This easy, one-pot Mediterranean orzo pasta is a healthy vegetarian recipe, known as orzotto or orzo risotto. Give it a try, it's delicious and it has a simple 10-minute prep time!
This orzo recipe can be a delicious easy side dish but I usually serve it as a main to all of my vegetarian friends and family.
It is also a great example of “cucina povera”. Cucina means kitchen and povera means poor, so it’s a term used to describe a cooking philosophy that uses cheap, simple ingredients to create everyday meals.
But don’t be fooled! Using cheap ingredients doesn’t mean that these recipes lack in flavor. On the contrary!
Cucina povera features some of the most delicious dishes you’ll ever taste – try this mushroom risotto recipe and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
What is orzo?
My grandma and her friends used to make it by themselves.
When I was a kid, I often watched her making orzo pasta. She would mix some flour, water and salt to make the dough (sometimes she also added eggs).
I never saw her using a scale or measuring cups. She eyeballed everything and yet the outcome was the same every time!
After letting the dough rest for a while – for the gluten to develop – she would take very small pieces, pinch them with her two fingers, and rub them against the table to form the rice shaped pasta.
After sprinkling them with flour to prevent them from sticking to each other, she placed them on a big table covered with a clean sheet.
The image of these “grains” of pasta, drying on the table inside my grandma’s dark kitchen is still with me, until this day.
To make this one-pot Mediterranean vegetable orzo pasta recipe, you'll need the following simple ingredients:
- Leeks (or scallions)
- Olive oil
- Orzo pasta (also known as risoni)
- Dried thyme (or oregano)
- Mixed frozen vegetables (such as peas, baby carrots, red bell peppers, corn)
- Warm water or vegetable stock (for non vegetarian you can also use chicken broth)
- Greek yogurt (or cream cheese)
- Grated parmesan cheese
- Salt and ground black pepper to taste
See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.
Variations - Substitutions
Instead of frozen mixed vegetables you can use fresh vegetables, chopped in small cubes. Use whatever seasonal vegetables are your favorite and customize this recipe according to each season.
Feel free to add your favorite fresh herbs. Fresh basil, parsley, dill and tarragon will pair very well with the creamy vegetable orzo pasta.
For extra flavor you can add one or two minced garlic cloves and a teaspoon of lemon zest. Lemon and garlic is a classic Mediterranean combination and will give this dish a brighter character.
You can substitute the Parmesan cheese with feta cheese to give this dish a Greek note.
Toasted pine nuts, when sprinkled over this dish will pair beautifully with the rest of the ingredients. Use them when you want to impress your friends and family.
Gluten intolerant people and people who follow a gluten free diet can use gluten-free orzo to make this recipe.
People who follow the Mediterranean Diet is best to use whole wheat orzo.
Follow these easy steps for a quick, delicious and healthy orzo risotto:
Step 1: Saute the leeks
Transfer the olive oil and the leeks to a deep saucepan or large skillet and heat over medium-high heat until the leeks soften and are translucent.
Step 2: Add the orzo
Add the orzo pasta, the thyme and the vegetables and stir for 2 minutes.
Step 3: Add the hot water gradually
Start adding the stock or water gradually, one cup at a time, and reduce to medium heat or a gentle simmer.
Start tasting to see if the orzo risotto is ready when you have used 6 cups of stock.
Step 4: Add the yogurt and the cheese
When the orzotto is ready, turn off the heat and add the yogurt, the Parmesan cheese, the freshly ground black pepper and the salt.
Stir gently to combine and sprinkle some chopped parsley on top. Serve immediately.
How to serve
I like to serve this vegetable orzo pasta dish with some slices of fresh bread or bread sticks and marinated cheese cubes.
To make the marinated cheese cubes follow these steps:
- Transfer 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, ½ teaspoon black pepper and ½ teaspoon oregano (or tarragon) to a glass jar and shake well to combine.
- Add 7 oz (200 grams) of hard cheese such as Parmesan, Cheddar, Kefalotyri, Gruyere cut in small cubes and let them marinate for 30-60 minutes.
- Serve over salads and other dishes.
- Don’t have vegetable stock? No worries, just use water!
- Greek yogurt provides creaminess without adding too much fat, but you can also use low fat cream cheese.
- The marinated cheese cubes pair well with this orzotto and also add to the protein content of the dish. Serve with bread sticks for extra pleasure!
Just like a risotto, this creamy orzo pasta recipe is best eaten right away.
If you have any leftovers, you can put it in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.
The best way to reheat orzotto without breaking the "grains" of pasta is in a microwave oven. Before microwaving add a splash of water.
Related Recipes to Consider...
Pair this orzo recipe with the following suggestions:
If you tried this simple Mediterranean Vegetable Orzo Recipe or any other recipe on my website, please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how it went in the 📝 comments below. I love hearing from you!
Mediterranean vegetable orzo pasta (one pot recipe)
- 1 pot or deep saucepan / skillet
- 1 cup chopped leeks or scallions
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cups orzo pasta
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 2 cups mixed vegetables
- 6 – 7 cups warm vegetable stock or water (for non vegetarian you can also use chicken broth)
- ½ cup Greek yogurt
- ½ cup grated parmesan
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Fresh chopped parsley (optional)
- Transfer the olive oil and the leeks to a deep saucepan or large skillet and heat over medium-high heat, stirring often, until the leeks soften and are translucent.
- Add the orzo pasta, the thyme and the vegetables and stir for 2 minutes. Then, start adding the stock or water gradually, one cup at a time and reduce the heat to a low simmer.When you have used about 6 cups of stock taste the orzo to see if it's ready. It should be soft but still chewy (al dente). If it needs more time to cook, add more water accordingly.
- When the orzo is ready it should have some liquid left in the form of a starchy sauce. If it's too dry add a splash of water.Remove the pot from the heat and add the yogurt, the parmesan cheese and the freshly ground black pepper. Stir gently to combine, taste and adjust the salt.Optionally, sprinkle some chopped parsley on top and serve immediately.