Getting to Know Orzo: A Guide to Understanding This Versatile Pasta Alternative

Have you ever heard of orzo? If not, read on. This article will help you know more about this staple.

Orzo was first mentioned in ancient Roman texts, and it is believed that its origin was in Italy, more precisely in the island of Sicily. In the Middle Ages, orzo was an ingredient for stews and soups. Later, during the Renaissance, it was served as a side dish and mixed with vegetables, herbs, and cheese. In Italian, orzo means barley,  but what we commonly know as orzo is a short pasta o pasta made from wheat flour or semolina, a type of flour made from durum wheat. The name it has received comes from its rice-like shape, resembling the barley grain. This easy and versatile pasta, or risi in Italian, is typically used in broths, soups, salads and as a side dish. Its neutral flavor makes it perfect to be infused with whatever ingredient you have at hand or wish to use.


How to cook the perfect orzo

You will only need two ingredients to make the perfect orzo, three maximum: orzo, water and olive oil or butter. Use a large pot and, over high heat, bring it to a boil. Once the water is boiling, cook the pastina for about 10 minutes, until you can feel it is al dente. The ratio of water to dried pasta is as with rice, two parts of water per part of dried pasta. Drain the excess water but leave some to use in the same pot or the bowl in which you will be serving the pasta. Toss in your butter or olive oil, stir a little bit and cover your orzo dish. Leave for another five minutes and observe how your orzo is infused with this buttery or olive-oily starchy and delicious sauce. Note that this pasta is extremely versatile due to its neutral flavor, so you get to be as imaginative as you want with the dishes you can create. We have thought of an incredible recipe for you to cook tonight. Stay with us.


A word about nutrition values of orzo

Orzo is a type of pasta that takes its shape from a grain of rice. It is a tiny, oblong-shaped pasta that is often used in soups and salads, but can also be served as a side dish. It is quite a popular ingredient in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine and has been a staple pasta in the Mediterranean region since ancient times.

Orzo is a nutritious addition to any meal, as it is a good source of protein, carbohydrates, dietary fiber, and essential minerals and vitamins. It is low in fat and sodium and is free of cholesterol, so it is perfect to include in any weight-control diet.

See next the most important nutritional values of orzo:

  • Protein: 12 grams per 100-gram serving
  • Carbohydrates: 72 grams per 100-gram serving
  • Dietary Fiber: 3.2 grams per 100-gram serving
  • Fat: 2.9 grams per 100-gram serving
  • Sodium: 5 milligrams per 100-gram serving
  • Cholesterol: 0 milligrams per 100-gram serving
  • Vitamins: Vitamin A, B-complex vitamins, Vitamin C, and Vitamin E
  • Minerals: Iron, Magnesium, Zinc, and Potassium

Being such a versatile ingredient, orzo is the cook’s preferred staple for a wide range of dishes. It can be cooked in broth and served with vegetables, or combined with grilled or roasted vegetables for a flavorful side dish. Many people even use it as a substitute for rice in risotto, paella or other rice-based recipes, as well as in salads, soups, and casseroles.


Some ideas to use orzo with

Seasonal vegetables and orzo


  • Garlic.
  • Spinach leaves.
  • Cherry tomatoes.
  • Broccoli.
  • Peas.
  • Carrots.
  • Dried orzo pastina, which you can get from


  1. First, chop all your vegetables as finely as desired. Note that there are no instructions on how much of each ingredient is needed; this depends on what you have at hand while cooking, or on how many people are eating. There are no rights and wrongs here and this is the beauty of this simple yet delicious and nourishing meal.
  2. Heat a cast iron pan with some olive oil and sauteé your vegetables; start by adding the garlic, carrots, broccoli, peas, spinach leaves and then the cherry tomatoes.
  3. Put some water (or broth) to a boil in a separate pot to cook the orzo as explained above. Remember, one part of dried pasta per two parts of any liquid, be it water or vegetable/chicken broth.
  4. Once the orzo is cooked and your vegetables stir-fried, bring all the ingredients together. You can use the zest of a lemon on top before serving, and delight yourself or your guests with this quick and comfortable meal.

Orzo stuffed peppers


  • 1 cup Orzo pastina
  • Bell peppers.
  • Green onions.
  • Garlic.
  • Ground pepper, salt and cumin
  • Portobello mushrooms.
  • Vegetable broth.
  • Parmesan cheese.

Step-by-step instructions

  1. Start heating the oven to 190 degrees Celsius.
  2. Cut your bell peppers in halves, sprinkle them with some salt and olive oil and put them to roast on a baking sheet. This should take you about ten minutes.
  3. Pour some olive oil on a skillet and heat it up. Stir and cook, for about three minutes, your garlic, portobello mushrooms and green onions.
  4. Add the uncooked orzo pasta to the vegetables and cover them with two parts of vegetable broth. Add salt and pepper to the mix and let it simmer until cooked. This should take you about eleven or twelve minutes.
  5. Add Parmesan cheese and combine.
  6. Use the orzo and vegetable mixture to fill the bell peppers previously roasted. Add some more Parmesan on top and put them back in the oven until the cheese starts melting.
  7. This dish will bring healthy fats, carbs and proteins to your meal, making it not only delicious but healthy and packed with nutrients from the pastina and the vegetables.
  8. Serve with some green beans on the side, or a simple salad to add a refreshing touch, and enjoy!

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