One-Pot Lemon Caper Orzo with Tuna

published Feb 28, 2023
Pantry Pasta
One-Pot Lemon Caper Orzo with Tuna Recipe

This one-pot pasta is simple, comforting, bright, and flavorful.

Serves4 to 6

Prep10 minutes

Cook20 minutes

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one pot lemon orzo in a pan
Credit: Photo: Christopher Testani; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

I grew up eating tuna noodle casserole (and its leftovers) weekly. Once I moved out for college, I fully wrote off the combination of pasta and tuna. Recently, however, I came back to it. Chalk it up to the price of groceries, if you will, but really, it’s because I craved nostalgia. Rather than a casserole, I wanted to make something that came together even faster, with fewer dishes to clean. It still needed to be creamy and comforting, though, which is exactly how this one-pot orzo came to life.

This recipe is very loosely inspired by the retro casserole of my youth, but its resemblance stops there. Orzo is toasted in lots of olive oil then simmered in broth, where it’s stirred here and there to lend a risotto-like creaminess to the dish. Briny capers and lemon add pops of brightness, and chunks of tuna bring hearty protein.

A Case for Tuna Beyond Sandwiches

There’s so much you can do with a can of tuna; keeping multiple cans on hand is always a smart move. My preferred brand is Tonnino, which truthfully changed my opinion about tuna in the first place. I grew up with dry, crumbly, flavorless cans and didn’t realize there was anything better until I tried a jar. The olive oil-packed jars are my favorite because the oil locks in the fish’s flavor and moisture beautifully and I like to reuse the jars for homemade condiments and dressings, but they also make cans (and a water-packed version, if you prefer). High-quality tuna makes all the difference when it’s the star of the dish, like it is in this one-pot pasta, so it’s well-worth reaching for. It’s the secret to turning the humble pantry staple into something so much more.

Credit: Photo: Christopher Testani; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

Pantry Pasta is Sheela Prakash‘s monthly column of easy, accessible pasta recipes. You’ll discover a new, inspired recipe each month that takes advantage of grocery staples and highlights one pantry hero. Follow along and grab all the recipes here.

One-Pot Lemon Caper Orzo with Tuna Recipe

This one-pot pasta is simple, comforting, bright, and flavorful.

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 20 minutes

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Info


  • 4 cloves


  • 1

    medium lemon

  • 2 (5 to 7-ounce) cans

    or jars oil or water-packed tuna

  • 1/4 cup


  • 1

    large shallot, or 1/2 small yellow onion

  • 1/4 cup

    olive oil

  • 1 pound

    dried orzo pasta

  • 1 (32-ounce) carton

    low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

  • 1 cup

    water, plus more as needed

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more as needed

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • Coarsely chopped fresh parsley leaves, for garnish (optional)


  1. Prepare the following, adding each to the same medium bowl as you complete it: Finely grate the zest of 1 medium lemon (about 1 teaspoon). Juice the lemon until you have 3 tablespoons. Drain 2 (5 to 6-ounce) cans tuna and break up any large chunks of tuna with a fork. Rinse 1/4 cup capers well under cold running water, if salt-packed, to remove salt.

  2. Dice 1 large shallot (about 1/2 cup). Mince 4 garlic cloves. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the shallot and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and pale golden-brown, 3 to 4 minutes.

  3. Add the garlic and 1 pound dried orzo and cook until fragrant and the orzo is toasted in spots, about 2 minutes. Add 1 (32-ounce) carton low-sodium broth, 1 cup water, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently to keep the orzo from sticking.

  4. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Cook uncovered, stirring frequently to keep the orzo from sticking, until the orzo is tender and almost all of the liquid is absorbed, 10 to 12 minutes. If the orzo has absorbed all the liquid before it is ready, add more water 2 tablespoons at a time as needed.

  5. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Add the tuna mixture and stir until just heated through, about 1 minute. Taste and season with more kosher salt as needed. Serve garnished with chopped fresh parsley leaves if desired.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days.