This cheesy CREAMY ORZO with mushrooms and spinach will become your go-to side dish as it comes ready from stovetop to table in less than 30 minutes. A one-pan pasta side dish that can also be served as a meal on its own!
I love the creamy, cheesy, and savory taste of this Creamy Orzo pasta. Among the delectable wide range of pasta, Orzo is one of my favorites. This particular pasta dish is very quick and easy to prepare with very simple ingredients such as parmesan cheese, half and half, mushrooms, spinach, and garlic – among others.
Not only does it use easy to find ingredients, but it’s a perfect choice for a one-pot quick-cooking dinner. How does 15 minutes of cooking time sound to you? And it does closely resemble rice which is our kind of comfort food here at home.
What is Orzo?
When I first heard the term “Orzo” it made me think of a type of shell or seafood. Luckily, Mr. Google always comes in handy. And I was literally floored when I read that orzo is a kind of pasta! Imagine that!
It’s a rice-shaped pasta that is also cooked the same way as rice. It is made from wheat semolina flour and has the same appearance to the grain when unprocessed. Italians usually refer to orzo as “barley” since it has a similar shape of a grain. Despite its similarities to rice, it is definitely NOT gluten-free.
Commonly, orzo comes in basic pale-yellow color. Other varieties are also available like black and the tricolor ones which include plain (yellow-white), red and green. Orzo may have multiple colors but the flavor remains the same.
Is Arborio Rice the same as Orzo?
What is arborio rice in the first place?
Well, Arborio rice is another variety of Italian rice where it is the largest among short Italian rice varieties. Arborio rice is rich in amylopectin, a starch present in rice. The starch present in Arborio rice may result in chewier, firmer, and creamier rice when cooked compared to other varieties of rice.
Typically, Arborio rice is used when making a risotto dish (see my Mushroom Risotto HERE), since it adds a creamier texture and delicious taste to the dish.
Creamy Orzo Ingredients
You don’t need a long list to make this simple busy weeknight dish. A little bit here and there and you’ll have a spot on comforting creamy dish ready to impress your guests and family.
Here’s what you need for this pasta dish.
- Unsalted butter or swap it with extra virgin olive oil
- Onion and garlic
- Sliced baby Bella mushrooms or any mushrooms that are earthy and meaty
- Italian Seasoning (see my Homemade HERE)
- Dry Orzo
- Chicken broth (a low-sodium one)
- Half and half (see Substitutions HERE)
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- salt and pepper
What Else Can You Add?
This cheesy, garlicky, Creamy Orzo is actually versatile. Yep! You can basically add-in almost whatever rocks your boat in this dish. Here are just a couple of popular add-ins for this dish
- green beans
- peas and carrots
- broccoli florets
- cooked bacon
- shredded chicken or rotisserie chicken
- cooked shrimp
Herbs and Spices
- Red pepper flakes
- Dried oregano
What Goes Well with Orzo?
Are you already excited to make this creamy exciting and versatile side? Don’t worry, I’ll share with you some of my go-to pairs for this pasta recipe down below. Or if you don’t want to exert any more effort in the kitchen, you can always serve this on its own.
More Creamy Pasta Recipes
How to Make Creamy Orzo Pasta
Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet or cast iron over medium-high heat. Then add onions and mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms are tender. Season with salt and pepper. Add minced garlic and Italian seasoning cook for about a minute. Remove and set aside.
Add the rest of the butter to the skillet as soon as butter melts add orzo, stir for about a minute or 2 do not let it burn. Pour in half and half, followed by chicken broth. Bring to a boil – reduce heat to medium/low, cover and let it cook for about 5 -6 minutes or until orzo is tender.
Return mushrooms mixture (you may reserve some to top orzo) back to the skillet, together with parmesan cheese. Mix fully to incorporate mushrooms and cheese. Add spinach. Mix well – remove from heat. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve immediately with these shrimp kabobs or on its own.
- 3-4 tablespoons (42g-56g) unsalted butter or oil extra virgin oil
- 1 cup (115g) diced white onion
- 6-8 ounces (170.1g-226.8k) baby Bella mushrooms sliced
- 1 tablespoon (8g) minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon (1.8g) Italian seasoning
- 2 cups dry orzo
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 2 cups half and half (see notes)
- ½ - 1 cup (50g-100g) grated parmesan cheese
- 1 ½ - 2 cups (45g-60g) fresh spinach (optional)
- salt and pepper to taste
- chopped parsley or basil for garnish
- Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet or cast iron over medium-high heat.
- Then add onions and mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms are tender. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add minced garlic and Italian seasoning cook for about a minute. Remove and set aside.
- Add the rest of the butter to the skillet. As soon as butter melts, add orzo, stir for about a minute or 2. Do not let it burn.
- Pour in half and half, followed by chicken broth. Bring to a boil - reduce heat to medium/low and cover and let it cook for about 5 -6 minutes or until orzo is tender.
- Return mushrooms mixture (you may reserve some to top orzo) back to the skillet, together with parmesan cheese. Mix fully to incorporate mushrooms and cheese. Add spinach. Mix well - remove from heat. Adjust seasonings to taste.
- Serve immediately with these shrimp kabobs or on its own.
Tips & Notes:
- Half and half is equal parts whole milk and heavy cream with a total milk fat percentage between 10-18%. You may substitute it with equal parts of low-fat milk + heavy cream. See other SUBSTITUTIONS HERE.
- You may substitute fresh spinach with a frozen one. Take note that you need to thaw the frozen spinach and squeeze out as much liquid as possible before adding it into the pan.
- Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3-4 days.
- I don't recommend freezing this dish as it's cream-based and it doesn't thaw well after freezing.
- Please keep in mind that nutritional information is a rough estimate and can vary greatly based on products used.