In fact, this orzo recipe jumped to the top of the list and one we’ll make time and again!
Leftovers? Lucky you. It will keep in the fridge for up to 4 days in a tightly closed container. Warm over medium heat.
In a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil over medium-high. Add the orzo and cook, tossing around, until toasted to a beautiful golden brown.
Add at least 7 cups of boiling water to the saucepan and season well with 1 tablespoon of kosher salt. Cook the pasta in boiling water to al dente according to the package instructions (about 7 to 8 minutes).
Just before the pasta is fully cooked (after about 5 minutes), remove 1 cup of the starchy pasta water and set it aside.
In a large pan, warm 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and season with a pinch of kosher salt and red pepper flakes, if using. Cook, tossing regularly, until just fragrant. Add the lemon juice and 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. Raise the heat if needed to bring to a boil. Add the parsley and oregano.
When the pasta is ready, drain and add it to the pan and toss to combine. Season with kosher salt and black pepper. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and a 1/4 cup of the grated parmesan. Toss to combine. If needed, add a little more of the pasta cooking water.
Finish with more Parmesan and red pepper flakes, if you like.
Does a Mediterranean diet appeal to you? Then these two recipes might be worth a try. The first from Cook’s Country, Orzo with Shrimp, Feta and Lemon dish will grab your attention. Cooking the orzo pilaf-style gives it extra flavor and allows you to control the slightly creamy consistency.
To keep this meatless, use seafood/shellfish stock as opposed to chicken broth. Also, if the broth you use is on the bland side, use 4 cups of the stock and omit the water. If, like our homemade shellfish stock, it is intense, dilute it with two cups of water.
Adjust the amounts of olives and feta to suit your own preferences. One version of the recipe indicated only a half cup of Kalamatas and only 2 ounces of feta, while the list below indicates double of each.
Because we cooked our meal in a 10-inch-wide nonstick pan, the shrimp took an extra two minutes to become opaque. Keep that in mind if using less than a 12-inch skillet.
The second recipe, Baked Shrimp and Orzo with Feta and Tomatoes, is another Mediterranean-inspired shrimp dish similar to the Orzo with Shrimp, Feta and Lemon above, however this version gets started on the cooktop and then baked in the oven. It only calls for 1 pound of shrimp but we had 1 1⁄2 pounds and decided to use it all. The 12-inch skillet was brimming full. Our other change was incorporating homemade shellfish stock for the chicken broth.
To build in plenty of Mediterranean flavor, start by sautéing chopped onion and red bell pepper, to soften them before adding in minced garlic and oregano. To guarantee perfectly cooked shrimp and pasta, sauté the orzo in the aromatics to unlock its toasty notes. The crumbled saffron threads, though not traditional, introduce a sunny hue and warm, complex flavor.
Chicken (or shellfish) broth and the drained juice from a can of diced tomatoes are then stirred in; as the orzo cooks to al dente, its releases starch (similar to a risotto) creating a sauce with a subtly creamy texture. To prevent the shrimp from overcooking, stir them right into the orzo, along with the reserved tomatoes and frozen peas, and transfer the skillet to the oven to cook through gently. A sprinkling of feta before baking reinforces the dish’s Greek flavors and promises an appealing browned, cheesy crust.
Make sure that the orzo is al dente, or slightly firm to the bite; otherwise it may overcook in the oven. If using smaller or larger shrimp, the cooking times may vary accordingly. You can leave the shrimp tails on, if desired. The small amount of saffron makes a big difference to the flavor and look of the dish, so be sure to include it. You will need a 12-inch oven-safe nonstick skillet for this recipe.
1 lb. extra-large shrimp (21 to 25 per pound), peeled, deveined, and tails removed
Salt and pepper
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 red onion, chopped fine
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into ½-inch pieces
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. minced fresh oregano or ½ teaspoon dried
2 cups (12 oz.) orzo
Pinch saffron threads, crumbled
3 cups chicken or shellfish broth
1 (14.5-oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained with juice reserved
½ cup frozen peas
3 oz. feta cheese, crumbled (¾ cup)
2 scallions, sliced thin
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Pat shrimp dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper; cover and refrigerate until needed.
Heat oil in 12-inch oven-safe nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and bell pepper and cook until vegetables are softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in garlic and oregano and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in orzo and saffron and cook, stirring often, until orzo is lightly browned, about 4 minutes.
Stir in broth and reserved tomato juice, bring to simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until orzo is al dente, 10 to 12 minutes.
Stir in shrimp, tomatoes, and peas, then sprinkle feta evenly over top. Transfer skillet to oven and bake until shrimp are cooked through and feta is lightly browned, about 20 minutes.
Remove skillet from oven (skillet handle will be hot). Sprinkle scallions over top and serve with lemon wedges.
In this Mediterranean recipe, you will coax orzo pasta to a rich, creamy texture, as if making risotto. A fragrant broth* of brandy, aromatic vegetables and shrimp shells is the cooking liquid for the orzo, infusing the dish with richness and subtle sweetness.
The shrimp themselves are added only after the orzo is al dente so they remain plump and tender. This adaptation from Milk Street takes a simple approach to the cooking with fewer ingredients than the Greek original, but retains the delicious, bracing flavors.
Ouzo is a Greek anise-flavored spirit; it’s added at the very end of cooking to accentuate the licorice notes of the fennel seed. Milk Street suggests that you don’t choose large zucchini for this recipe. Look for small to medium squash (ones that weigh 6 to 8 ounces each), as they have fewer seeds to remove. Well our supermarket didn’t have any smaller ones so we got a large zucchini before reading this tip, and it worked out fine.
To seed the zucchini, use a small spoon to scrape along the center of each half. Also, if making the shrimp broth, when simmering, don’t allow it to boil or simmer vigorously or the liquid will evaporate too quickly and the finished volume will be too slight.
*Since we already had homemade shellfish stock on hand, there was no need to make the broth and thus omitted the red bell pepper, celery and onion, and started at Step 5 with seasoning the shrimp. We also used frozen shrimp without shells since we weren’t making broth. These two things saved a large amount of time in prepping and cooking. We did however add the brandy to our homemade stock and included the bay leaves in the cooking process.
1 lb. extra-large (21/25 per pound) shrimp, peeled (tails removed) and deveined, shells reserved
3 medium celery stalks, roughly chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and roughly chopped
1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
3 bay leaves
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
¼ cup brandy
1 cup orzo
2 medium zucchini (about 1 lb. total), halved lengthwise, seeded and thinly sliced crosswise
1 lb. ripe plum or cocktail tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped
1 tsp. fennel seeds, lightly crushed
1 Tbsp. plus 1 teaspoon ouzo
1½ tsp. grated lemon zest
½ cup lightly packed fresh mint, chopped
In a large pot over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon of oil until shimmering. Add the shrimp shells and cook, stirring just once or twice, until bright pink and dry, 3 to 4 minutes.
Add the celery, bell pepper, onion, bay and ¼ teaspoon salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to release moisture, 2 to 4 minutes.
Add the brandy and scrape up any browned bits. Add 4 cups water, bring to a boil, then reduce to medium and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
Cool for about 10 minutes, then strain through a fine mesh sieve set over a 1-quart liquid measuring cup or medium bowl; press on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible (discard the solids). You should have about 3 cups strained broth.
Season the shrimp with salt and pepper; set aside. In a 12-inch skillet over medium, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil until shimmering. Add the orzo and stir to coat.
Add the zucchini, tomatoes, fennel seeds, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the tomatoes begin to release their liquid, 3 to 5 minutes.
Add 1½ cups shrimp broth and bring to a simmer over medium-high. Cook, uncovered and stirring often, until most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 6 minutes; reduce the heat as the mixture thickens.
Add another 1 cup broth and cook, stirring vigorously and adjusting the heat to maintain a simmer, until the orzo is tender and the consistency is slightly soupy, 3 to 6 minutes.
Add the shrimp and another ¼ cup broth, then cook over medium, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are opaque throughout, about 3 minutes.
Remove the pot from the heat. Remove and discard the bay, then stir in the ouzo and lemon zest. If desired, thin the consistency by stirring in additional broth, then taste and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with the mint.