As the winter is starting to melt away we make recipes that scream spring like this quick and easy lemon orzo with Parmesan and peas.
The Beauty of Garden Produce
There’s truly nothing better than fresh garden produce. I didn’t understand this as a child and I don’t know that many people have experienced true farm to table even today. Mom and Dad would harvest the garden with all of us kids at the end of summer, but for me it was the excitement of fresh corn, homemade raspberry jam, and making boats to float in our mudroom sink made out of hollowed out cucumbers, while Mom and Dad were anxious to cut open a juicy tomato, sprinkle it with a little salt and savor every bite.
I’m not kidding. I did not get that. I still don’t eat a tomato like an apple. Do you?
I have gained such an appreciation for food that you’ve labored over. It’s a fact: fresh picked tastes better.
Unfortunately, it’s not time for fresh peas but when they are ready we will be shelling them for this quick and easy lemon orzo with parmesan and peas. We often eat this as a main dish, but it’s wonderful and light so it makes a great healthy side dish as well.
What is Orzo?
I love this question; it’s so satisfying to see people’s reactions when they learn that orzo isn’t a grain, despite the fact that it looks like one. Spoiler: orzo is actually a flat, rice-shaped pasta that’s great in soups, salads, or enjoyed as is
Although orzo can be cooked like rice and has similar nutritional information, it cooks up in about half the time. This is the number one reason why I love cooking with orzo. Well, that and the fact that I like the shape. And it tastes really good. Okay, there are a lot of reasons why I love orzo.
Tips on How to Cook Orzo
Like I mentioned above, you can cook orzo like pasta, boiling it in liquid, which works well if you’re serving it in soup because you can just throw it in the last 10-15 minutes and let it cook right in the soup.
You can also cook it like rice. To cook orzo in a pan with chicken broth or water, just toast the orzo in the bottom of a pan with a little oil until it begins to turn a little nutty. Add a little garlic, salt, or whatever seasoning you wish to you use, chicken broth and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and place a lid on top. Cook until the pasta has absorbed the liquid and the orzo is tender, about 10 minutes.
If you are serving orzo in a salad, make sure to rinse the pasta before cooking. That will wash away the starch and keep the pasta from sticking together.
What’s in This Lemon Orzo?
Now that we’ve covered the basics of cooking orzo, we can move onto the really good stuff: this lemon orzo recipe! In addition to orzo, you’ll need a little olive oil, garlic, chicken broth, fresh thyme, lemon, peas, Parmesan cheese, salt, and freshly cracked pepper.
This orzo recipe proves that you don’t need a lot of ingredients to create a dish that’s full of flavor. The bright lemon juice and zest are the key ingredients in this recipe. Get your hands on real lemons for the best flavor — the bottled stuff just doesn’t compare!
You know, you could also throw in a little chicken with this quick and easy lemon orzo too. Shoot, why didn’t I think of that sooner?
How Much Orzo Pasta Per Person?
We hate measuring pasta. It’s so tricky to know how much spaghetti to grab. (I want to buy this little storage container just so I don’t over plan anymore.) I seriously always make way too much pasta, but orzo pasta is a different story.
You can measure out orzo and should plan on about 1/4 cup (or 2 ounces) dry pasta per person. Orzo will more than double in size when cooked so don’t worry, there will be enough.
How to Make Lemon Orzo
The basic steps for this lemon orzo recipe are similar to the tips we shared above. To make this easy dinner, you must do the following:
- Toast the orzo in a little olive oil.
- Stir in the garlic and thyme, then pour in the broth.
- Let the orzo simmer until the liquid has been absorbed.
- Stir in the lemon zest, juice, and peas and continue cooking until the peas are bright.
- Stir in the cheese, salt, and pepper.
Note that the cooking rule for acid is to add it last, which is why the zest and lemon juice go in at the very end along with the cheese and peas. That way everything is fresh and bright and the flavor isn’t diluted by the time you’re ready to serve this lemon orzo.
Is Orzo Gluten-Free?
Many people mistakenly believe orzo is gluten-free because it looks like rice (which is gluten-free). However, because traditional orzo pasta is made with wheat flour it is NOT gluten-free. It’s becoming easier to find gluten-free alternatives though, so I’m sure you can find gluten-free orzo in store or online. Just make sure to double check the label to ensure it’s certified gluten-free!
How Long Will Lemon Orzo Last?
Because this lemon orzo contains no meat, it will last for up to a week in the fridge. When reheating this easy dinner recipe, you’ll want to do so in a skillet with a little water or chicken broth to prevent the pasta from drying out or becoming gummy.
Tips for the Best Lemon Orzo Pasta
First and foremost, it’s so important that you add in the chicken broth a little at a time. You need to give the orzo pasta a little time between pours to soak up some of the broth (it’s a bit like risotto in that way). If you dump all the broth in at once, it’ll take much longer for the orzo to absorb all the liquid.
Also, be sure to buy good-quality Parmesan cheese and not the powdery stuff in the shaker can. Either get a small block of Parmesan and grate it yourself, or find a bag of pre-shredded Parmesan in the cheese section. This is such a simple recipe, so the quality of your ingredients matter!
Lastly, if you have leftovers of this lemon orzo pasta, you’ll likely need to re-season this dish before serving it. The orzo will soak up the lemon juice, so you may need to add an extra squeeze of that and potentially extra salt or pepper as well. Just give it a taste and see what you think it needs!
Looking for more delicious ORZO RECIPES?
- Creamy Garlic Parmesan Orzo
- Caprese Orzo Pasta
- Ham Lemon Orzo with Parmesan and Peas
- Greek Orzo Pasta Salad
- Zupas Copycat Tomato Basil Orzo Soup
- Lemon Orzo Pasta Salad
- Cuban Pasta Salad
- Teriyaki Chicken Pasta Salad
- Bacon Chicken Ranch Pasta Salad
- 10 Minute Ranch Tortellini Pasta Salad
- Spring Ham and Asparagus Lemon Cream Pasta
- Turkey Tetrazzini with Crunchy Honey Dijon Topping
- 15 Minute Pesto Pasta
- All our Pasta Recipes here!
Quick and Easy Lemon Orzo with Parmesan and Peas
Quick and Easy Lemon Orzo with Parmesan and Peas
- 1 1/2 Cups Orzo Pasta, dry
- 1 Tablespoon Olive oil
- 2 Cloves Garlic, minced
- 3 Cups Chicken Broth
- 1 Teaspoon Thyme Leaves, fresh
- 1 Lemon, zested
- Juice of Half a lemon
- 1 1/2 Cups Peas
- 1/3 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese, plus more for garnish
- Fresh Cracked Pepper
- Salt and Pepper, to taste
- In a skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil and pasta.
- Cook, stirring occasionally until toasted, about 30-60 seconds.
- Add garlic and stir it in followed by thyme.
- Add the broth, a small amount at a time.
- Bring to a boil, cover the skillet with a lid and turn down to a simmer for 8-10 minutes or until the pasta has absorbed most of the water and is tender.
- Remove the lid and add the lemon zest, juice, and peas and stir until the peas are bright and cooked.
- Add the cheese and salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.
Made this as a side with some grilled balsamic marinated chicken and some grilled zucchini and it was completely delightful. So light and fresh! Will absolutely make again.
That sounds like the perfect meal! Thank you so much for the feedback Jacki!
This was amazing! I added a few mushrooms, which were a nice addition. My whole family loved this. The lemon and peas give it a bright fresh flavor!
Yay! Love to hear this! Thank you so much for the feedback and for taking time to leave a comment!
To every Italian orzo is barley. And we make salads with ist grains. Great blog!
Made this tonight…followed your recipe exactly..it was delicious..everyone raved..Thank you..will definitely make it again.
Thank you so much Donna!
Delicious, this is like risotto, add a ladle of broth, let it simmer and evaporate and add another until the orzo is cooked. I heat the broth in a separate pot on another burner and gradually add it so there is no soup, no overcooked orzo, no waste. Lemon was a great tang to the dish and if you use good parmesan like padano or reggiano, your dish won’t taste bitter. Thank you (and don’t worry about the adds) Attractive, readable blog. Thanks !!!
Thank you so much Lina! That is a great tip too for the broth! I appreciate your support so much!
Overall recipe is good but 3cups of liquid it way too much unless this is a soup recipe? I used about 2cups added some onion and celery as I sautéed the orzo and garlic and at the end some leftover rotisserie chicken also
Cut down the peas by half. Flavor good, be careful with the salt the cheese is actually enough for the dish. I wish I didn’t salt at all. Use the lemon to taste as it might overwhelm for some. Nice quick lunch dish or without any add ins good side.
Hi Toni! I’m glad you enjoyed the recipe! The instructions on the box for the orzo says to add 2 cups of liquid for every 1 cup of orzo. So the 3 cups listed in the recipe is correct. You can definitely alter, add, reduce any and all ingredients according to your liking. Thank you so much for feedback!
I love this recipe; it is so fresh and yummy! I usually add a little shredded rotisserie chicken to it when I add the frozen peas and it makes for a perfect meal that even my picky-eater husband loves 🙂
That is a great suggestion! Thank you Jennifer!
I eat tomatoes out of the garden like that. They gave to be really good though. I keep a salt shaker outside for this. Also, good recipe
That is so smart! A salt shaker near the garden! Thank you for the feedback!
Very delicious and easy! I used fideo noodles (cut spaghetti), and at least with those, the liquid should have been cut by maybe 1/2 cup? Had to uncover and turn up the heat, overcooked a little to prevent it being soupy. But quite yummy! With garlic bread, little ladies in my house ate it up!
I’m so glad it was a hit!
Super easy and delicious side dish! It’s always a plus when my picky eaters eat without complaint, and they gobbled this up!
Yay!! I love this!! Thank you so much!!
love the lemony flavor, I served as side with Salmon and steak !! thank you for the easy , but tasty recipe!!!
Yummmm!! Sounds so good!! I’m glad you like it!!
This looks delicious. I will definitely add this to our weekly meals
You are going to love it! Let us know what you think!
Im definitely not a gourmet cook but this made me feel like one!
Needed a recipe, that was fast and what I had on hand and luckily found this recipe. I’m not a huge pea fan but it works so well the neither the five year old nor I picked them out. And all my kids wanted me to print it out.
I wanted to give a recommendation for a protein. I ended up seared scallops with lemon and butter and placed four on top. Looked like it came from a fancy restaurant. I was a little apprehensive because of the Parmesan but it actually paired REALLY well. 20 minutes tops for the whole thing and that’s with doubling the recipe. Very little leftovers for family of six.
Change ups: I had only frozen peas. I boiled and drained first. Added with last steps so I wouldn’t make them mushy.
I only had Kraft Parmesan cheese in the shaker container. I know, I know. It worked but the grated fresh would have added even more flare.
Thanks for the great recipe!
Hey Bonnie! Thank you so much for your feedback! I am so glad you and your family enjoyed it! The seared scallops was the perfect addition. We have a similar recipe where ham is added and it is also delicious if you want to try another protein with it. (https://ohsweetbasil.com/quick-and-easy-ham-lemon-orzo-with-parmesan-and-peas/). Thank you again for taking time to leave a comment!
Great recipe. Try adding a few pineapple bits and a few fried soya curls to get a solid vegetarian meal.
Thanks for the feedback Perry!
We made this for dinner tonight. I would hold back on some of the lemon, but other than that, it was good!
Thank you for the feedback Miranda!
We really enjoyed this !! Good family meal and plenty to go round. We had it with salmon and green beans. Very quick and easy!
That sounds like the perfect meal! Thanks for taking time to leave a comment!
Nice basic recipe. I added a couple TBS of capers. YUM.
That’s a great idea! So happy you enjoyed it!
Hey How long would this last in the fridge as leftovers?
Since there’s no meat in it, it will last for a good week in the fridge.
Wonderful recipe…so tasty! I made it more of a meal by shredding up a rotisserie chicken and it was great! I served it warm the first night and had it for lunch at room temp the following day. I added some extra lemon the second day (just bc I LOVE lemon), but to be honest, the flavors overall were better on the 2nd day (like most pasta salads). Thank you again for the super easy recipe! Please keep them coming!
Yay Pamela! So glad you enjoyed this! It is one of our favorites and adding the chicken was genius! Sounds so yummy!
Two of us just chowed down on this. I was looking for a recipe to use things that were on hand. This is a keeper. I’m also thinking cold salad. Thank you!
Yes! I love it cold too! It makes great leftovers! So glad you enjoyed it!
This was delightfully easy and delicious. I decided to make orzo at the last minute, after the main dish was in the oven. I’m a slow chef, and this dish was still done on time. It was delicious and a big hit. Will definitely save this recipe and make again. Thanks!
Hurray! We love to hear that Maura!
This was absolutely delicious! I served it with Skinnytaste Skillet Chicken Cordon Bleu (highly recommend) and roasted asparagus. This is quick, easy and full of flavor. I will be making this again and again as a side with chicken and/or fish. Would make a great lunch on it’s own. Yes, its that good! (I’m glad I saw the tip to add the broth slowly)
Thank you Kathie!! We sure love this too! You’re right, it makes a great lunch!
My husband and I love this recipe! It is extremely flavorful and yummy! Thank you for the fantastic recipe!
Yay! We love to hear that! Thanks for taking time to leave a comment!
I have made this several times now because my 7 year old daughter LOVES it! I have added mushrooms or used whatever fresh herb Iʻve had and its always good. I agree the key is the slooow addition of liquid. Also, once the cheese is added things get bound up so nice to have a little extra liquid. I also feel that toasting the orzo first keeps it from getting soggy or “overcooked”. Last thought-it does suck to navigate ads but hey its free…geez! Thanks for a quick, easy “healthy” dinner my daughter loves!
Anytime you find something your child will eat, it is a victory!! I’m so glad you have enjoyed this and thank you for your feedback and tips!
This was lovely! The flavours were great–I’m vegetarian, so I used a veggie stock pot rather than chicken stock, but it still got that nice, salty umami note–and the texture of the orzo was a wonderful surprise–so chewy! This may be my new default way of cooking orzo. Thank you for the recipe!
Orzo is one of my favorites! I feel like it is a forgotten pasta sometimes! So happy you enjoyed this recipe!
Commenting only because your website is unreadable! I have never seen a website more broken by ads in my life. Pretty desperate and pathetic.
Hey Bob, I’m just going to be totally transparent, we HATE having ads with all of our heart. I wish we could get rid of them completely, but this is literally our full time job, which means as a full time food blogger you have two options- 1. make it a paid subscription site like cooks illustrated etc, or have ads. I know they can be a hassle and for that we are so sorry. We are always trying to find ways around it so please know we analyze the heck out of our site and pull ads, move ads etc based on what we can get away with deleting so it’s a better experience but in the end we cannot keep running the site without it paying our bills. 😞 Hope you can forgive us and see past them and I’ll look into if any are performing low and we can delete. Xoxo!”
Are you sure this isn’t way too much liquid??? I have simmered for 10 min and it’s like chicken soup! I should have trusted my cooking instincts and gone with half the amount- after all orzo may look like rice, but it’s not. It’s pasta and pasta gets drained, rice soaks all the liqud in. Yikes! I’m trying to reduce so I can salvage- wish me luck.
Yes, that amount is correct. Gradually adding the broth is key as you need the pasta to start absorbing the liquid. Not all of the liquid will be gone as some will act as a little dressing.
Can this be served cold?
It can be served warm, room temp or cold.
Can this recipe be made a day ahead? Will I need to make any adjustments to the recipe?
Yes, however you will want to re-season
Carol D. Kinney
Made this for a ladies Dinner Club. Followed directions exactly and it was DELICIOUS. You could taste the lemon but it was subtle. I will make it again.
So happy to hear that.
Made this for a potluck and everyone loved it! I grilled chicken and added it cubed to the dish, and broiled the dish at the end with extra parmesan on top to crisp it up a little. Great quick and easy dish!
Ohhhh I love it with grilled chicken, thanks for the reminder!
A pasta spoon (the claw shaped thing) has a hole in the middle that is a measurement for one portion of spaghetti.
No. Way. Haha, how did I never know that?!!