Toasted Orzo with Peas and Parmesan

Update 08/2012: I’ve been making this dish for over three years and we continue to love it as a delicious, quick side dish.

As you can see from the updated picture, there are no peas in the dish I took a picture of (even though the title of the recipe is officially “Toasted Orzo with Peas and Parmesan”). That’s because I frequently sub shredded zucchini for the peas and I’m guessing you could go crazy and use other favorite veggies.

The orzo soaks up the flavors of the garlic and onion and is perfectly chewy when finished cooking. Personally, this dish is so delicious, I can eat the entire pan as my main entree, but I usually decide to share with the fam. I’m nice like that.

Toasted Orzo with Peas and Parmesan

Yield: Serves 4-6 (as a side dish)

Toasted Orzo with Peas and Parmesan

Note: I often substitute other veggies for the peas, like shredded zucchini, so use your imagination and choose veggies you love (or leave them out)!


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 ¼ cups orzo
  • 2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh minced parsley leaves
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges, for serving (optional


  1. Melt the butter in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and ¾ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring often, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the orzo and cook, stirring often, until most of the grains are golden, about 5 minutes. Carefully stir in the broth and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally until all of the liquid has been absorbed and the orzo is tender, 10 to 12 minutes. (Be careful not to cook at too high of heat at this point because the liquid will evaporate instead of cook the orzo and you’ll be left with undercooked pasta.)
  2. Off the heat, stir in the peas, Parmesan, and parsley and let sit until the peas are warmed through, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with the lemon wedges.

Recipe Source: adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Best Skillet Recipes

Tagged with →  

46 Responses to Toasted Orzo with Peas and Parmesan

  1. Pat says:

    Mel, I love your recipes and can’t wait to try this one. Hubby, who does all the grocery shopping (yayy!) bought some orzo with some of the “grains” dyed with squid ink!! Unusual for sure, but it worked well in some some soup and salad recipes I had last summer, but this recipe sounds like a delicious way to use it also as a hot side dish. Thanks!

  2. Catherine says:

    Do you think this would work with a different pasta? My son doesn’t like orzo. Thanks!

  3. Jared says:

    This was amazing. We used kale and sugar snap peas that were in our CSA basket this week.

  4. Dani says:

    Made this last night and we all enjoyed it! Just wanted to check about the quantity of Parmesan – it seems like 1 ounce would be less than a cup. Is that right?

    I want to try the zucchini variation next – do you add it at the end uncooked like the peas or do you saute it at the beginning with the onions?

    • Mel says:

      Dani – I add the zucchini at the end like the peas – because it’s shredded, it cooks fine in the heated pasta. As for the Parmesan, it kind of depends on how finely it’s grated and how packed the measuring cup is – I’ll have to measure next time since it’s been a while since I made this recipe.

  5. Trudy says:

    My family and I were getting SO tired of the typical sides which lead me to try this. We had never tried orzo before but I like all the ingredients in the recipe so how could I go wrong? We all loved the flavour and texture with the exception of the salt. I really didn’t think it was necessary, especially with the use of the chicken stock/broth. Even low sodium varieties have more salt in them than we need. I will make this again and again but omit the salt 🙂 Thank you for sharing your life and favorite recipes with your fans!

  6. Tara says:

    Sooooo yum! Thank you! I printed this out months ago and finally bought some Orzo (not always easy to find where I live). I had never made orzo before but I will be now! To keep this a VERY quick and simple meal, I made this as our entree. It was easily yummy to be that! My only mistake was that make 2 1/2 cups of chicken stock I used 3 bouillon cubes which made the dish far too salty–yet it was still so good even with the salt! Next time I would use 2 cubes. I see you have several orzo recipes, so I’ll be trying more!

  7. […] the meal was my side dish. I’m not sure how healthy it is, but I absolutely loved the toasted orzo with peas. The prep was actually a lot like making rice-a-roni (which I was sadly an expert at in […]

  8. Andrea says:

    Made this tonite for dinner with tilapia and acorn squash. It was FABULOUS!!!. The whole family loved it! Thank you thank you. Can’t wait for leftovers tomorrow.

  9. Mel says:

    Deb – I’ve never seen whole wheat orzo…don’t even know if companies make it, to be honest!

  10. Deb says:

    This was awesome!! Served it with grilled tilapia and made for a great dinner. Came together quickly and easily and delivered great flavor. Have you seen whole wheat orzo anywhere? Just curious b/c that would amp up the nutritional value 🙂

  11. Becca says:

    I looove this recipe! It is so perfect and the leftovers are almost BETTER! My favorite part is how easy it was. I am domestically impaired and before this dish my spaghetti was the only safe bet for dinner 😉 Even my 3 year old loved it and she doesn’t eat much of anything. Thanks thanks thanks! I can’t wait to try another recipe.

  12. Jana says:

    This was a great vegetarian main dish to try on my family. I blogged about it here I absolutely LOVE your site and have tried more recipes that I will blog about soon. I linked back to your blog. I hope that’s ok, let me know if it’s not.

  13. Kim says:

    I cannot say enough good things about this dish! I want to eat the entire batch all by myself! A tip, if doubling it, do it in a big pot, and know that browning the orzo takes about 10 minutes. But it is so worth it. I’m thinking this would be really with mixed summer vegetables and eggplant mixed in. When I made it tonight I put the onion in my food processor and did it very fine (someone I was making dinner for doesn’t like “chunks” of onion in their food). The onion flavor was very strong, much stronger than the times I have used chopping onion. Do you know if it has something to do with the fact that the onion was pureed instead of chopped? The good side effect of it though was the the onion got very toasty and gave the orzo an amazing toasted onion flavor. So if you like onion flavor, try pureeing the onion.

  14. […] is not my picture, which is obvious to anyone who has seen any of my food pictures.  This is Mel’s […]

  15. Melanie says:

    Teri – I agree that this dish is delicious in it’s creaminess – just like risotto!

  16. Teri says:

    oh and it’s creamy, so it’s kind of a like a quick risotto almost!

  17. Teri says:

    Interesting that I just found this dish since I basically made my own version twice in the past two weeks! So yummy! I sauteed onions & garlic in a little oil/butter combo w/ some salt & pepper, then added in some frozen peas at the last minute. I poured the pasta in w/ it and then stirred in the parm! YUM! 🙂

  18. Melanie says:

    Jennifer – thanks for letting me know you liked this!

  19. Jennifer says:

    I made this last night and it came out really good, thanks!

  20. Meg says:

    I love anything with peas. YUM!Thanks for the comment on my enchiladas. I think you could definitely use the green sauce instead of red.

  21. Melanie says:

    Organic Baby – thanks for letting me know. I’m very glad you liked it!

  22. Melanie says:

    Cindy – I just made this again this week, too. Great timing! I don’t mind at all if you post your version with a link to my blog – I’d be honored. Thanks for your comment!

  23. Melanie Anne says:

    This looks delish!

  24. Michele says:

    This looks delicious. I love orzo and even make a salad with it but this looks even better since you toasted the orzo.

  25. grace says:

    TOASTED orzo sounds great! and i always love the pop of peas in dishes like this. lovely. 🙂

  26. Lydia Stewart says:

    That actually sounds so good! I am just intimidated by the foreign sound of “orzo” but I’ll have to give it a try!

  27. Your Frugal Friend, Niki says:

    Sounds heavenly!🙂

  28. Melanie says:

    JoAnn – I served this on the side with some ribs I made in the slow cooker.

  29. alan and bonnie says:

    I made this tonight and added sauted lemon pepper chicken and was delicious.

  30. Melanie says:

    Liz – that’s why I love this dish, because the pasta is small and great for my kids. Glad you and yours liked it, too!

  31. teresa says:

    Melanie, I just love your blog, it’s one of my faves! This looks like HEAVEN!

  32. Patsyk says:

    We love orzo, too! This looks like a perfect side dish. Yum!

  33. Leslie says:

    I too am always on the hunt for new side dishes!Looks yummo

  34. Sophie says:

    MMMMM…This dish is calling me,…..Yum!!

  35. cindy says:

    I have made this twice for guests–it was a hit! I used aspargus (blanched for 2 minutes) and added some coarsely chopped baby spinach (I add spinach to everything)! Love your blog. Do you care if I post my version of this recipe with a link to your blog? I just entered the blogging world.

  36. Melanie says:

    Anonymous – thanks for letting me know you liked this. I’m glad to hear it!

  37. Melanie says:

    Alan and Bonnie – so glad you tried this already. What a great addition of lemon pepper chicken. I bet it was fabulous!Anonymous – I like this better than rice and peas by far!Anonymous – thanks for your nice compliment. It means a lot. Thanks for checking in to let me know!

  38. Anonymous says:

    I tried this last night and it was great! Thanks for the recipe!

  39. Anonymous says:

    Great side dish! It had so much flavor too. It can be hard to come up with new and different side dishes. My 11 month old really liked it too. The orzo was just the perfect size for him and his little mouth. -Liz K.

  40. KT says:

    I love orzo! This reminds me I need to make it soon. I normally throw it into soups and forget to make it on its own. I actually just made a pasta tonight with peas and asparagus pieces, plus a little bacon. I bet that would be good with orzo instead of penne – a little healthier and fewer carbs. Thanks for the idea!

  41. Anonymous says:

    I think I’d like that better than rice and peas.

  42. Anonymous says:

    My husband and I are big fans of your blog. I check it everyday and I love it! All your recipes I have tried have been wonderful. Can’t wait to try the orzo pasta tonight.

  43. Organic Baby says:

    I tried making this today and it went all good. thanks for this!

  44. JoAnn says:

    Melanie,What did you serve this with?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *