I find orzo to be a funny little type of pasta. It’s pasta, but it looks like rice, and in fact, can also be a grain substitute. This Creamy Lemon Zucchini Orzo, a hybrid of pasta and risotto, is ultimately a cozy summertime dish. It might be a load of carbs and dairy, but doesn’t feel heavy. It’s fresh, lemony, and garlicky. Serve with grilled vegetables or fish, then go for a quick run on the beach to burn the extra calories, if you deem necessary. It’s all about balance.
The beauty of this dish lies in its simplicity. it’s very forgiving and welcoming, meaning if you want it to be garlicky, just add lots of it, or add more lemons if you want it lemony, so on and so forth. The core ingredients are delicious on their own and together they add fat, acid, and salt to the final product so you can’t go wrong. As with any other dish, it’s important to taste and adjust as you go, and that attention to detail, as minimal as it sounds, can make or break a dish.
Another great thing about this Creamy Lemon Zucchini Orzo is that even though you can boil the orzo separately as you would regular pasta, this is done it in a skillet or all in one pot. Toasting the orzo in melted butter gives it a rich toasty flavour. Then add the creamy and chicken or vegetable stock, and cook it risotto-style, stirring occasionally, until al-dente and creamy.
Personally, I find it best served right away, but the leftovers are still good. I’d say add more cream or broth so that you can get to nice risotto-like consistency. This is a great way to sneak in extra greens into your meal without compromising the flavors. The grated zucchini is so subtle, you’ll hardly notice it. But it does add a nice caramilized flavor, and the longer you cook it the more it caramelizes. So add it before adding the orzo and cook it until it’s jammy – like this pasta.
Alternately, you can add spinach or any other greens when adding the cream. Cook just until wilted. If you don’t have zucchini, you can sub for yellow squash, or use both. Finish it off with fresh basil, extra parmesan, and a drizzle of olive oil.
Creamy Lemon Zucchini Orzo
- 1 cup orzo pasta
- 2 tbsp butter
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 medium zucchini, grated
- 1/2 cups vegetable stock (or chicken stock)
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 lemon, zest and juice
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
- salt and black pepper
- fresh basil
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Melt the butter and add the garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the orzo mixing well to coat the pasta in the butter. Stir continuously until the orzo is lightly golden brown, about 4 minutes.
- Stir in the grated zucchini and cook until wilted, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the lemon zest and season with salt and pepper.
- Add the vegetable broth and de-glaze the pan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover and let simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes.
- Stir in the cream, lemon juice, and parmesan. Cook another few more minutes, stirring occasionally, until creamy. Add more broth or cream if too thick. It should be creamy, but not too liquid. Season with salt and pepper.
- Top with fresh basil and grated parmesan. Serve.
If you make this Creamy Lemon Zucchini Orzo please be sure to leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you and I love responding to every comment. And don’t forget to also tag me on Instagram. I’d love to see your photos!