Springtime Orzo Risotto

Risotto is one of those dishes that people shy away from because they think it’s too difficult to cook.  Honestly though, aside from the stirring aspect of the whole experience, I find it to be one of my favorite meals to serve for the family.  It has that magical property of tasting like you added a bucket of lusciously “bad for you” cream to the mix when really it’s just a combination of chicken broth, white wine and starch from the pasta.  Best of all, you can pretty much add any protein, vegetable or fungus into the pot, in effect creating a one dish meal that results in a simple and straightforward weeknight dinner.

Don’t have chicken but there’s a leftover hunk of ham sitting in your fridge?  Toss it in.  Find yourself with spinach but no zucchini?  That’ll work perfect.  There’s no hard and fast rules to risotto add ins.  Just drop in whatever tastes good to you and move forward from there.

If you know me at all then you’ll know that this creation was the result of fridge diving on my part.  A deconstructed whole chicken from earlier in the day = two available breasts.  A leftover zucchini from dinner two night’s ago = vegetable.  And fungus,well, it gets added because I simply love fungus.  There’s also a healthy twig’s worth of basil leaves thrown in for good measure; to green it up a bit more.   We’ve garnered our ingredients, now it’s time to get cooking.

Begin by heating up a large frying pan.  when the pan is good and hot, you’ll add in a small swirl of oil.  You want just enough to coat the bottom.  Too much and you’ll get spattered when you add in the meat.  Give it a minute or two to get hot and then place your chicken in the pan and sear it on both sides for a couple minutes.  Transfer it to a baking dish and slide into a 350 degree oven to finish cooking.

While the chicken finishes baking, we’ll move on to the risotto.  In the same pan you cooked the chicken in, add a bit more oil if needed and toss in an onion, some garlic and a handful of mushrooms.

When the mixture has had a minute or two to cook, you can toss in about a half pound of orzo pasta.  Circle it around the pan a few times and give it a minute or three to toast up.

Time for my favorite part – deglazing.  Pour in that tasty white wine and take a listen to culinary magic in action.

Now add in your first cup of chicken stock and start stirring.

When your pasta has soaked up all the liquid, add another cup and have at it again.

Repeat a third time.  When you’re ready to add in the fourth cup of stock, toss in the zucchini and basil along with it.

Finish strong and stir until you are left with a creamy dreamy pasta.  Turn the heat down to low and add in a pat of butter, a small sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and the chicken you cooked up earlier.

Season with salt and pepper and you’re ready to indulge.

Time to grab up a family member or two and sit down to a delicious all inclusive meal.

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Springtime Orzo Risotto

Yield: 4 Adult Sized Servings

Total Time: 45 min


2 Tbsp Cooking Oil
2 Chicken Breasts*
1 Onion, Chopped
6 Oz. Sliced Mushrooms
2 Cloves Garlic, Minced
8 Oz. Orzo Pasta
1/2 Cup White Wine
4 Cups Chicken Stock
1/4 Cup Fresh Basil, Chopped
1 Zucchini, Chopped
2 Tbsp Butter
1/4 Cup Parmesan Cheese

*Leftover chicken will also work well if you have it on hand and want to save a bit of work and time.


Heat up a tablespoon of the oil in a large frying pan.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper and add it to the pan. Sear on both sides for 2 to 3 minutes.

Remove from the pan and place in a 350 degree oven until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Cube and reserve.

To the same pan you cooked the chicken in, add the other tablespoon of oil if needed. Allow to heat up on medium heat for a minute or two.

Toss in the onion, mushrooms and garlic. Cook until onions are translucent; about 2 to 3 minutes.

Add in the orzo and allow the pasta to toast for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Deglaze the pan with the white wine.

Add in 1 cup of the chicken stock and begin stirring. Continue to stir until all the liquid is absorbed and then add another cup and repeat the process one cup at a time.

When you're ready to add in the 4th cup of liquid, add the basil and zucchini in along with it. Stir until no liquid remains.

Turn the heat down to low and add in the butter and Parmesan cheese.

Add the cubed chicken back in, season with salt and pepper, and serve with a sprinkle of Parmesan for garnish.


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13 Responses to “Springtime Orzo Risotto”

  1. 1

    Rita — March 27, 2012 @ 10:15 am

    Risotto is one of my favourite dishes and i am just stating to be brace enough to prepare it myself. I can see this with some leftover Easter ham and asparagus.. Thank you for sharing this one Julie; you always have great recipes.

  2. 2

    anne — March 27, 2012 @ 10:33 am

    I SOOOOOO wish my family liked risotto! They are purely potato lovers-ugh!!

  3. 3

    Jenna — March 27, 2012 @ 11:10 am

    I’ve made risotto, and love it, but it does certainly require a lot of stirring . . . it’s a good dish to make when there are sisters or good girlfriends around to talk the time away. =)

  4. 4

    Jen M O — March 27, 2012 @ 2:30 pm

    We love risotto. I never thought to add zucchini which we also love. I know I’ll be making this real soon. What a great recipe. Thank you.

  5. 5

    Katerina — March 28, 2012 @ 4:51 am

    I totally agree with you! I love risotto and guess what, I don’t stir it all the time. I give it a good stir and then I do something else and then stir it again and so on and so forth. The texture is the same and my hand is not hurting afterwards. Spring is here too Julie and I love everything that helps me celebrate. This risotto is perfect!

  6. 6

    Sanjeeta kk — March 28, 2012 @ 11:57 am

    Risotto with pasta…now you are giving me another reason to love my risotto more..and zucchini is a lovely add Julie!

  7. 7

    Deanna — March 28, 2012 @ 2:09 pm

    I think the only thing that could make this more perfect is asparagus. Only because I’m still celebrating that it is in season again.

  8. 8

    Javelin Warrior — March 28, 2012 @ 3:52 pm

    I completely agree with you – risotto really has a bad rap for being too time-consuming, but I actually think it’s a simple one-pot meal that’s incredibly comforting. Love your take on this dish and the mushrooms as a great addition…

  9. 9

    5 Star Foodie — March 28, 2012 @ 9:39 pm

    A lovely risotto, I like the addition of zucchini and basil!

  10. 10

    Rach — March 28, 2012 @ 10:14 pm

    This looks amazing!

  11. 11

    Ameena — March 28, 2012 @ 11:01 pm

    Are you kidding? Risotto is totally something I shy away from. Talk about labor intensive! You have a knack for making everything look easy…I’m so jealous.

  12. 12

    malia — March 30, 2012 @ 9:27 am

    looks light and springy and healthy and just plain delish xoxoxo

  13. 13

    Kiran @ KiranTarun.com — March 30, 2012 @ 4:57 pm

    I’ve never tried risotto before — guess I am intimated by the whole process. But like Ameena said, you make it look too easy & delicious 😉

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