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Finished parmesan orzo on spoon

Easy Parmesan Orzo Recipe

  • Author: Gianna Nebbia
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 6-8 as a side dish 1x
  • Category: Pasta
  • Method: pasta water; one pot pasta
  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Diet: Vegetarian


  • 1 lb of Orzo Pasta (or other small pasta shape like dittalini or elbows)
  • The rind of 1 lemon (removed from lemon with a peeler)
  • 1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
  • Kosher Salt


  1. Bring 2.5 quarts of water and lemon rind strips to a boil in a medium-large pot. Salt the water until it tastes as salty as soup. When the water boils, remove the lemon peels from the water using a spider, and discard them.
  2. Add a pound of orzo and boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally so the orzo doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot. Cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Use instructions on the box as a guide, and start tasting after 6 minutes so you don't overcook the orzo.
  3. Once al dente, reserve 1 cup of the pasta water then dump the orzo through a colander. Return orzo to the pot, add the butter, reserved pasta water, and fresh nutmeg, and stir for about 1 minute. This step helps create a starchy creamy sauce while also cooling down the pasta. This way the cheese, which is added in the next step, doesn't clump.
  4. Quickly stir in the parmesan cheese and a pinch of salt (to taste) If your pasta water is salty enough, you may not need to add salt.
  5. Serve alongside your favorite protein or vegetable and enjoy!

Keywords: parmesan orzo recipe