Kitchn Love Letters

I Have Been Making Rachael Ray’s Cheesy Orzo for 20 Years. Here’s Why.

published Jul 14, 2022
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Rachael Ray creamy orzo in a white bowl with a hunk of parmesan cheese.
Credit: Anna Francese Gass

I grew up in an Italian American household where my mother, who came to the United States at the age of 20, excelled in cooking delicious meals for our family: a hot breakfast before school, big Sunday dinners, and, one of my favorites, pastina in brodo — small pasta (often orzo) cooked and served in chicken broth with a sprinkle of Parmigiano or pecorino. 

After graduating from college, I was living in NYC working an entry-level job (with an entry-level salary) that left me exhausted. I needed quick and easy recipes. Enter: Rachael Ray and her 30-Minute Meals. One night, Rach made cheesy orzo and I was immediately transported back to my childhood. It was my mom’s beloved pastina in brodo, but all grown up. Like my mother’s soup, Rachael cooks the orzo in the chicken broth, which helps thicken the broth. This cooking method, along with plenty of Parmigiano, creates a creamy, risotto-like dish — only much quicker!

Credit: Anna Francese Gass

I made it for everyone — my boyfriend (now husband of 19 years), my sister, and my parents. When my mom and dad asked for seconds, I beamed with pride. Years later, I moved to the ‘burbs and started a family. My firstborn was a very picky eater and finally — after months of failed attempts that involved puréed peas, squished carrots, and plenty of frustration on my part — the pediatrician said I could make her some pasta. I immediately knew it had to be the cheesy orzo. She gobbled it up. I sighed with relief. 

Looking back, I now realize that those early years of 30-Minute Meals not only helped me through some pivotal moments in my life, but also helped stoke my love for cooking and my confidence as a cook, which ultimately led to my career in food media. And it all started with a bowl of humble cheesy orzo. Thanks, Rach! 

If You Make Rachel’s Cheesy Orzo, a Few Tips

  • Try not to overcook the onions and garlic when you sauté them. They will soften and meld into the dish as the pasta simmers.
  • Make sure to check on your orzo every few minutes so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot.
  • To elevate the final dish, finish each bowl with lots of fresh herbs.
  • Don’t forget lots of freshly grated Parmigiano cheese on top!