Creamy basil parmesan orzo is a delightful side dish that will liven up any meal.

Orzo pasta is lightly browned in butter for an infusion of nutty flavor, then cooked to tender perfection in a savory broth. Fresh basil and grated parmesan enhance the dish even more!

When you need a starch side dish with some pizzazz, parmesan orzo is the answer. It’s simple yet exciting, and a fresh change of pace from potatoes, rice or macaroni!

parmesan orzo with basil on a white plate

What is Orzo?

  • Orzo is the name for a rice-shaped pasta.
  • It’s size and shape makes it an ideal addition to soup, or as a main or side dish with tasty add-ins.
  • 20 minute, quick-cooking orzo is the solution to busy weeknight meals.
  • This parmesan orzo dish has a velvety texture similar to risotto, and is prepared in a similar manner.
  • This easy side dish will elevate any entree for guests, or Sunday dinner with the family. Pair it with grilled shrimp, air fryer chicken, pork, or beef.
parmesan orzo with basil in a pot and stirred with a wooden spoon

Ingredients & Variations

Orzo – This tiny pasta gets quickly infused with flavor, and has a unique chewy, yet fluffy texture perfect for this dish unique. You could substitute other small pasta such at ditalini, Acini de Pepe, try couscous or quinoa, or even arborio rice, but each has it’s own texture and flavor.

Parmesan – For the best flavor, use freshly grated Parmesan or Romano from a block, and avoid the shaker jar if possible. Gruyere or Asiago are other options for this Mediterranean version of macaroni and cheese.

Broth – Cook the orzo in beef broth for a robust, savory flavor or use chicken, vegetable, or fish broth if you prefer. Boullion cubes are an option but be sure to adjust any additional salt to taste.

Basil – Fresh basil leaves have a lemony aroma with hints of clove and spice that are not as intense in the dried version, but of course you can switch with that if you don’t have fresh. Pesto is also a good alternative. Use the equivalent amounts dried or pesto to to fresh basil as directed in the recipe below.

Variations – Orzo will pair well with all kinds of add-ins for a feast of color and texture. Make a vegetarian version with vegetable broth, and add tomatoes, peas, garlic, red onions, broccoli, spinach, mushrooms, or olives. Dress with a tangy Italian or vinaigrette. Make it extra cheesy with some feta crumbles. Or turn parmesan orzo into a main dish by adding chunks of chicken breast or salmon. Anything goes with this versatile dish!

parmesan orzo with basil in a white bowl, garnished with basil leaves

How to Cook Orzo

The secret to giving orzo a nutty, rich flavor is in the first step!

  1. In a large saucepan, sauté the orzo in butter until it is a light golden brown, as directed in the recipe below.
  2. Add the broth and simmer about 20 minutes until all the broth is absorbed.
  3. Stir in basil, parmesan cheese, and seasonings.
  4. Serve warm or cold.
plated parmesan orzo with basil

Tips & Tricks

  • This recipe is perfect made ahead of time so the flavors can meld.
  • Store leftovers in airtight containers in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. They make easy pack and go lunches for the office or school.
  • Parmesan orzo can also be frozen! Store it in a freezer safe container for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before reheating.
  • Use the microwave to reheat, and stir in little water or broth to loosen it up.

Other Delish Side Dishes!

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Parmesan Orzo with basil on a white plate with a fork
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Parmesan Orzo With Basil

Make this parmesan orzo recipe for the best pasta side dish! It's easy, cheesy and incredibly delicious!
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 22 minutes
Total Time 27 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Author Candace


  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 ½ cups dry 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


  • In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium high heat. Add orzo and saute 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.


  • 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.
5 from 11 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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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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