Lemony Orzo With Garlic, Kale, and Parmesan

Lemony Orzo With Garlic, Kale, and Parmesan recipe

In my opinion, orzo is risotto’s much better, bigger sister. It tastes better – when does pasta not taste good? – is ready in 7-9 minutes versus the untenable wrist-aching 30 minutes of its ricey relative, and unless you want to create a big sauce to go with it you won’t find it going all stodgy, claggy, or porridge-like as risotto sometimes can.

I don’t know why, as it’s easier to work with, but orzo also gives me the feeling of being a bit more cheffy than if I’m cooking risotto. Maybe because it’s not as common to cook with (my v scientific research, i.e. a Google for ‘Orzo Recipes’ yields 16.5m results vs. risotto’s 37m-odd); despite being Italian in origin it’s only really served there in soups, whereas across the continent in Greece orzo is more popularly cooked with meat. It was called a ‘fad’ ingredient in the US in 1990 and slowly made its way over to the UK to become a staple here, too.

And here ends your impromptu lesson on orzo.

In my kitchen orzo is of those ingredients I grab when I want to eat something quick, hearty, and healthy-ish; it carries flavour really well (like most pasta, I guess?), and you can literally go from zero to dinner time in twenty minutes flat. Perfect.

This iteration is super simple but packs a real flavour punch. The addition of breadcrumbs gives a lovely crunch contrast to the creamy softness of the pasta (if you don’t want to make your own you can use pre-bought panko crumbs and toast them in a pan for 3 minutes), and the combination of garlic, lemon,  and parmesan is a marriage made in heaven. Also it’s got kale in it, and nothing can ever go wrong when you have a meal that includes kale.

Without the crumb topping this is excellent re-heated for a desk lunch the next day; I’m a puritan who does this in a saucepan with a little extra oil and the addition of a dessertspoon of water to loosen things up, but if you’re a heathen like my husband just whack it in the microwave and enjoy.

Lemony Orzo With Garlic, Kale, and Parmesan

A twenty minute mid-week dish that'll you'll love

Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings 2


  • 1 and a quarter cup orzo
  • 1 whole lemon skin finely grated to a zest
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 whole garlic clove Finely grated
  • 3 handfuls kale
  • 3 tbsp parmesan grated
  • 1 tbsp breadcrumbs (optional)


  1. Start by cooking the orzo per the packet instructions, with around 9 minutes.

  2. If you're making breadcrumbs from scratch, blitz a couple of slices of bread in a food processor and toss on a medium heat in a frying pan with melted butter and some herbs if you wish (I like thyme and rosemary).

  3. A couple of minutes before the orzo is done, add your handfuls of kale to the pot.

  4. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a different pan on a medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the garlic to this and stir, and then add the lemon zest.

  5. Once the orzo and kale is done, reserve a tablespoon of the cooking liquid and drain. Return to the pan and add your butter, oil, garlic and lemon mix along with the liquid.

  6. Stir in the parmesan until melted and the sauce is all creamy. Season to taste.

  7. Serve with the breadcrumbs sprinkled on top




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