This rich and creamy risotto-style pasta dish has plenty of parmesan, basil, lemon and spinach, topped with buttery asparagus. Orzo risotto is a delicious dinner for two.
Who else loves risotto, but is always put off making it by the constant stirring and the idea of it being super difficult? Yup, thought so. But, you can get the same creamy texture by using orzo pasta, some leftover starchy cooking water, and plenty of parmesan and butter!
Although, I must say, making actual risotto isn’t as difficult or time consuming as you might think – if you’d like to try it, I highly recommend my fresh herb risotto recipe (I recently updated the photos too!). Or, you could try combining the recipes – cooking the orzo the same way I do in this recipe, but sticking to the herby flavours in my actual risotto! Either way, asparagus cooked in butter goes brilliantly on top. After all, everything is better with butter.
I always find that it’s best to use freshly grated parmesan in all risotto recipes. Pre-grated is often milder and doesn’t quite give it the same creaminess, but if you struggle with grating the cheese (it’s tough on your wrists and fingers!) then just use pre-grated and add some extra depending on your tastes.
If you’re looking for more help in cooking risotto or using different grains in place of risotto rice, then make sure you take a look at this post on how to make a perfect risotto every time. I guarantee that it’s easier than you think!
I’m afraid that this isn’t a one-pan recipe, but you can’t have everything. You need:
- one pan to cook the orzo in veggie stock (or chicken if you prefer)
- one pan for the onion, garlic and spinach
- one tiny pan for the buttery asparagus
I’m sorry! One day I’ll attempt a one-pan risotto! I already have some ideas brewing…
If you look closely, you might also notice that only some of these photos have lemon zest on top. I have a confession to make: the first time I made it, I completely forgot the zest! I know, how could I forget the lemon when it’s in the title. Then again, who doesn’t have those days every so often?
Asparagus, Lemon & Spinach Orzo Risotto
A creamy risotto-style pasta dish with plenty of parmesan, basil, lemon and spinach flavour, topped with asparagus cooked gently in a pan with butter.
- 500 ml (2 cups) vegetable stock
- 150 grams (1 1/2 cups) orzo
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 70 grams (5 tbsp) butter, split in to 25, 25 and 20 grams
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 small yellow onion, finely diced
- 50 grams (1 1/2 cups) baby spinach
- 6 stalks asparagus
- 50 grams (1/2 cup) parmesan, grated
- 1 handful basil leaves, chopped
- salt and pepper, to season
- 1/2 lemon, zest only
- 2 tbsp pine nuts
- Bring the vegetable stock to a boil in a saucepan and add the orzo. Simmer for 12 minutes or until cooked.
- While the orzo cooks, add 25g of butter and the olive oil to a pan over low heat. Once the butter is melted, add the onion and garlic and sauté gently.
- Drain the orzo, reserving at least 4 tbsp of stock. Add the spinach to the pan with onions and garlic and wilt. In a separate pan over low heat, melt 25g of butter and add asparagus. Sauté gently.
- Once the spinach is wilted, add the orzo to the pan along with 2 tbsp of leftover stock, half the parmesan, the final 20g of butter, the basil and the lemon zest. Stir to combine, and then add 2tbsp more of stock and the rest of the parmesan. It should be creamy, but if not then add a little more stock, butter and parmesan until it reaches the desired texture. Season as desired with salt and pepper.
- Serve in 2 bowls, topped with the asparagus and pine nuts.
The orzo can be reheated in the microwave as it is pasta, although I do not recommend reheating the asparagus. It is best eaten fresh.
This is only vegetarian if you only avoid meat and seafood - many vegetarians eat parmesan, while others avoid it.
Nutrition InformationYield 2 Serving Size 1/2 batch
Amount Per Serving Calories 687Total Fat 49gSaturated Fat 23gTrans Fat 1gUnsaturated Fat 21gCholesterol 97mgSodium 1560mgCarbohydrates 47gFiber 4gSugar 4gProtein 18g
All nutrition values are an estimate and may vary.
If you’re looking for more dinners for two, try these spicy chicken skewers & turmeric rice. They’re spicy, but still pretty healthy and packed full of flavour. Or, if you need a vegetarian meal for two, try these chargrilled veggie & halloumi wraps – they’re flavourful, healthy, and super quick and easy!
Or, for a side dish to serve with this orzo risotto, my cheesy garlic butter pinwheels are perfect!
Melanie Varey says
A tasty fresh summers recipe. Lovely!
Hannah - Crunch & Cream says
I’m so glad you like the look of it – it really is so perfect for Summer, especially since it’s so easy!