Orzo Pasta with Tomatoes and Parmesan

This easy orzo pasta recipe requires only a few fresh ingredients and comes together in under 20 minutes. You’ll love its fresh flavors of tomatoes, basil, parmesan, and plenty of garlic.

Watch the Video

Orzo Pasta Recipe Video

Orzo is a small, flat, oval-shaped pasta that takes little cooking time. We love it and have already shared our lemon orzo pasta salad.

My family loves this fast and easy orzo dinner, and I can’t wait for you to try it.

Orzo Pasta with Tomatoes, Parmesan Cheese and Basil

Key Ingredients

  • Orzo pasta: I love orzo for this recipe, but you can use any dried pasta. This recipe is also delicious when made with couscous or rice!
  • Olive oil: The base of our sauce. Use a good-quality olive oil that you enjoy.
  • Garlic: I use lots of fresh garlic for this recipe and love it.
  • Tomatoes: It’s the tomatoes that are the star. Fresh tomatoes are best, but you can make this with canned tomatoes if needed. When using canned tomatoes, I like opening a can of whole tomatoes and tearing them into the sauce.
  • Parmesan cheese: This makes our pasta sauce creamy and delicious. For vegetarian orzo pasta, use vegetarian-friendly parmesan or substitute it with your favorite vegetarian cheese.
  • Basil: Fresh basil is best and works so nicely with tomatoes and parmesan. I tear fresh basil leaves into the sauce and serve with more on top.

How to Make Orzo Pasta with Tomatoes, Basil and Parmesan

Orzo is easy to cook (it’s just like cooking other pasta). Bring a big pot of salted water to a boil, add the orzo, and cook until done, usually 8 to 10 minutes. Since the size of the pasta can vary from brand to brand, check the package to see the recommended cooking time for the pasta you purchased.

While your pasta cooks, you can prepare the sauce. It’s easy. Start with the olive oil and garlic. When the garlic is fragrant, stir in the tomatoes, basil, parmesan cheese, and cooked orzo. The tomatoes cook down and release their juices, which mix with the cheese to create our delicious sauce.

Stirring orzo pasta with fresh tomatoes, basil and parmesan.

Add a splash of pasta cooking water, and let everything cook away until the starch in the water begins to thicken the sauce made from the tomatoes and olive oil. The whole process takes less than 5 minutes. Plus, that splash of cooking water helps turn our pan sauce into a velvety sauce that coats the orzo.

A bowl of orzo pasta with tomatoes and basil

What to Serve with Orzo Pasta

I’m happy to enjoy a big bowl of this pasta all by itself. It’s also an excellent base for protein or roasted vegetables. Chicken is classic. Try grilled chicken or these baked chicken breasts with tomatoes, basil, and garlic. A light fish or shrimp is lovely. I especially love this roasted shrimp. Or add meatballs. We have a few recipes on the blog, but I turn the most to these simple homemade meatballs.

Veggies are lovely, too. Try roasted broccoli or roasted broccolini. I also love a side of sautéed greens, like this sautéed spinach or cabbage. And I love a light, fresh salad. Toss your favorite greens into a bowl and drizzle over this homemade balsamic dressing or honey mustard.

Orzo pasta with tomatoes, basil, parmesan, and lots of garlic.

Orzo Pasta with Tomatoes and Parmesan

  • PREP
  • COOK

We’re in love with this easy orzo pasta recipe. There’s quick cooking orzo, tomatoes, basil, parmesan, and lots of garlic. Get this meal on the table in less than 20 minutes!

Makes 4 servings

Watch Us Make the Recipe

You Will Need

8 ounces (226g) dry orzo pasta

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 to 4 cloves)

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste

2 medium tomatoes, chopped

1/2 cup (30g) grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

1 cup (18g) basil leaves, torn into pieces

Salt and fresh ground black pepper


    1Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the orzo pasta and cook according to the package directions (usually 8 to 10 minutes). Before draining the cooked orzo, reserve 1/3 cup of the pasta water (you will use this to make the sauce).

    2Add olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes to a large, deep skillet and place over medium heat.

    3When the oil begins to bubble around the garlic, add the cooked orzo pasta, tomatoes, basil, and parmesan cheese.

    4Add 3 tablespoons of the reserved pasta water and cook, stirring often, for one minute. Over the minute, the sauce should begin to coat the pasta. If it seems dry, add a splash more of the reserved pasta water and cook for a few more seconds.

    5Taste for seasoning and adjust with a bit of salt if needed. Serve with extra basil, parmesan, and fresh ground black pepper on top.

Adam and Joanne's Tips

  • Fresh tomatoes: Use about 12 ounces of tomatoes in this recipe, which is 2 medium or about 15 cherry tomatoes.
  • Canned tomatoes: Use diced canned tomatoes or whole canned tomatoes that have been chopped or torn into smaller pieces (my preference).
  • Gluten-free: If you are gluten-free, you can substitute with your favorite gluten-free pasta, rice, or zucchini noodles. For our tips on making zucchini noodles, take a look at our zucchini noodles pasta.
  • Vegetarian: Parmesan cheese may contain animal rennet, so it’s crucial to check labels before use. Fortunately, several American brands offer vegetarian Parmesan cheese alternatives. You can also substitute with your favorite vegetarian-friendly cheese.
  • Leftovers: Store leftover orzo pasta in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
  • The nutrition facts provided below are estimates.
Nutrition Per Serving Serving Size 1/4 of the recipe (about 1 1/2 cups) / Calories 351 calories / Protein 11.9 g / Carbohydrate 46.5 g / Dietary Fiber 4.2 g / Total Sugars 3.3 g / Total Fat 14.5 g / Saturated Fat 3.3 g / Cholesterol 7 mg / Sodium 465 mg
AUTHOR:  Adam and Joanne Gallagher
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39 comments… Leave a Review
  • Cydne Duke February 1, 2024, 7:57 pm

    Made tonight using fresh parsley from my garden because I didn’t have fresh basil. It was delicious and simple to prepare while my MahiMahi baked. Will make this again when I have fresh basil.

    • Joanne April 29, 2024, 2:27 pm

      That’s wonderful! So happy you found our recipe and gave it a try. Thank you for coming back!

  • Meg August 15, 2023, 6:42 pm

    Made this pesto pasta recipe tonight and it was DELICIOUS! Such a great “comfort food” recipe. I used cherry & yellow cherry tomatoes from my garden along with fresh basil and lots (more than a 1/2 cup) of freshly grated parmesan cheese!!! It really was good!! Thanks for a great recipe!

  • Loretta Chiaramonte July 22, 2023, 4:54 pm

    How can I make the orzo and tomatoe salad for 8 guests

    • Joanne July 22, 2023, 7:33 pm

      Hi Loretta, I’d just double all the ingredients in the recipe.

  • Emma Cafarella July 2, 2023, 11:50 am

    Can this be made ahead of time & served chilled?

    • Joanne July 2, 2023, 12:07 pm

      Hi Emma, We usually enjoy this dish warm, but it would definitely work chilled.

  • Carrie June 1, 2023, 7:10 pm

    This was very good, my family and I loved it


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