Orzo mac and cheese in a bowl

Orzo is one my favorite pastas.  If you haven’t experienced orzo, it’s a small, rice-shaped pasta that has really grown in popularity because of it’s versatility.  It’s great in cold pasta salads, soups, and can be substituted for rice in just about any recipe.  

Several years ago I came across a recipe in Cooking Light magazine for Creamy Parmesan Orzo that I’ve adopted and called my own.  I call it Orzo “Mac & Cheese” because it’s a simple play on a classic dish.  

This mac & cheese doesn’t have to be baked, which makes it so much easier to whip up for a quick week night dinner.  

Orzo “Mac & Cheese” has plenty of flavor, it’s nice and creamy, and it’s got a nutty, salty parmesan cheese bite.  Add some toasted pine nuts, and you’ll get a toasty little crunch as well!  This side dish goes well with anything you may be serving for dinner, so there’s really no good reason to keep you from making it.  🙂

This Orzo “Mac & Cheese” tastes so great because there are some nice layers of flavor.

 First, a chopped shallot and minced garlic are sauteed in a bit of melted butter.  The smell of garlic and shallots cooking in butter is unbelievable!  

The orzo pasta is added next.  I normally saute it for a couple of minutes to get it a little toasty.  

The liquid in this dish is mostly chicken broth, with just a bit of water.  Chicken broth adds so much more flavor, and it’s reduced sodium so that you’re not getting too much salt.  

When the pasta has absorbed all the water, the pan should be removed from heat, and the fresh grated parmesan cheese is stirred in.  Add salt and pepper to taste, and it’s ready to serve!  

I enjoy the crunch of toasted pine nuts, and a bit of chopped flat leaf parsley for garnish, but that’s completely up to you.  

It’s going to taste great regardless.

Orzo mac and cheese in a bowl

Yield: 4-6 servings

Orzo “Mac & Cheese”

Orzo mac n cheese in white bowl

Orzo "Mac & Cheese" has plenty of flavor, it's nice and creamy, and it's got a nutty, salty parmesan cheese bite. Add some toasted pine nuts, and you'll get a nice, toasty little crunch as well!

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes


  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 medium shallot, chopped
  • 1 cup orzo pasta
  • 2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • toasted pine nuts and chopped flat leaf parsley for garnish (optional)


  1. Melt the butter in a medium size sauce pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and shallot, and saute for one minute. Add the orzo, and saute two minutes. Add the chicken broth and water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat slightly and simmer about 15-20 minutes, or until all of the water has been absorbed. Remove from heat, and stir in the parmesan cheese. Add the salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with toasted pine nuts and freshly chopped flat leaf parsley, if desired. Serve immediately.


Recipe adapted from Cooking Light's Creamy Parmesan Orzo

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