Thanks to orzo and a few fresh ingredients, you can make this easy orzo pasta recipe in under 20 minutes. There’s tomatoes, basil, parmesan, and lots of garlic.
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Related: For an even simpler pasta recipe, take a look at our favorite buttered noodles.
How to Make our Quick and Easy Orzo Pasta
If you’re wondering, “What is orzo pasta?” then let’s get that out of the way first. Orzo is a small flat oval-shaped pasta that takes very little time to cook. We love it and have already shared our Lemon Orzo Pasta Salad with you. This time, we’re sharing a fast and easy way to get a delicious dinner on the table.
Since it is pasta, orzo does have gluten, but you can substitute it with your favorite gluten-free pasta, rice, or zucchini noodles if you are gluten-free. For our tips on making zucchini noodles, please look at our Guilt-Free Zucchini Pasta.
Orzo is easy to cook. It’s just like cooking other pasta. Bring a big pot of salted water to the 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 cook time for the pasta you purchased.
Once your pasta is cooking, you can get the rest of the ingredients ready. There’s a hefty amount of garlic, tomatoes, basil, and parmesan. The ingredients are simple, but tomatoes, basil, parmesan, and garlic are magical together.
If you have access to them, use fresh ripe tomatoes. If you don’t have any, don’t worry, canned tomatoes work nicely. It’s the tomatoes that are the star. They release some of their flavorful juices as they heat up in the pan. It’s this that’s the start to our sauce.
By the way, if you are like me and love tomatoes, take a look at our feta and cherry tomato salad (it’s my favorite).
To make the sauce sing, we add some of the starchy pasta cooking water, which thickens the sauce and helps it stick to the pasta. Have you done this before when making pasta? It’s a great tip to take with you for other recipes. Just a splash of that cooking water helps to turn a pan sauce into a sauce that’s velvety and coats the pasta.
In addition to the pasta water, we throw a bunch of parmesan cheese into the mix. As it melts, it seasons the sauce and helps the sauce coat the pasta.
I’m happy to serve myself a big bowl of this, but it’s also an excellent base for protein or roasted vegetables. For example, these baked chicken breasts with tomatoes, basil, and garlic, would be amazing on the side or top of the pasta. A few roasted shrimp are a great idea, too.
Orzo Pasta with Tomatoes, Basil and Parmesan
We’re in love with this easy orzo pasta recipe. There’s quick-to-cook orzo, tomatoes, basil, parmesan, and lots of garlic. Get this meal on the table in less than 20 minutes!
Watch Us Make the Recipe
You Will Need
8 ounces dry orzo pasta, substitute with any pasta variety
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 to 4 cloves)
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, depending on how spicy you like the pasta
12 ounces tomatoes, chopped (2 medium or 12 to 15 cherry tomatoes)
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1 cup basil leaves, torn into pieces
Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the orzo 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 (we use this to make the sauce).
2Add olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes to a large, deep skillet. Turn to medium heat. When the oil bubbles around the garlic, add the cooked orzo pasta, tomatoes, basil, and parmesan cheese.
3Pour in two 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 a few more seconds. Taste for seasoning and adjust with a bit of salt if needed.
4Serve with extra basil, parmesan, and fresh ground black pepper on top.
Adam and Joanne's Tips
- Canned tomatoes: Canned tomatoes work when you don’t have fresh tomatoes on hand. Diced canned tomatoes or whole canned tomatoes that have been chopped or torn into smaller pieces are best.
- 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 Guilt-Free Zucchini 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.
- Nutrition facts: The nutrition facts provided below are estimates. We have used the USDA database to calculate approximate values. Sodium may vary depending on how much salt used to season the dish.