Tuscan Orzo

($7.54 recipe / $1.88 serving)
by Jess - Budget Bytes
4.72 from 7 votes
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Pasta, veggies, and an addictively creamy sauce? Say no more! I’m all about quick one-pot weeknight meals these days; juggling work, a toddler, and a barnyard full of animals to care for (I see you, busy moms!). This Tuscan Orzo recipe gets the job done! Made in just 30 minutes with simple ingredients, this big-batch pasta dish will feed the whole family. Creamy, tomatoey pasta with wilty spinach is cozy comfort food at its best.

overhead view of tuscan orzo in a pan.

What Is Tuscan Orzo?

Tuscan orzo is a dish that is made in the Tuscan tradition of simple, inexpensive meals that can easily be made in large amounts. Orzo pasta is extra delicious in cooked in a creamy tomatoey broth until it is rich, thick, and super flavorful!

Ingredients

Here’s what you’ll need to make Tuscan orzo:

  • Olive Oil: Helps the onions and garlic cook without burning.
  • Butter: Adds richness to the dish.
  • Onion: Adds a touch of sweet and earthy flavor.
  • Garlic: Enhances the savory and earthy flavors of the dish.
  • Italian Seasoning: Adds that classic Italian flavor.
  • Lemon Juice: Fresh lemon juice adds a pop of acidity that balances and brightens this creamy dish.
  • Dijon Mustard: Has a spicy, slightly bitter flavor that enhances the savory elements of this dish.
  • Petite Diced Tomatoes: You can choose to strain your canned tomatoes and make up for the ½ cup of liquid (give or take) by adding a little more vegetable broth. I love the tomatoey flavor (and extra vitamin C!), so I left the tomato juice in.
  • Orzo Pasta: Despite its rice-like shape, this is actually a type of pasta. It gives this dish a texture similar to risotto but in much less time.
  • Vegetable Broth: I used vegetable bouillon to keep this budget-friendly.
  • Heavy Cream: Makes this dish super rich and creamy.
  • Parmesan Cheese: Adds savory umami flavor.
  • Baby Spinach: A great way to sneak in some greens and adds a mellow vegetal flavor.
  • Parsley: Adds a pop of freshness and color.
  • Salt and Pepper: Enhance the overall flavor of the dish.

What Else Can I Add?

This is a pretty hefty dish all by itself and makes a great vegetarian main, but you can add protein to it if you like. Garlic Herb Baked Chicken Breast would make an excellent addition if you have meat-eaters in the fam. Personally, I love adding chopped kalamata olives, balsamic roasted mushrooms, and extra veggies. Substituting the dairy in this recipe is so easy these days, too. So, if you’re vegan, you can easily tweak it to your liking using plant-based milks and cheeses!

Tips and Notes

  • Make sure the orzo simmers and doesn’t boil. The liquid will evaporate too quickly if it’s left to boil, leading to undercooked orzo.
  • A lot of Tuscan orzo recipes call for more expensive sundried tomatoes, but I substituted with canned petite diced tomatoes and I think it came out even better. Sometimes, I find sundried tomatoes to be extra salty, so this version really highlights all of the ingredients without being overly salty.
  • Bring the cream to room temperature before using to ensure it doesn’t curdle from the temperature shock when you add it to the hot orzo.
  • Half-and-half would work in place of the cream, but I do not recommend using milk, as the orzo won’t be as rich or creamy. You can make this recipe vegan by substituting plant-based cream and vegan cheese… it’s so easy to find easy substitutions these days.
  • If the orzo seems watery at the end of cooking, you can simmer it for a bit longer. It will continue to absorb the liquid and thicken.
side view of tuscan orzo on a white plate.
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Tuscan Orzo

4.72 from 7 votes
Tuscan orzo is a one-pot meal made in just 30 minutes with simple ingredients. It's creamy, cozy comfort food at its best.
overhead view of tuscan orzo in a pan.
Servings 4 (1.5 cups per serving)
Prep 10 minutes
Cook 20 minutes
Total 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil ($0.40)
  • 2 Tbsp butter ($0.27)
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped ($0.30)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced ($0.20)
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning ($0.10)
  • 1 14.5oz. can roasted petite diced tomatoes ($0.89)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice ($0.02)
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard ($0.02)
  • 1 cup uncooked orzo pasta ($1.65)
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth ($0.12)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, room temperature ($0.84)
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan ($1.48)
  • 1 cup fresh baby spinach, packed ($1.10)
  • 2 Tbsp minced fresh parsley ($0.10)
  • Salt & pepper to taste ($0.05)

Instructions 

  • Add the oil, butter, and onion to a pot over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion for 3-4 minutes.
  • Add the garlic, Italian seasoning, canned tomatoes, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, and orzo. Stir often, cooking for 3 minutes.
  • Add the vegetable broth and room temperature cream. Once it starts to bubble, turn the heat down to medium-low and continue cooking for 10 minutes uncovered, stirring occasionally so the orzo doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. It should steadily simmer but not boil. You don’t want all of the liquid to evaporate.
  • Take the pot off the heat and stir in the parmesan, spinach, and parsley. Stir again and cover the pot for a few minutes until it has thickened up to your liking.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

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Nutrition

Serving: 1.5cupsCalories: 390kcalCarbohydrates: 34gProtein: 11gFat: 24gSodium: 630mgFiber: 2g
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stirring tuscan orzo in a pan with a wooden spoon.

how to make Tuscan Orzo – step by step photos

sauteed onions in a pan.

Add 1 Tbsp olive oil, 2 Tbsp butter, and 1/2 of a medium chopped onion to a pot over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion for 3-4 minutes.

tomatoes and orzo added to sauteed onions in a pan.

Add 4 minced cloves garlic, 1 tsp Italian seasoning, a 14.5-oz. can of roasted petite diced tomatoes, 1 tsp lemon juice, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, and 1 cup of orzo. Stir often, cooking for 3 minutes.

cream poured over tomatoey orzo in a pan.

Add 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth and 1/2 cup room temperature heavy cream. Once it starts to bubble, turn the heat down to medium-low and continue cooking for 10 minutes uncovered, stirring occasionally so the orzo doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. It should steadily simmer but not boil. You don’t want all of the liquid to evaporate.

parsley, spinach , and cheese added to creamy tuscan orzo in a pan.

Take the pot off the heat, and stir in 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan, 1 cup baby spinach, and 2 Tbsp minced parsley. Stir again and cover the pot for a few minutes until it has thickened up to your liking.

creamy tuscan orzo in a pan.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

overhead view of a serving of tuscan orzo on a white plate.

This one-pot Tuscan orzo is so simple and delicious!

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Comments

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  1. This recipe was amazing! I truly loved the taste of all ingredients! I did not add anything more but will try next time. I feel that it did not need anything more, perfect as is. Two thumbs up. I shared recipe.
    Liked by my family.

  2. My parsley in my garden has unfortunately faded away, do you think fresh basil would be a decent substitute here?

  3. It tastes like restaurant! These little important details like lemon juice or mustard do their best!
    Love it, thank you so much!

    1. Hi, Margarita! I’m so glad you love it. Thanks for the feedback.

    1. I think corn and peppers would be great! Or maybe mushrooms. I think a lot of different veggies would be great!

  4. This was a great, quick weeknight dinner. I was absolutely shocked to find that gluten-free orzo is about $5 a box at the grocery store, so I actually broke up thin spaghetti into orzo-sized pieces. It worked perfectly!

    1. We didn’t try it like that so I’m not sure! It would definitely give the dish a more tart flavor so be aware of that! A few people have used half and half with success!

    2. That sounds delicious. If you try it out, let us know how it turns out.

  5. This was good, but I didn’t find it particularly budget friendly. There were a lot of small amounts of perishable ingredients that I would not be able to use within a week, especially if you wanted to add protein. It also yielded at most three servings.

    1. My two cents that you didn’t ask for…but, writing anyways in case this helps you or another person reading down the line.

      Frozen spinach is fairly common these days & should work fine here, or if you buy a bag of spinach, use what the recipe calls for & immediately toss the rest in your freezer so it’s ready for the next recipe. Same with an onion, can buy frozen pre-chopped, chop & freeze half, or go wild like I do and toss the whole thing in.

      I know Jess says she doesn’t recommend milk in lieu of heavy cream, but my personal thought is you could get away with using whole milk if you added in some cream cheese as well. You’ll have some changes to the flavor profile, but I’d say increase the cream cheese as you decrease the milk fat percentage & you’ll be fine.

      Bouillon of whatever kind you have on hand as a sub for veggie broth would be fine. And if I am ever making a dip or other recipe that calls for DRAINING a can of veggies, I just save what I drain & freeze it for future instances like this.

      Fresh parsley could be replaced w/ the dried stuff.

      Will you end up with a pot of something that tastes just like this recipe? No. But the good news is it will still be delicious. :)

    2. Hey, Jack. I’m glad you liked it! Freezing spinach is always a great option, but you can also load this up with extra spinach if you don’t want to freeze it. (Or whip up one of our spinach salads on the blog!) You can skip the parsley if you’re worried about having any leftover or freeze it as well. We got 1.5 cups/4 servings consistently when we tested this recipe, but I appreciate you sharing your thoughts and feedback. Thanks for trying it out, Jack!

  6. Made this tonight with half n’ half instead of cream and fire-roasted tomatoes. I didn’t have garlic so just left it out, and it was still deeelish!!! Thank you for sharing.

    1. Yum! I’m glad half n half worked out great for you. It’s so rich and decadent both ways. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  7. DELICIOUS!

    I did as the recipe mentioned I could and subbed the heavy cream for half and half. But other than that followed exactly as is and added some blackened chicken breast slices on top. 10/10 would totally make this again!

  8. This looks delicious! Big fan of orzo and especially one-pot meals. Will definitely add this to my meal planner.