Parmesan and Spinach Orzo

When I was little, I always gave my mom a hard time about making orzo. I picked a fight every time we ate it because “it’s not pasta, it’s rice!” and would have to sit there and (un)patiently listen to her tell me that it is, in fact, pasta. It was a whole big thing. But I’m over it (sorry, Mom). Even though it still LOOKS a lot like rice. Just saying.

Parmesan & Spinach Orzo

Anywho, my mom sent me some rice orzo in a care package awhile back, and I recently discovered the last half of the package sitting in my pantry. “Eureka!” I thought. “I’ll make some orzo!”

Parmesan & Spinach Orzo

And make orzo I did. This rice pasta is great because it is quick to make but still flavorful. Annnnd it has parmesan cheese. Which means I am instantly a fan. Plus, it’s a great, light side dish for pretty much anything. Pair this orzo with chicken, fish, meat, or a side of grilled veggies. Versatility! I like it.

This orzo has quickly become one of my favorite go-to dinner dishes. It’s a great, quick side dish, but it also tastes great when you double the sauce recipe and toss it with some grilled fish or chicken. Want to make it even heartier? Add steamed broccoli, peas, or any other veggies you have on hand to the mix.

Parmesan & Spinach Orzo

Parmesan & Spinach Orzo
YIELD: Serves 4
  • 2 and ½ cups whole wheat orzo
  • 2 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tsp. flour
  • 1 cup milk (I used skim!)
  • ⅔ cups spinach, chopped
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese, shredded, plus extra for garnish
  1. Cook orzo according to package directions. Set aside.
  2. Heat olive oil in a medium-sized pot over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, salt and pepper and saute for 1 minute or until onions are translucent. Add flour to form a roux and cook for an additional minute.
  3. Add about ¼ cup of the milk to the pot and whisk to work out any lumps from the roux. When lumps are worked out, add the remaining milk and whisk to combine. Bring to a simmer and cook until sauce has thickened, about 8 minutes.
  4. Add chopped spinach to sauce and cook an additional 2 minutes or until spinach has cooked down. Remove sauce from heat.
  5. Stir parmesan cheese into sauce. When cheese has melted, add cooked orzo to sauce and toss to coat. Garnish with extra parmesan cheese and serve immediately.

Parmesan & Spinach Orzo
Parmesan & Spinach Orzo


  1. Whitney says

    Just made this for dinner! Super yummy! My husband and 2 year old absolutely loved it!! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Eleasha says

    This was fabulous! I didn’t use all the orzo I cooked cause I didn’t want it to be too pasta heavy and I added chicken. Also realized I was out of milk so I substituted light Alfredo sauce I had. Sooo good!

    • Jessie says

      I’m happy to hear that you liked it! I love adding chicken to this orzo – thanks for letting me know how it turned out!

  3. Kelly says

    Great recipe – my husband & I loved it!
    (we did double the spinach & parmesan)

    *It may be helped to specify “cooked” or “un-cooked” orzo. We decided to go with 2 1/2 cups COOKED orzo & that seemed to be a good ratio of pasta to sauce, but I think specifying either way would be helpful for people following your recipe. Thanks!

  4. Sandy says

    I liked this a lot! I added a few grates of fresh nutmeg. You don’t really know it’s there, but it brings out the flavor of the bechamel sauce.

  5. Brooke says

    I just made this, but didn’t have cows milk on hand so I used almond milk. Still turned out pretty good! Probably not as good, but worked in a pinch!

  6. Pam says

    This was very good, my family loved it! I will only use 2 cups of orzo next time, not enough sauce for the amount of cooked orzo. Thanks for the recipe Jessie!

  7. Chelsie K says

    Made this for my family tonight!
    They went back for seconds.
    And then thirds!
    Definitely adding it to my recipe collection! thank you!

  8. Sharleen says

    Hi Jessie, I made this as a side dish for the family on Sunday. I stirred in about 1/4 cup (or maybe a bit more 😉 chopped fresh dill just before serving. Delicious! Thank you so much for sharing your recipes!

  9. Jasmine says

    Is it really two teaspoons of flour? Not two tablespoons? I did two teaspoons as it says but my sauce never thickened (until I put the Parmesan cheese in anyway). Otherwise it turned out great, very tasty! Thanks!

    • Jessie says

      I do use two teaspoons (not tablespoons). When my sauces don’t thicken, it’s usually because I don’t give the roux enough time to cook, or because there is too much liquid in the pan (moisture from the vegetables, too much milk, etc). A thin sauce could also be the result of a too-small or too-tall pan: if there is too much sauce and not enough surface area, it will take longer to heat through/thicken. The only other thing I can think of is that some lumps of roux might not have gotten worked out (it’s so important to break up all the clumps to thicken the sauce – that’s why I add liquid a little bit at a time) but it doesn’t sound like that’s what happened here. If the sauce is too thin, I always recommend letting it simmer for awhile longer to get rid of some of that excess liquid. I’m glad it tasted good, though! Hopefully these sauce ideas will help you get a thicker sauce next time around :)

  10. Rachel says

    I don’t have green onions, will it make a huge difference if I leave it out? Can I use 1/2 of a white onion??

    • Jessie says

      No green onions = not a problem. If you use regular white onion, I’d use a bit less so that you don’t end up with a lot more “onion” flavor – I like the green onions because they are so mild and really let the parmesan shine through. But all onions are good onions in my book!

  11. Steph says

    I made this for dinner a few nights ago. I doubled the recipe to ensure plenty of leftovers, and made a few tweaks with the seasonings and cheese (to accommodate for personal preferences) and then tossed in some seasoned grilled shrimp to the completed dish. It was absolutely wonderful. Thank you for sharing this recipe!

  12. Kira says

    Don’t tell your mom, but technically orzo is a grain. “Orzo” in Italian means barley. I live in Italy and this type of pasta is called “risoni”, meaning big rice! Call it whatever you want, it’s still delicious!

    • Jessie says

      Agreed! You’re right about the Italian nomenclature, although its “barley”-derived name is solely because of its shape – it isn’t a grain that grows and is picked from a plant. It’s actually pasta dough that is cut to look like a grain of rice – hence the resemblance to barley and the name “orzo!” The term “risoni” is new to me, though – thanks for sharing!

  13. tara bawden says

    We made this tonight for our dinner. The kids are enjoying it. I probably overloaded it with cheese and a little extra garlic because I tend to do that with all italian recipes. We topped with pine nuts, it gave a little texture. We will definitely be making this recipe again. Thank you for sharing this quick and easy weeknight recipe!

    • Jessie says

      Overloading something with cheese and garlic is ALWAYS an excellent choice in my book. I love the idea of the pine nuts! Thanks for letting me know how the orzo turned out for you :)

  14. says

    Looks amazing! I absolutely adore orzo, always have ever since I was ‘introduced’ in about 7th grade. I recently thought I was going to have to stop eating gluten and this would have been the hardest thing for me to have to give up over breads and sweets, I was sad about my orzo!

      • Jennifer Berkowitz says

        Are you sure that you meant uncooked? I just made this, and it seems pretty dry. It seems like it would have been just the right creamy consistency w/ 2 1/2 cups COOKED orzo, instead of uncooked.

        • Jessie says

          Yup, I’m sure! I only measure pasta/rice/etc in its uncooked state, because it expands as it cooks and would make measuring too complicated to list is as a pre-cooked ingredient. These are the proportions I use when I make this. There are a ton of different things that could happen to make a dish like this seem dry – the most common problems I run into are 1. letting the sauce thicken too much (easy fix: add a bit more milk!) 2. adding too much cheese (which will have the same effect – sauce will be thicker and clumpier, but again, add more milk) and 3. using a too-big cut of pasta (probably not the case here, if you stuck with orzo). If you’d like to try the recipe again, and would like more sauce, I’d suggest adding an extra 1/2 cup of milk to the recipe. Alternatively, you could use half as much of the roux to avoid thickening the sauce too much, or cut back on the amount of cheese you melt into the sauce (and throw it on top of the orzo instead!) I’m not big on a lot of sauce, so I like to make just enough to coat the pasta without having a pool at the bottom of my plate/bowl. But if you like more sauce, definitely give it a try with extra milk!

    • says

      Another wonderful Orzo reciepe_ Cook according to directions, drain———–in small sauce pan melt 1 stick butter( no substitute) brown to a color of toast, watch carefully so not to it burn black!!! place 1/2 drained orzo in shallow bowl drizzle withe 1/2 butter and parmason cheese then orzo, butter and cheese. The amount of cheese and butter you use depends on amount of orzo you need. yummy, I also cook orzo in chicken broth. but water is ok

      • says

        Another fab reciepe with Orzo. Bake whole chicken rubbed with olive oil and with lemon , season with greek seasoning garlic salt, oregano. roast 2 hours @ 350— remove chicken from pan and in the drippings add par cooked orzo and a little chicken broth if needed, finish cooking orzo wonderful!!!


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