Lemon Orzo Primavera

This is definitely one of my go-to summer dishes – it’s a perfect blend of warm weather flavors: summer vegetables, white wine, lemon, light pasta.  I love risottos, but they can be a little heavy for summer.  This is a similar style dish, but it’s made with orzo pasta instead, and it’s super adaptable: you can use whatever veggies you like best, and you can make it more pasta heavy if you prefer.  I will add fresh herbs if I have them on hand, but it’s fine without.  It can be vegetarian, or you can add chopped chicken breast.  Usually I’ll just cook two chicken breasts with some salt and pepper, maybe herbs & lemon zest, in the same pan I will use for the pasta – that way I will get those yummy flavors in the dish when I cook the orzo.  Then, I’ll chop it up and throw it in near the end of the cook time.

This time around, I used bell peppers, zucchini, carrots, and asparagus. I almost always use carrots and zucchini and mix and match from there till I get about 6 cups of chopped veggies.  For a more pasta-y dish, use about 4 cups of veggies.

It’s cooked sort of risotto-style, but much lower maintenance.  You cook the orzo a little bit with some olive oil, till it gets nice and toasty, then pour in some white wine and cook till that’s absorbed.  Then you add in the onion, garlic, and veggies that will take longer to cook (like broccoli, peppers, carrots).  I’ve found that if I throw in the zucchini now, it will be a mushy mess by the time everything else is finished.

Then you add in the quicker cooking vegetables (like asparagus, zucchini, squash), broth, herbs, and lemon zest and cook that around for about 10 minutes till the pasta absorbs all that broth.

You can also throw in some cooked, diced chicken.  Yum – the pasta is nice and firm, the veggies are cooked through but still should have a nice bite to them.  The last thing is to stir in some salt & pepper to taste, lemon juice and fresh grated parmesan.

Sprinkle a little bit of parmesan on top, too, and the end result is really nice and savory, fresh, lemony, yummy.

Lemon Orzo Primavera

Adapted from this recipe.

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 cup Uncooked Orzo Pasta
1/4 cup White Wine (optional)
2 cloves Garlic, Minced
1 whole Onion, Diced
1 cup Carrots, Diced (about 2-3 whole)
1.5 cups Zucchini, Diced (about 1 whole)
1 cup Asparagus, cut into thirds
2 cups Bell Peppers, Diced (about 2 whole)
1-3/4 cups Chicken Broth
1 whole Lemon (zest Of The Whole Lemon, Juice Of Half Of The Lemon, Divided Use)
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh herbs (like Thyme, Basil, Rosemary)
2 whole Chicken Breasts, Cooked & Diced
1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese
Salt & Pepper


  1. Heat oil in a large saute or frying pan over medium heat.
  2. Add orzo and cook approximately 2 minutes until golden.
  3. Add white wine if using and cook till absorbed. I usually use Sauvignon Blanc, but any nice white will do.
  4. Add garlic, onion, and carrots, broccoli, bell peppers (any veggies that will take longer to cook) and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Cook about 2 minutes.
  6. Next, add zucchini and asparagus (any of the quicker cooking veggies).
  7. Cook about 1-2 minutes.
  8. Add chicken broth, lemon zest, and herbs, and bring to a boil.
  9. Reduce heat and let simmer till broth is absorbed and the orzo is cooked (about 10 minutes).
  10. Near end of cook time, add diced, cooked chicken and heat through
  11. Once it’s all cooked, add salt & pepper to taste, stir in parmesan cheese, and squeeze juice of half the lemon over top (more to taste), and serve.

*You could make this vegetarian by using vegetable broth and no chicken.
*For veggies, use whatever you like – zucchini, yellow squash, carrots, bell peppers, asparagus, and broccoli are all great.  I try to aim for about 5-6 cups of chopped veggies total.  Just make sure they’re all chopped to about the same size, and add them to the pan in order of cook time so that everything cooks to a similar consistency and nothing is overcooked.

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8 thoughts on “Lemon Orzo Primavera

  1. Kelly MacConnell says:

    You made this when Meredith and I came to visit! I love this and make it during the summer at home too! 🙂

  2. Sara says:

    This reminds me of a sort of choose your own adventure orzo I did around when I started my blog. I’ve mostly been trying new recipes since then but I love the colors and flavors of yours and it might be time to go back to orzo land! I’ll have to make an early-summer orzo sometime soon and perhaps hybridize our recipes! Also, welcome to wordpress!

    • Rachel says:

      Thanks Sara! I love these kinds of dishes with tons of veggies. I liked your ‘green’ pasta dish with the favas and other veggies. Thanks also for the info/help on Food Blog Forum!

  3. Jane Killian says:

    How could wine be optional? Didn’t you use any, Rachel? I will try this recipe soon!

  4. Shannon says:

    I plan to use this very soon, perhaps for a July dinner party I’m beginning to plan. I might try mushrooms in it!

  5. Shannon says:

    I made this tonight for my Sunday School class’s monthly dinner. I made a double batch and there wasn’t a single bite left! I used onion, bell pepper, mushrooms, and green and yellow squash/zucchini, and it was delicious! Two girls from class asked for the recipe, so your dish is a hit!

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