One Pot Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato Orzo with Spinach


Recipe Intro From wellplated

Early in my marriage, I entered what I now call the Risotto Period. I cooked a giant, decadent pot of it once or twice a week, thinking nothing of standing at the stove and babysitting it on a Tuesday night. Now that I’m older, wiser, and (I don’t want to call myself lazy, so can we agree on “efficient”?), I make this one pot creamy orzo instead.

Orzo is a short, rice-shaped pasta. Like the traditional Arborio rice used to make risotto, it has a creamy, velvety texture once cooked. When made with a reduced amount of liquid, it becomes starchy and rich just like a rice-based risotto, but it doesn’t require the prolonged micromanagement. For maximum nutritional benefit, I use a whole wheat orzo, which cooks in about 8 minutes, a fraction of the time you’d need for a comparable brown rice risotto.

You can use this orzo cooking method for a wide variety of vegetables, cheeses, and mix-ins, but the combination of sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, Parmesan, and lemon I’ve suggested here is my truest love. It’s creamy, bright and tangy, and the right amount of indulgent. On its own, it’s hearty enough for a vegetarian main, or you can serve it as a side with roasted or grilled chicken, salmon, or shrimp. 


Excerpted from The Well Plated Cookbook by Erin Clarke with permission of Avery, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © Erin Clarke, 2020.


Jump to Section
  • Recipe Card
Prep time 5mins
Cook time 35mins
Serves or Makes: Serves 4 as a main or 8 to 10 as a side

Recipe Card


  • 3/4 cup dry-packed sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, cut into 1⁄4-inch dice (about 1 cup)
  • 1 pound dry whole wheat orzo pasta (about 21⁄2 cups dry pasta)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 cups nonfat milk
  • 2 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth or low sodium vegetable broth
  • 5 ounces baby spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, plus additional to taste
  • Zest and juice of 1 medium lemon, (about 1 teaspoon zest and 1⁄4 cup juice)
  • 2/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (about 21⁄2 ounces), plus additional for serving
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced, divided


  • Step 1

    Place the sun-dried tomatoes in a small bowl and cover with very hot water. Let sit to rehydrate while you prepare the orzo.

  • Step 2

    In a large Dutch oven or similar large, heavy-bottomed pot with a tight-fitting lid, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot but not yet smoking, add the onion and sauté until fragrant and beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the orzo, garlic, salt, and black pepper. Sauté, stirring to combine the ingredients and coat the orzo with the onion and oil. Cook just until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Be careful not to let the garlic burn.

  • Step 3

    Slowly stir in the milk and 2 cups of the broth. Bring to a gentle boil, stirring very frequently with a wooden spoon and scraping the spoon along the bottom of the pot to prevent the orzo from sticking. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to a light simmer. Cook until the orzo is al dente, most of the liquid is absorbed, and the orzo is very creamy, 8 to 10 minutes. Lift the lid every few minutes to stir and run the spoon along the bottom to prevent sticking. If the pasta looks dry at any point, add several splashes of broth as needed to loosen it.

  • Step 4

    Drain and roughly chop the sun-dried tomatoes. Add them to the pot. Stir in the spinach, red pepper flakes, lemon zest and juice, Parmesan, and half of the basil. Continue to cook and stir until the spinach is just wilted and the cheese melts, about 1 minute. Taste and season with additional salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes as desired. Serve hot, sprinkled with the remaining basil and additional Parmesan.