While practically all pasta dishes can be deemed "family-friendly," this one might just win the prize. I think it has something to do with the way orzo appeases everyone at the table. Maybe it's because of its cute, rice-like shape or its almost-spoonable quality. Regardless, it's a fast-cooking favorite for weeknight ease, and a great vehicle for handfuls of spinach.
Turn that orzo into a one-pot meal, where the liquid it's cooked in becomes a ridiculously creamy sauce before baby spinach and Parmesan are stirred in. What you have is a dinner that's guaranteed a recurring spot on your weekly meal plan. So you should pencil it in right away.
The Pasta Shape That Makes One-Pot Dinners Easier (and Better)
Since orzo is so quick-cooking, it's a perfect choice for a one-pot dinner. It will cook up fast in a simmering pot of chicken or vegetable broth and milk, and the starch that leaches out of the pasta actually helps to thicken the creamy sauce. There's little work required of you, besides stirring in a few big handfuls of roughly chopped baby spinach (chopped so that it wilts extra fast) and plenty of grated Parmesan cheese.
It's a dish that's reminiscent of stovetop mac and cheese — thanks to just the right amount of ooey, gooey-ness going on — but feels a bit more wholesome with those flecks of green shining through. I like it best enjoyed as a main dish, but if you're looking to stretch the pot, it also makes for a nice bed for roasted shrimp or pan-seared salmon. It also works well as a perfect side dish for roasted chicken or pork chops. Either way, I feel confident you can't go wrong.
Creamy Spinach Parmesan Orzo
Serves 4 to 6 as a main dish, 8 as a side dish
small yellow onion, diced
cloves garlic, minced
orzo pasta (about 2 1/2 cups)
low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
packed baby spinach, coarsely chopped
freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
Freshly ground black pepper
Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven or pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté until softened and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and orzo, season with salt and pepper, and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Stir in the broth and milk and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce to a simmer, and cook the pasta to al dente, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid is absorbed and has formed a creamy sauce for the pasta, about 10 minutes or according to package instructions. (If the pasta isn’t completely cooked once this has happened, you can add another splash or two of broth to the pot and continue to simmer until it has.) Stir in the spinach and Parmesan cheese until the spinach has just wilted and the cheese melts, about 1 minute. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Garnish with additional grated cheese if desired.
Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container and refrigerated for up to 3 days.