Cheesy Lemon Orzo

5 from 2 votes

Get ready for a burst of flavor with our Cheesy Lemon Orzo! With fresh peas and spinach, this dish is a zesty and satisfying meal in a bowl or served as a side dish.

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This Cheesy Lemon Orzo is the kind of recipe I’ll happily eat a whole bowl of and call it a meal. It’s lemony, creamy, and has plenty of veggies…and my kids love it, too.

Two small bowls of lemon orzo with peas and spinach garnished with parmesan and lemon wedges.
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If I can get away with using just one pot to cook dinner on a weeknight, I will. That’s part of the reason I love this one pan lemon orzo: it only requires a Dutch oven. First, garlic and shallots are sautéed, then the orzo is added and toasted—which adds so much flavor—and then the pasta’s cooked with lemon juice and zest and stock until everything is soft and creamy. And that’s before the cheeses are stirred in! I will often just scoop it into a bowl and enjoy it on its own, but this Cheesy Lemon Orzo is also delicious served with roast chicken or salmon.

Recipe At a Glance

Cuisine Inspiration: Italian-inspired
Primary Cooking Method: Stovetop
Dietary Info: Vegetarian if you use vegan parm.
Key Flavors: Basil Pesto
Skill Level: Easy

  • Uses just one pot: I love it when dinner doesn’t mean a ton of dishes. This recipes uses just a Dutch oven.
  • Veggie-packed: This Cheesy Lemon Orzo has a whole container of spinach in it and frozen peas, so I always feel good about making it.
  • Versatile: I’ve served this on its own as a main dish or as a side with roasted or grilled meat or fish (see below for ideas, but you can’t really go wrong!).

Ingredients to make cheesy lemon orzo

Ingredients for recipe before prepping: frozen peas, spinach, shallot, garlic, spices, lemon, parmesan, ricotta, orzo, oil, and borth.
  • Olive oil: For more flavor, opt for extra virgin olive oil. Instead of olive oil, you could use canola, vegetable, avocado, or even coconut oil.
  • Shallots and garlic: Diced shallots and minced garlic are going to add a ton of flavor. A shallot is like a smaller, milder onion.
  • Orzo: This is a short type of pasta that looks a lot like rice. It has a chewy texture and I love it in warm or cold dishes, like this Mediterranean Orzo Salad.
  • Salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes: I keep the spices simple in this Cheesy Lemon Orzo. They help the other ingredients stand out, but won’t overpower them!
  • Stock: Using stock instead of water to cook the pasta adds a ton of flavor! You can use chicken or vegetable stock (or broth if that’s what you can find).
  • Lemon: Bright and punchy, you’ll use both the lemon zest and juice in this recipe.
  • Baby spinach: While a whole container of baby spinach might seem like a lot, it will shrink down a ton when it’s stirred in (trust me!).
  • Peas: I almost always have frozen peas on hand. If you have fresh peas, though, you can use those.
  • Ricotta and parmesan cheeses: These make the dish creamy (it’s both a texture and a flavor!).
  • Switch up the veggies. You could use double the amount of peas instead of the spinach or swap in chopped kale for the greens.
  • Use a different cheese. Instead of the ricotta and parmesan, swap in other cheeses like mascarpone, goat cheese, or pecorino. Just make sure to use one creamy cheese, since it’s important for the dish’s final consistency.
  • Add in fresh herbs. For even more flavor, stir in chopped, fresh herbs after the lemon orzo finishes cooking. Dill, parsley, or basil would all be great.

How to make lemon orzo

  1. In a Dutch oven, sauté the shallots until softened, then add the garlic, cooking until it smells fragrant (keep an eye on it so the garlic doesn’t burn!).
  2. Add the orzo, stirring and toasting until it smells nutty.
  3. Add the salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, stock, and lemon zest and juice and bring to a boil. Then cover and reduce the heat (stirring occasionally) until all the pasta absorbs all of the stock.
  4. Add the veggies, stirring until the spinach wilts and the peas are warmed through.
  5. Add the cheeses.
  6. Stir until the cheeses are melted and thoroughly mixed in and the lemon orzo is creamy.
6 image collage making recipe in a Dutch oven: 1- shallots cooked with minced garlic added, 2- orzo added, 3- broth and seasoning added, 4- vegetables added to cooked orzo, 5- cheese and ricotta added, 6- after ingredients are combined.

Tips for making the best creamy lemon orzo

  1. Look for plump lemons. You might be thinking, aren’t all lemons the same? Nope! I always find it disappointing to get a tablespoon or two of juice out of a too-dry lemon. The juiciest lemons should feel smoother, thin skinned, and a little soft.
  2. Use a Microplane. I think the easiest way to zest a lemon is to use a Microplane (a rasp-style grater). You want to remove just the top layer of lemon zest, not the bitter, white pith underneath. Another tip I like: use the zester upside down, so the zest gathers on top of it and is easier to see and scoop out.
  3. Use a lidded pot. For this lemon orzo, you’ll need to use a pot with a lid. Covering the pot will allow the pasta to absorb all of the stock and become tender without the liquid evaporating. Personally, I love my Dutch oven! It’s super versatile and buying a good one means it will last years and years.
Cheesy lemon orzo in a dutch oven garnished with extra parmesan and lemon wedges with a serving spoon dipped in.

What to serve with Lemon Orzo

Frequently asked questions

How do you store and reheat lemon orzo?

The lemon orzo will last in the fridge for up to three days stored in an airtight container. To reheat it, you can do so in the microwave or in a pot on the stove. If using the stovetop, stir frequently, add a little more liquid, and cover the pot with a lid so the lemon orzo doesn’t burn before it reheats.

Can I freeze ricotta orzo?

You can freeze the cooled ricotta orzo in an airtight container for up to six months. Thaw it in the fridge overnight before reheating—just note that I’ve found orzo’s texture is mushier after freezing and thawing!

Can you use frozen peas?

I actually prefer to use frozen peas for this lemon orzo! They’re delicious, inexpensive, and require no extra prep work.

Spoon lifting up a bite of cheesy lemon orzo with peas.

Because frozen peas and baby spinach are always at my grocery store and the fact that this Cheesy Lemon Orzo is so downright delicious, I find myself making it year-round. I’d eat a bowl of it for dinner any day of the week—and I think you’ll feel the same way.

More orzo recipes:

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Cheesy Lemon Orzo

Get ready for a burst of flavor with our Cheesy Lemon Orzo! With fresh peas and spinach, this dish is a zesty and satisfying meal in a bowl or served as a side dish.
5 from 2 votes
Servings 6 servings
Course Side Dish
Calories 281
Prep Time 8 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
0 minutes
Total Time 38 minutes
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Ingredients
  

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 shallot diced
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 ½ cups orzo
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3 ½ cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 small lemon juice and zest
  • 1 5 ounce container baby spinach (about 5 cups packed)
  • ½ cup frozen peas
  • ½ cup ricotta cheese
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

Instructions

  • Add olive oil to a medium Dutch oven and set over low heat. Add shallots and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes, or until softened. Add garlic and cook for an additional 30 seconds, or until fragrant.
  • Add orzo and toast for 1 to 2 minutes, or until it smells nutty. Add salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, stock, lemon zest and juice and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for about 18 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the orzo is tender and almost all of the liquid has been absorbed.
  • Once the orzo is tender, uncover and add spinach and peas. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring often, or until the spinach is wilted and the peas are bright green and tender.
  • Remove from heat and add ricotta and parmesan cheese. Stir until the cheese is melted and well blended and serve warm.

Notes

Storage: The lemon orzo will last in the fridge for up to three days stored in an airtight container. To reheat it, you can do so in the microwave or in a pot on the stove. If using the stovetop, stir frequently, add a little more liquid, and cover the pot with a lid so the lemon orzo doesn’t burn before it reheats.
Tips: You can freeze the cooled ricotta orzo in an airtight container for up to six months. Thaw it in the fridge overnight before reheating. Just note that I’ve found orzo’s texture is mushier after freezing and thawing!

Nutrition

Calories: 281kcal, Carbohydrates: 36g, Protein: 13g, Fat: 10g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 5g, Cholesterol: 14mg, Sodium: 349mg, Potassium: 438mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 3g, Vitamin A: 2464IU, Vitamin C: 22mg, Calcium: 128mg, Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate. It will vary based on cooking method and specific ingredients used.

Cuisine American, Italian
Course: Side Dish
5 from 2 votes

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Comments

  1. Nancy says:

    So good!!! Made it tonight as written and served it with oven roasted chicken shawarma 😋 I’ll be keeping this in my rotation!

    1. Yumna J. says:

      Yay, so happy to hear it!! Thanks, Nancy!

  2. Sarah says:

    Another super tasty recipe! I followed the recipe exactly, and it has the perfect amount of lemon flavor and spice.

    1. Yumna J. says:

      Yay, so happy you like it!!

  3. Linda Grigsby says:

    Could you use cottage cheese instead of ricotta?

    1. Yumna J. says:

      Great question, Linda! Yes, cottage cheese should work. Let me know how it turns out!