Creamy One-Pot Broccoli Cheddar Orzo

published Oct 29, 2023
Broccoli Cheddar Orzo Recipe

This one-pot weeknight dinner will remind you of Panera’s broccoli cheddar soup, and it’s so much better.

Serves4 to 8

Prep15 minutes

Cook25 minutes to 30 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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Broccoli cheddar orzo in Dutch oven with wooden spoon.
Credit: Kelli Foster

I am an absolute sucker for Panera Bread. I chalk it up to nostalgia. Growing up, my dad would often pick up bagels from Panera on Saturday mornings along with a couple bear claws that we would all inevitably sneak the “toes” off of when the others weren’t looking. Many mall trips with my mom included a stop at Panera for a soup and sandwich combo. And if we were lucky, an employee would be handing out warm cookies to each table. In high school, the local Panera was my favorite spot on long lunch days, and in college, it served as an unexpected, but welcome, reminder of home. 

Though I don’t frequent Panera nearly as much in my adulthood, the one thing that always brings me back is their broccoli cheddar soup. Maybe it’s the nostalgia or maybe it’s the cheese fondue vibes it gives off when you dip your bread in it (which I unashamedly enjoy), but there are few soups as comforting as that one. I’m all for nostalgia, so I love bringing the flavors of my beloved childhood comfort foods — like this soup — into my cooking as an adult. Meet: broccoli cheddar orzo. 

Inspired by my love for the iconic Panera soup, this creamy broccoli cheddar orzo has all the nostalgia and flavors of broccoli cheddar soup with the added bonus of being a one-pot, ready-in-under-an-hour meal. With a few thoughtful tricks to make the orzo extra-flavorful and creamy, this orzo will have everyone going back for seconds (and thirds!). 

Credit: Kelli Foster

If You’re Making Broccoli Cheddar Orzo, a Few Tips

These tips will ensure that your orzo comes out flavorful and perfectly creamy every time.

  • Grate the garlic. This releases a ton of its flavor, resulting in a more flavorful dish. 
  • Cook the broccoli stems first. The stems become tender and permeate the orzo with more broccoli flavor. 
  • Add some heat. Ground cayenne provides a warm undertone that brings out the sharpness of the cheddar.
  • Stir, stir, stir. Keep the orzo moving every minute or so once simmering to help release its starch, making the final dish saucy and glossy. 
  • Add the milk in the final minute. This prevents the milk from breaking down too much and becoming sweet. It also yields the perfect ratio of liquid, which blends with the cheddar to create a silky orzo. 

Broccoli Cheddar Orzo Recipe

This one-pot weeknight dinner will remind you of Panera’s broccoli cheddar soup, and it’s so much better.

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 25 minutes to 30 minutes

Serves 4 to 8

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces

    sharp cheddar cheese (about 2 cups shredded)

  • 1 pound

    broccoli crowns (about 2 medium)

  • 1

    large yellow onion

  • 6 large cloves

    garlic

  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil

  • 1 3/4 teaspoons

    kosher salt, divided

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper, divided

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    dry ground mustard

  • 1/8 teaspoon

    ground cayenne pepper (optional)

  • 1 pound

    dried orzo pasta

  • 1 (32-ounce) carton

    low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth (scant 4 cups)

  • 1 cup

    whole or 2% milk

  • 2 tablespoons

    unsalted butter

Instructions

  1. Shred 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese on the smaller holes of a box grater (about 2 packed cups). Trim the stem end from 1 pound broccoli crowns. Cut the florets from the stems. Separate or cut the florets into 1 to 1 1/2-inch pieces.

  2. Chop the stems into 1/4 to 1/2-inch pieces and place in a separate medium bowl. Finely chop 1 large yellow onion (about 2 cups) then add to the bowl with the broccoli stems. Finely grate 6 large garlic cloves (about 4 teaspoons).

  3. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat until shimmering, about 30 seconds. Add the onion and broccoli stems, 1 teaspoon of the kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of the black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent and the stems are almost tender, 5 to 7 minutes.

  4. Add the broccoli florets, remaining 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground mustard, and 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne if desired, and stir to combine. Cook, stirring often, until the florets are vibrant green, 3 to 5 minutes.

  5. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add 1 pound dried orzo pasta and cook, stirring constantly, until lightly toasted, about 1 minute. Add 1 (32-ounce) carton low-sodium broth and stir to combine, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil.

  6. Reduce the heat to maintain a very gentle simmer. Continue to cook, stirring every minute or so and scraping the bottom of the pot, until the orzo is a minute shy of al dente and most of the liquid is absorbed (but still glossy), 6 to 8 minutes or according to package instructions. Add 1 cup whole or 2% milk, stir to combine, and simmer until the orzo is al dente but still saucy, about 1 minute more.

  7. Remove the pot from the heat. Add 2 tablespoons unsalted butter and the cheese. Stir until the butter and cheese are melted and the orzo is glossy and saucy. Let sit for 5 minutes for the sauce to thicken before serving.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days. Add some milk, broth, or water to thin out the sauce again when reheating.