Garlic Parmesan Orzo Risotto
Orzo Risotto is the perfect side dish with almost any meal! Tender pasta in a creamy garlic parmesan cheese sauce with a splash of truffle oil! Pasta risotto is made the same way you make rice risotto – slowly add a splash of chicken broth and stir it until it absorbs. It’s less than ten ingredients and is ready in around 30 minutes!
If you’re asking yourself, can you really make risotto with orzo, the answer is yes!
Orzo risotto is the side dish you didn’t know you needed.
It’s extra luxe, made with rice-shaped pasta (which is delicious in soups, by the way) instead of risotto made with traditional arborio rice. Each bite is a party in your mouth. Seriously luxurious with tender orzo pasta, a little knob of butter for sheen, and a splash of cream to make this just a little something special. Most of these ingredients are stashed in your pantry or refrigerator, I’m convinced.
I like to hit it with a little splash of white truffle oil during the holidays just to make it perfect for serving with seared steak and shrimp, with my whole roasted chicken, lemon garlic braised chicken, or my chicken with garlicky mushroom cream sauce. But the truffle oil is totally optional!
Orzo risotto is the side dish you didn’t know you needed! It’s one for the monthly meal rotation for sure.
Ingredients for this orzo risotto recipe
- Olive Oil: You’ll need a glug of oil to saute the minced shallots, garlic, and dry orzo pasta in the pan.
- Chicken broth: If you’d like to keep this recipe vegetarian-friendly, you can use vegetable broth or stock instead of chicken.
- Shallot: I like to use a shallot for this recipe as it has a milder flavor and works well with the other ingredients. Feel free to swap it with a chopped white or yellow onion if you don’t have a shallot on hand.
- Garlic Cloves: MInce fresh garlic for this recipe if possible. The stuff in the jar doesn’t taste as great!
- Orzo Pasta: Orzo pasta is readily available in most grocery stores. You’ll need 10 oz. for this recipe. See below for subs if you can’t find it in your area.
- Fresh Thyme: Thyme adds a lemony flavor to the risotto. If you don’t have thyme on hand, you can finish the risotto with a pinch of freshly grated lemon zest.
- Seasonings: I use kosher salt, black pepper or white pepper, and mushroom powder to flavor the risotto. Umami seasoning is an ingredient that adds umami to any recipe that you use it in. It’s available at Trader Joe’s but you can also find it in mainstream grocery stores and online here. Typically made with ground-up mushrooms, and often labeled as mushroom powder as well!
- Unsalted Butter: You’ll need a knob of butter to finish the risotto. This just gives it a nice sheen and makes it glossy!
- Heavy Cream: I use 2 tbsp of heavy cream to finish the risotto. The cream helps balance all the other flavors and it pairs beautifully with the white truffle oil.
- Parmesan Cheese: Grated parmesan cheese is a must! It just adds another layer to the umami from the mushroom powder.
- White Truffle oil: This is an optional ingredient but I like to stir it in right at the end to give it a delicious, earthy flavor.
How to make orzo risotto
- Start with broth. In a small saucepan over medium heat, simmer the chicken broth until it reaches a boil; lower the heat to the lowest setting so that it just stays warm.
- Start the risotto. In a wide 3-quart saute pan or larger, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Sauté the shallots in the oil with a pinch of kosher salt for a few minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon until the shallots are nice and translucent. You don’t want there to be any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic and the orzo and toast it for a few minutes. Then season with the fresh thyme sprigs and the mushroom powder.
- Make risotto. Add a cup of the warm chicken broth to the orzo and then set a timer for 2 minutes less than the max cooking directions on the orzo package. When most of the liquid simmers off, add another 1/2 cup of stock. Stir continuously so that the orzo releases the starch into the broth and so that the risotto is nice and creamy. Keep adding the stock as needed. Test the orzo when the timer goes off. If it needs more time, add more broth as needed and continue to cook.
- Finish and serve. Stir in the butter and the heavy cream. Then add the grated parmesan cheese. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper as desired. We love adding a drizzle of white truffle oil to this right before pulling off the heat. Serve this with your choice of protein – chicken or steak are some great options!
FAQs about this recipe
Arborio is a short-grain rice, and orzo is a type of pasta; they are not the same thing.
Ditalini, small shells, or elbow macaroni would be the best substitute for orzo. Keep in mind that the amount of liquid that these types of pasta absorb might be more or less than the orzo pasta so you want to make sure you have additional chicken broth on hand if you sub out the orzo.
If you like this recipe, you might also like:
- Beef and Barley Soup
- Garlicky Orzo Shrimp Scampi
- Mediterranean Tuna Orzo Summer Salad
- Roasted Garlic Pearl Couscous Salad
- Hearty Minestrone Soup
- 3 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 shallot, finely minced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 10 ounces dry orzo pasta
- Fresh thyme sprigs
- ½ teaspoon umami seasoning (opt. see notes)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- ½ cup grated parmesan
- Kosher salt + white pepper
- 2 teaspoons white truffle oil (optional)
- SIMMER: In a small saucepan, heat the stock over medium heat. When it starts to simmer, reduce the heat to the lowest setting and let it hang out there.
- SAUTE: In a wide, 3-quart saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the shallot in the oil with a pinch of salt for 4-5 minutes or until translucent. Add the garlic and the orzo pasta and continue to cook for another 3 minutes or until the orzo is golden. Add in the fresh thyme sprigs, and season with umami seasoning, if desired.
- RISOTTO: add 1 cup of warm chicken stock to the orzo and stir to combine. Set a timer for 2 minutes less than the max package directions as soon as you add the stock. When most of the liquid has evaporated from the pan, add ½ cup of stock, stir and continue this process until the timer goes off. Test the orzo at this point and see if it needs to be cooked longer; you can let it go for another 2-3 minutes if necessary. You may not end up using all the stock, it just depends on how much the orzo soaks up.
- FINISH: Stir in the butter and the heavy cream until it’s all combined. Then add the grated parmesan. Taste and adjust with salt and white pepper as desired. I love to add a drizzle of white truffle oil right before serving!
- Umami Seasoning is also often labeled 'mushroom powder.' This is an optional ingredient, but it does add a ton of rich flavor to the orzo risotto!