Parmesan Orzo with basil is one of our all-time favorite side dishes. It is a fantastic BBQ side dish, is easy and quick to make and goes with chicken, pork, beef and seafood. We love to serve it with smoked beef brisket!

Parmesan Orzo with Basil is up there with our favorite pasta dishes, like Homemade Baked Macaroni and CheeseInstant Pot Italian Chicken and Noodles and Instant Pot Sausage Pasta.

parmesan orzo with basil on a white plate with a fork, salad and pork loin

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When I first make this parmesan basil orzo recipe for guests, whether at our house, at the lake or even their house, there tend to be lots of questions around the table. What is orzo? What is orzo made of? Is orzo rice or pasta? Is orzo healthy? Is orzo better for you than rice? I will answer these common questions that people have when they try (and love!) orzo for the first time.

What is Orzo Pasta?

Orzo is pasta, not rice. While orzo is a pasta, it tastes like risotto, which is a type of short grain starchy rice called arborio rice.

The word orzo in Italian actually means barley. It’s called orzo because of its barley grain shape. However, orzo pasta is not actually made from barley. What is orzo pasta made out of? It is made from a high in protein and gluten semolina flour.  If you are gluten-free you need to look for the gluten-free orzo pasta recipes.

This parmesan basil orzo is the easiest way to make delicious cheesy orzo but there are many variations of this easy orzo dish. We love chicken orzo and zesty lemon orzo too. Other orzo recipes with chicken include Lemon Chicken Soup!

How to Cook Orzo

There is no trick to cooking orzo pasta.  It’s just like cooking rice, except we do something with orzo that we don’t always do with rice.  

The orzo is simmered in butter for a couple of minutes to give it a special toasted flavor before it is cooked in broth. This method also provides a creamy starchy sauce that blends well with the parmesan cheese which makes the cheesy orzo everyone loves.  Add in the basil, and you have a delicious Mediterranean orzo that kids and adults love to eat.

closeup of parmesan orzo with basil in a pot with a wooden spoon

Orzo can also be cooked like any pasta. Simply boil in salted water until cooked (about 10 minutes) and drain. However, the rice method adds extra flavor from the broth and requires no draining. Easy peasy!

Is Orzo Pasta Healthier Than Rice?

A serving of rice and a serving of orzo pasta are basically the same in terms of calories, carbs protein and fat.  You can increase the orzo nutrition by making the parmesan orzo with whole-grain flour or even quinoa pasta. A serving of orzo pasta is about 200 calories, almost equal to a serving of rice. 

Orzo is frequently used in Greek dishes like orzo salad or orzo with tomatoes and feta.  Parmesan orzo is more of an Italian dish, with creamy parmesan cheese and basil – and who doesn’t like parmesan cheese.  It’s an easy orzo pasta dish that everyone will love.  

closeup of parmesan orzo with basil on a white plate

How Much Does Orzo Make Per Cup?

For each cup of dry orzo, you’ll get approximately 2 1/2 cups of cooked orzo, or about 5 cups per 8 ounce package of orzo. How much orzo do you need for one person? When you’re serving it as a side dish, 3/4 cup is the perfect amount. If you’re serving it as the main attraction for your meal, you’ll want to increase this to 1 1/2 cups per serving.

parmesan basil orzo in a white bowl garnished with pepper and basil, with a fork on the side

Serve it with chicken or any seafood (fish and shrimp are my favorites). Add in some fresh steamed vegetables like broccoli, green beans or corn, with an Italian Salad and some amazing No Knead Bread.

Pasta is definitely a guilty pleasure for our family and is the starch we eat the most for lunch and dinner.  When I’m looking for a change in pasta from macaroni and spaghetti, orzo is the perfect answer.  

close up of Parmesan Orzo with basil in a white bowl
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Parmesan Orzo With Basil

Parmesan Orzo with basil is one of our all-time favorite side dishes. Cheezy orzo pasta is easy and delicious, made in one pot!
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 22 minutes
Total Time 27 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Author Candace


  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 ½ cups orzo pasta
  • 3 cups beef broth or chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • ½ cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 6 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil or 1 ½ teaspoons dried basil or 2 Tablespoons prepared pesto
  • salt to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste


  • Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Add orzo and saute orzo for 2 minutes, stirring until lightly browned.
  • Add broth to orzo and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until orzo is cooked and water is absorbed (about 20 minutes.)
  • Stir in parmesan and basil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
5 from 9 votes↑ Click stars to rate now!
Or to leave a comment, click here!

Nutrition Information

Calories: 234 | Carbohydrates: 28g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 22mg | Sodium: 626mg | Potassium: 164mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 350IU | Vitamin C: 0.3mg | Calcium: 113mg | Iron: 0.8mg

Nutrition information does not include optional ingredients or garnish and is an estimate. It may change based on actual ingredients and cooking methods used.

Course Side Dish
Cuisine American, Italian

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parmesan orzo with basil on a white plate with a fork and salad 

parmesan basil orzo in a white bowl garnished with pepper and basil, with a fork on the side

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About the author

I am a wife, mother of two, and professional accountant. I love fantastic food, and it is so often the center of our lives, from everyday dinner, to family gatherings, and special evenings at fabulous restaurants. I have always loved cooking and baking, with my mom and grandma, and now, with my daughter and son. I love trying new recipes while enjoying my favorites too. I’m so happy to share them with you.
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