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This Orzo Rice is the perfect rice side dish for any meal. It whips up just as fast as Rice-A-Roni but this version tastes so much better!
Featured with this Recipe
This Orzo Rice, also known as rice pilaf with orzo, is the perfect side dish for just about any meal. It complements pretty much everything! Orzo Rice is a savory blend of orzo pasta’s unique, smooth texture and the delicate flavor of rice, and the best part is how effortless it is to make. Whether you’re hosting a big dinner or simply need a quick weeknight meal side dish, this Orzo Rice pilaf will be your go-to.
What is Orzo?
Orzo is a small, rice-shaped pasta that originated in Italy. It has a smooth and firm texture, giving it a nice al dente bite when cooked to perfection. Despite its appearance as a rice grain, orzo is made from durum wheat semolina, making it a type of pasta rather than a grain. The taste of orzo is mild and subtly nutty, similar to regular pasta but with a slightly more delicate flavor. Its unique shape and delightful texture make it a versatile ingredient that complements a wide range of dishes, from soups and salads to main courses.
When combined with rice, orzo brings a unique blend of flavors and textures to the dish. The mild and nutty taste of orzo complements the neutral flavor of rice, creating a delicious, well-balanced combination. The orzo infuses the dish with a slight chewiness and a touch of creaminess, enhancing the overall texture. This pairing is particularly popular in dishes like pilafs (such as this recipe), rice salads, or even soups where the orzo elevates the rice, making it even more enjoyable to savor.
Ingredients in Orzo Rice Pilaf
- Orzo Pasta – orzo pasta is a little pasta shape that gets toasted and cooked with the rice
- Long-Grain White Rice
- Black Pepper and Kosher Salt
- Turmeric – the turmeric is more for color than flavor, you can leave it out if you don’t have it on hand.
- Chicken Broth or Chicken Stock – you can also use vegetable broth or vegetable stock for a vegetarian side dish.
- Fresh Parsley for garnish – optional
What to Add to Orzo Rice
One of the things I like the best about this orzo rice dish is how incredibly versatile it is. With a few small changes, you can completely transform this dish. I like to add in veggies to the rice as it cooks. Just chop the vegetables up first. My favorite additions have been chopped red pepper, spinach, carrots, and/or peas. I have tried it all the different ways and love them all. Plus, it’s a great way to sneak in a couple of veggies. You can top orzo rice with parmesan cheese or toasted pine nuts for extra flavor!
Orzo Rice Variations
There are so many different ways to customize this Orzo Rice pilaf depending on what you are serving it with. Here are some more possibilities:
- Mediterranean Style: Add diced tomatoes, chopped Kalamata olives, crumbled feta cheese, and a sprinkle of dried oregano for a refreshing Mediterranean flavor.
- Lemon Herb Infusion: Stir in lemon zest, chopped fresh herbs like parsley, thyme, and chives, and a splash of lemon juice to brighten up the pilaf.
- Add Some Veggies: Mix in sautéed vegetables like bell peppers, zucchini, and onions for a colorful and nutritious twist.
- Nutty Textures: Incorporate toasted pine nuts or sliced almonds for a delightful crunch and a nutty aroma.
- Parmesan Cheese: Add grated Parmesan cheese and a pinch of garlic powder for a cheesy twist.
- Mexican Style: Stir in black beans, corn kernels, diced tomatoes with green chilies, and a dash of chili powder for a zesty and hearty pilaf.
- Spinach and Feta Fusion: Fold in wilted spinach leaves and crumbled feta cheese for a delicious combination of earthy flavors.
- Moroccan Spice: Use ground cumin, coriander, and cinnamon to infuse the pilaf with warm and aromatic Moroccan spices. You can even try adding some golden raisins and diced almonds to enhance the taste and texture.
- Pesto Pilaf: Mix in a generous amount of homemade or store-bought basil pesto for a burst of vibrant herbal and garlicky flavors.
- Spicy Cajun: Season the pilaf with Cajun seasoning (we like Tony Chachere’s) or spices like paprika, cayenne pepper, and thyme for a bold and spicy kick.
Dishes that Go With This Recipe
My very favorite entree to pair this orzo rice with is fish. On those nights when I just want to keep things simple and easy, I will cook up some seasoned fish with this rice dish and some steamed veggies and dinner is ready in less than 30 minutes. It is also fantastic with chicken, particularly this coconut curry grilled chicken, baked lemon chicken, or this grilled balsamic chicken.
Storing the Leftovers
To store orzo rice, make sure it has cooled down to room temperature after cooking. Transfer any leftovers to an airtight container or a resealable plastic bag, removing as much air as possible before sealing. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. If you want to keep it for a longer period, you can freeze it in a freezer-safe container or a freezer bag for up to 2-3 months. When ready to use the frozen orzo rice, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight before reheating. To reheat, you can gently warm it in the microwave or on the stovetop in a non-stick pan with a splash of water or broth to prevent it from drying out.
Frequently Asked Questions
In short, Orzo is a type of pasta that is shaped like grains of rice.
Yes, orzo tastes just like spaghetti noodles or any other type of pasta. However, because of the rice-like shape, it may seem to have a different texture than other pastas.
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge.
More Rice Recipes to Try
- Spanish Chicken and Rice Skillet
- Cheesy Chicken and Rice Casserole
- Restaurant Ham Fried Rice
- Lemon Pesto Rice
- Cheesy Beef and Rice Skillet
- Skillet Sausage and Rice
How to Make Orzo Rice
- Melt butter in a medium-sized saucepan/pot. Add orzo and cook until golden brown.
- Add onion and saute until onions become clear. Add garlic and saute for another minute or so.
- Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. When mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 20-25 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.
- Remove from heat and remove lid. Let stand for a few minutes then fluff with a fork and serve!
- My very favorite entree to pair this orzo rice with is fish. On those nights when I just want to keep things simple and easy, I will cook up some seasoned fish with this rice dish and some steamed veggies and dinner is ready in less than 30 minutes.
- It is also fantastic with chicken, particularly this coconut curry grilled chicken, baked lemon chicken, or this grilled balsamic chicken.
- The turmeric is more for color than flavor, you can leave it out if you don’t have it on hand.
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