Kitchn Love Letters

The 15-Minute Creamy Orzo I Make When I Don’t Know What to Cook for Dinner

published Mar 10, 2024
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Creamy parmesan spinach orzo
Credit: Joe Lingeman

I’m hesitant to admit this, but side dishes are a constant struggle for me. I rely on a rotating door of tasty (albeit a bit boring) hits like mashed potatoes, steamed rice, and glazed carrots. Basically, things I know my two opinionated kids will eat — or not. But when I want to jazz it up, I always turn to the one side dish that I know will please everyone around my dinner table: creamy spinach orzo

I pull this out whenever I don’t know what to serve with dinner. It has everything I love — namely, orzo, garlic, and Parm — and it all cooks together in one pot. The best part: It tastes just like mac and cheese, but a bit fancier.   

What Makes This Creamy Orzo So Good

There are so many things I love about this recipe. 

  • It’s a one-pot, three-step, 15-minute dish. 
  • It calls for just seven ingredients (not including salt, pepper, and olive oil) and relies on mostly fridge and pantry staples like an onion, garlic, broth, and milk. 
  • It’s creamy, cheesy deliciousness. 

Why This Recipe Really Works

This recipe is so much greater than the sum of its parts. While there is a smidge of work involved — dicing an onion, mincing some garlic, and grating some Parm — it’s pretty hands-off. The recipe shares two helpful tips that really take it to the next level. 

First, you toast the orzo in the aromatics, which adds depth and a layer of flavor. Then, after you add the liquid, you need to stir (and no, not just once in the beginning). Orzo likes to stick together. As it cooks, it releases starch, which thickens the creamy sauce. To prevent any stickage, you’ll need to stir every so often (I recommend at least three times during cooking), to avoid any clumps and bits stuck on the bottom of the pot. 

Tips for Making This Creamy Spinach Orzo