Nutty, sautéed orzo with sun-dried tomatoes, basil and goat cheese brings all the best flavors of your favorite Italian trattoria to your own kitchen. It's a great side dish or meatless main dish, perfect for any night of the week.
If you've ever visited the classic American Italian restaurant chain Carrabas and tried their popular main course, Chicken Bryan, you already know how amazing this orzo dish is going to taste. Inspired by the buttery lemon, sundried tomato, goat cheese and basil flavors from this very in demand dish, we're adding in a toasty orzo pasta and serving it up as the Italian side dish of our dreams.
The star of the show is orzo, a flat, rice-shaped pasta that is a common ingredient in Italian soups and salads. While it looks like rice, it's all pasta, and it cooks in about half the time as a pot of basmati. We take the time to toast our orzo in butter and olive oil, bringing a delicious richness to the nutty pasta.
Add this one to your rotation of Italian recipes today!
Ingredients and substitutions for sauteed orzo pasta recipe:
Olive oil + butter: the perfect combination to add fat and flavor to our pasta dish. I use salted butter, but use unsalted butter if that's what you have and taste and adjust seasoning before serving.
Orzo pasta: the star of our easy side dish! This rice-shaped pasta is perfect for pasta salads and soups, making it a great addition to your usual rotation of pasta shapes. If you can't find regular or whole wheat orzo for this orzo recipe, substitute ditalini, couscous or a similar tiny pasta.
Fresh garlic: a handful of fresh garlic cloves add huge fresh and savory flavor to the dish and they're the perfect pairing with tomatoes and basil. If you must substitute, use 1 ¼ teaspoons of garlic powder, or ¼ cup of minced shallot.
White wine: a dry white wine is ideal in this simple recipe. If you're looking for a substitute, use an extra tablespoon of lemon juice, white wine vinegar or skip the wine altogether.
Vegetable broth: a quality veggie broth is ideal here, adding light but complex flavor in the dish. If you're cooking for meat-eaters, chicken broth is a great substitute, or cook the orzo in water with extra salt and pepper for flavor.
Sun-dried tomatoes: these sweet and jammy dried tomatoes add umami, texture, and concentrated flavor to our perfect side dish. You can substitute fresh tomatoes for flavor, but they will add more moisture to the dish so reduce the veggie broth to compensate and add the tomatoes to the pan with the garlic to give them time to cook through and break down. Or use roasted red bell pepper towards the end of cooking.
Goat cheese: this creamy, tart, savory cheese rounds out the flavors of our Italian pasta dish. If you're looking for a substitute, crumbled feta cheese, ricotta salata or Parmesan cheese are all great options.
Lemon juice: fresh squeezed lemon juice is always ideal!
Fresh basil: this soft herb brings freshness and lightly peppery and minty notes. If you're looking for a substitute, grab fresh flat-leaf parsley or chives.
Pine nuts: these buttery little nuts bring texture and mild, toasty flavor to our orzo dish. Their high fat content make them easy to burn, so when toasting in a skillet, keep a close eye on them and remove them to a side dish as soon as they are golden brown. If you need a substitute for pine nuts, use pistachios, walnuts or almonds.
Full ingredients and measurements included in the printable recipe card below.
Step by step instructions for Sautéed Orzo:
Heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Once butter is melted, add orzo to the pan. Saute the orzo for 4-5 minutes, until the pasta is golden brown and toasty.
Add garlic and cook for about 1 minute. Then add wine, and stir into the orzo for a minute, letting it absorb and reduce.
Next, add broth to the mixture and raise the heat to medium-high, until the pan simmers consistently. Stir occasionally until pasta is cooked through and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 12-14 minutes. Taste pasta to ensure it is firm but tender (al dente, as the kids say).
Turn off the heat, then add sun-dried tomato pieces, crumbled goat cheese, lemon juice, black pepper and torn basil. Then stir to combine and melt the cheese. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding salt, if needed.
Transfer to serving bowl and top with additional basil leaves and pine nuts.
FAQs and Serving Suggestions for this Delicious Side Dish:
Absolutely! You can add your favorite vegetables to this dish, just be mindful about cook times. For cooked veggies like roasted red peppers, capers, sun dried tomatoes, or even fresh spinach, add at the end of cooking, just to heat through. For raw veggies like bell peppers, red onion, squash or mushrooms, add with the garlic early in the cooking to give them time to soften.
Yes, you can serve this dish cold as a pasta salad by refrigerating it for a few hours before serving. Add a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice to freshen it up before serving, then top with fresh basil leaves and pine nuts.
Absolutely! I love serving this orzo pasta with Grilled Shrimp Skewers or a simple fillet of grilled salmon. It's a versatile recipe, so feel free to customize it to your liking. For non-pescatarians, serving with a rotisserie chicken is a lovely dinner for busy weeknights.
To store, transfer leftover orzo pasta to an airtight container and keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. To reheat, warm gently over medium heat with a little butter, olive oil or stock. Garnish with fresh herbs and a bit of pepper.