Most pasta dinner recipes begin with bringing a pot of salted water to boil. Here's your permission to skip that step. Instead, you'll combine orzo, tomato sauce, baby spinach, and two kinds of cheese in a baking dish and toss it in the oven for 40 minutes. Yes, that's really it. It's so simple, you hardly need a recipe, which is a good thing because it's so comforting and creamy that you'll likely make it again and again.
Creamy Tomato Baked Orzo: Watch the Video
A No-Boil Pasta Bake, Thanks to Quick-Cooking Orzo
While most pasta bakes require you to boil the pasta ahead of time, this one eliminates that step by using orzo pasta instead of a larger shape like penne or ziti. The rice-like pasta is small enough that it will actually cook right in the oven. The key is to use a combination of marinara sauce and water so that the orzo has plenty of liquid to soak up and absorb while it cooks in order to soften and become al dente.
To make this dinner extra-appealing, we're calling for two kinds of cheese. Dollops of ricotta are swirled in for creaminess, and cubes of fresh mozzarella are stirred in for gooeyness. Don't stir the ricotta in completely — a handful of streaks here and there make for rich little cheese pockets to fight over at the dinner table.
5-Ingredient Creamy Tomato Baked Orzo
Prep time: 5 minutes ; cooking time: 40 minutes
Olive oil or cooking spray
1 (24-ounce) jar
marinara sauce, such as Rao’s
dried orzo (about 2 1/2 cups)
1 (5-ounce) bag
baby spinach (about 5 packed cups), coarsely chopped
whole-milk ricotta cheese (8 ounces)
1 (8-ounce) ball
fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 400°F. Coat a 9×13-inch baking dish with olive oil or cooking spray.
Place the marinara sauce and water in the baking dish and stir to combine. Add the orzo and spinach and stir to combine. Dollop the ricotta and sprinkle the cubed mozzarella evenly over the mixture and gently stir, keeping a few streaks of ricotta here and there. Spread the mixture into an even layer.
Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil. Bake until the pasta is almost tender, about 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until the top is browned and has crisped up a bit, about 10 minutes more. Let cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days.