Orzo Pasta with Tomatoes, Basil and Parmesan

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. Jump to the Orzo Pasta Recipe

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

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.

More: For an even simpler pasta recipe, take a look at our favorite way to make buttered noodles.

Orzo Pasta with Tomatoes, Parmesan Cheese and Basil

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).

Stirring orzo pasta with fresh tomatoes, basil and parmesan.

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.

A bowl of orzo pasta with tomatoes and basil

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

  • PREP
  • COOK

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!

Makes 4 servings

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


    Bring 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).

    Add 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.

    Pour 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.

    Serve with extra basil, parmesan, and fresh ground black pepper on top.

Adam and Joanne's Tips

  • Use 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 options: 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.
  • 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.

If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #inspiredtaste — We love to see your creations on Instagram and Facebook! Find us: @inspiredtaste

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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26 comments… Leave a Comment
  • elise May 21, 2021, 5:11 am

    it was delish, my daughter loved it SOOO much however… my son not so much. he threw it up the walls and started crying. because he is allergic to it and I kind of forgot (he is the least favourite child) 😀 my neighbour had to call the ambulance for me son (Lol! Mondays right?) she came to the hospital with us, and since I had leftovers I gave it to her. she loved it!!! don’t tell them but I used grass instead of basil, it added natural flavour and was even more DELISH!

    • Crystal June 13, 2021, 4:31 pm

      This is great! Thanks for the laugh!

  • Konstantin May 12, 2021, 10:40 pm

    Great recipe . Exactly as expected

  • Angie May 11, 2021, 7:52 pm

    Delicious! Will definitely make again. I sautéed some mushrooms first and added them in.

  • Linda April 20, 2021, 7:27 pm

    Never ever had orzo before and didn’t read carefully so ended up not boiling the orzo first. Browned it with onion and garlic and had to use canned tomatoes. Pretty well followed recipe other than that, it was delicious. Didn’t tell my husband it was pasta as he doesn’t like pasta and he totally loved it. Can’t wait for my garden to grow so I can try it with fresh basil and cherry tomatoes. Highly recommend this dish. It was delicious with my chicken Parmesan.

  • Catherine March 1, 2021, 3:40 am

    This is a fantastic weekday meal – quick, easy and full of flavour. I did put in a zucchini (I had to use one up) a handful of feta and marinated the tomatoes in 2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar otherwise it was made to the recipe – I will definitely be making this again.

  • Patty September 7, 2020, 7:59 pm

    I made this today and it was very good! I doubled the hot pepper flakes, it was perfect!

  • Shannon July 25, 2020, 5:51 pm

    Great! Perfect combination of flavors. It would be great with shrimp 🙂

  • Krishna Patel July 11, 2020, 7:28 pm

    I just made it today and it was delicious. I would make it again because I love Orzo. Thank you!! .

  • Jackie Marshall June 5, 2020, 2:34 pm

    This is so darn good. As a comfort food it beats Mac & Cheese hands down. Now I have a small ocean of basil and tomatoes growing in the yard. It’s perfect as it is, no adjustments necessary.

  • MJ April 16, 2020, 3:44 pm

    Such an easy and delicious recipe. I only did half bc it was just for me and my 2 year old. We have a basil plant and some tomatoes that wouldn’t last too much longer and orzo that had been sitting around for a long time. Followed instructions and I added baked chicken thighs for some protein and topped off with freshly grated pecorino romano. Thanks for the recipe which will go into my rotation!

  • Mary Lou July 23, 2019, 6:26 pm

    Excellent added juice of 1/2 lemon and its delicious paired with wild salmon and squash fritters. All from my garden.

  • Debbie June 21, 2019, 9:34 pm

    Just made and consumed this dish. Used cherry tomatoes and garden basil. Fresh garlic is a must, and a few shakes of crushed red pepper. Easy and delicious.

  • Diane June 18, 2019, 10:30 pm

    Just made this dish. I totally followed the recipe. I used locally grown cherry tomatoes, good quality Parmesan and basil from my garden. Served with garlic bread. It took 20 minutes to make and was delicious. My teenage kids loved it. Thanks Joanne. This is a keeper for quick fabulous weeknight meals.

  • Ashley November 11, 2018, 1:35 pm

    I am going on a trip soon and wanted to use up what I had the fridge before going out of town, and this recipe was the perfect base for that. Adjustments I made: Roasted fresh grape tomatoes in the oven at 425 degrees for 10 minutes prior to adding them to the pan, Sautéed sliced cremini mushrooms in a pan with oil and pepper and added the minced garlic and crushed red pepper to the mushrooms just a minute or two before adding in the tomatoes, pasta, etc. Added in a handful of roughly chopped arugula at the same time I added the pasta, instead of basil (since I didn’t have any). Never thought to reserve some of the pasta water for making the sauce before. It was excellent!

  • Joan Black August 29, 2018, 7:45 am

    I so enjoy your recipes, so keep them coming!


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