Recipe: Weeknight Orzo Paella

updated Feb 3, 2020
Weeknight Orzo Paella

An easy recipe for a skillet shrimp and orzo dinner inspired by Spanish paella.


Prep5 minutes

Cook25 minutes

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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Take all your favorite components of Spanish paella, combine them with crowd-pleasing orzo pasta, and the result is a quick weeknight dinner the whole family will agree on. Fragrant chicken sausage joins forces with smoked paprika, sweet tomatoes, and lots of juicy shrimp to make a one-pan pasta that tastes familiar yet feels new. It’s a fast dinner that’s easy on the wallet, and is sure to find a permanent spot on your meal planning roster.

A Simple Twist on Classic Spanish Paella

Paella is a Spanish dish of rice, vegetables, and typically a mix of meat and seafood. I love it dearly, but don’t make often enough — usually because it calls for ingredients such as chorizo and saffron, which aren’t staples in my pantry. So instead of making it a once-in-awhile thing, I opted to view it as a source of inspiration for a weeknight-friendly meal made with things I always have on hand.

Orzo is the ultimate quick-cooking pasta, and there’s always a box in my pantry. It eats a bit like rice, so it’s a fun substitute. Chicken sausage is an affordable swap for chorizo, and while it doesn’t have its signature smokiness, a bit of smoked paprika solves that problem. Add a can of tomatoes, frozen peas, and shrimp (you have that in your freezer too, right?), and dinner is on the table in less than 30 minutes.

Weeknight Orzo Paella

An easy recipe for a skillet shrimp and orzo dinner inspired by Spanish paella.

Prep time 5 minutes

Cook time 25 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info


  • 1 tablespoon

    olive oil

  • 8 ounces

    cooked hot or sweet Italian chicken sausage, cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds

  • 4 cloves

    garlic, minced

  • 1 1/2 cups

    dried orzo pasta (10 ounces)

  • 2 cups

    low-sodium chicken broth

  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can

    diced tomatoes

  • 1 teaspoon

    smoked paprika

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt, divided

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper, divided

  • 8 ounces

    uncooked peeled and deveined large shrimp, thawed if frozen (26 to 30 shrimp per pound)

  • 1/2 cup

    frozen peas

  • 2 tablespoons

    chopped fresh parsley leaves


  1. Heat oil in a 9- or 10-inch cast iron or straight-sided skillet over medium until shimmering. Add the sausage and cook, stirring occasionally, until evenly browned on both sides, 3 to 4 minutes total. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds more.

  2. Add the orzo and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly toasted, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the broth, tomatoes and their juices, paprika, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, and cook, undisturbed, until the orzo is almost al dente, the liquid has reduced by about half, and there is tight, rapid bubbling, 7 to 9 minutes. Meanwhile, pat the shrimp dry with paper towels and season with remaining 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper.

  3. Scatter the shrimp and peas over the orzo, cover, and cook until the shrimp are pink and opaque, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to rest, covered, for 5 minutes, allowing any residual liquid in the skillet to be absorbed. Top with the parsley and serve.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

(Image credit: The Kitchn)