toasted orzo with parmesan

Rich, nutty & flavorful.  Pair this up with grilled fish or chicken.  Or with roasted meat & vegetables.  In the time it takes to heat the grill and cook the rest of your meal, this delicious side is ready.  

For this presentation, I’ve chosen whole wheat orzo …DeLallo Organic to be exact.  You decide what works for you.  Since all orzo is not created equal, just try to choose a product that is on the “hefty” side.  While we’re on the subject, let’s talk about the broth.

I was inspired to make this dish after coming across an old recipe from Fine Cooking, Orzo with Brown Butter and Parmesan.  I honored the original recipe fairly well except for the fact that I wanted to make mine a bit healthier.  So I chose the whole wheat version of the pasta and I used vegetable stock instead of the suggested chicken broth.  I’m sure the chicken broth dish would be outstanding, but why not make a vegetarian version when it is just as tasty?  Once again, totally up to you.

I love the way this dish comes together in one pan or pot.  I use my LeCrueset dutch oven, but any medium-sized, heavy-duty saucepan or pot will work.  Choose one that holds at least 3 quarts and has a tight-fitting lid.

Start out by browning or “toasting” the raw orzo in some browned butter.  That process adds a distinctive nutty flavor to the final dish.

After the pasta has simmered in the broth, it’s time to add the grated parmesan cheese.  It will still be a bit soupy at this point.  Don’t worry.  It will set over the next few minutes.  Simply remove the pot from the heat and cover.   Let it sit for about five minutes.  Stir well and transfer to a serving dish (or not) and sprinkle with chopped chives and additional grated parmesan.

Delicious served on the side or topped with your freshly grilled fish, chicken or veggies.  Like maybe with some Grilled Swordfish with Butter, Lemon & Caper Sauce, perhaps?

toasted orzo with parmesan

Adapted from Fine Cooking

Flavorful side dish pairs well with grilled meat or fish, roasted chicken, sautéed vegetables.

Servings 4 servings


  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock or broth (or chicken broth)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup whole wheat orzo
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine (or substitute with 1/3 cup broth)
  • coarse kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (plus more for finishing)
  • thinly sliced fresh chives (for garnish)


  1. In a 2-cup glass measuring cup, mix the vegetable broth and 1/2 cup water.  Place in the microwave to heat for 2 minutes on high.  Alternately, in a 1- to 2-quart saucepan, bring the vegetable broth and 1/2 cup water to a simmer over medium-high heat.

  2. In a 3-quart heavy-duty saucepan or dutch oven, cook the butter over medium heat, swirling the pan occasionally, until the butter turns golden-brown and smells nutty, about 2 minutes.  Add the orzo and stir with a wooden spoon to coat well.  Cook until the orzo just begins to turn a light golden color, about 2 minutes.

  3. Pour in the wine and stir until absorbed for about 1 minute.  Add the heated broth mixture, stir, cover, and reduce the heat to low.  Cook until the orzo is just tender, about 12 minutes; the mixture may still be wet but will set up.

  4. Stir the orzo, season to taste with salt and a generous amount of pepper, and mix in the Parmigiano.  Cover and let rest 5 minutes.  Top with the chives and additional grated Parmigiano and serve.

Recipe Notes

Some possible variations:

  • Basil and toasted pine nuts
  • Sautéed mushrooms and thyme
  • Peas, mint and a squeeze of lemon

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