This broccoli parmesan orzo with burst tomatoes is a healthy and nourishing dish that's full of flavor and satisfying to eat. Best part is it's really easy to throw together as a side dish or make it a one pot meal (see details in the pairing section).
Lately I've been making a concerted effort to put more veggies into meals while also lightening up the fat. But if you're like me you still want things to taste really good even if they're lighter and healthier.
Adding lots of yummy, fresh veggies that taste good together and then complementing them with a bit of cheese is a great way to eat healthier but keep the flavor in check.
This orzo is super easy to make and provides a perfect pairing if you want to combine it with a more protein forward dish. For example I made a one pot herb crusted cod with broccoli parmesan orzo and it was so tasty and so easy to make.
Orzo: This dish is made with medium to small sized orzo. Orzo comes in different sizes - smaller and bigger varieties. If you use larger orzo, it might need a bit longer to cook and potentially a bit more water. If in doubt just keep a close eye on it, do a bite test to check doneness and add more water if it looks like it's drying or sticking to the pan before it's cooked through (i.e. passes the bite test).
Vegetable stock: I personally don't often have liquid stock in the house but I always keep a cache of low and no-sodium bouillon cubes in the fridge. They're such an easy way to add a ton of extra flavor. When dissolved in water, they are like a rehydrated stock. You can use regular liquid stock if you prefer. If you're in the USA/Canada, I've heard rave reviews about Better Than Bouillon. If you don't have vegetable stock or bouillon, then you can substitute chicken stock/bouillon.
Butter: There's just a little butter in this recipe to sauté the onion, garlic and broccoli stem. You can substitute oil if you prefer.
Onion and garlic: Onion for sweetness and garlic for that inimitable garlicky magic.
Parmesan cheese: This dish is mostly healthy but the addition of parmesan cheese also makes it comforting and creamy. You can substitute another hard cheese like pecorino or grana padano. Alternatively you can opt for a soft cheese like cheddar (for that broccoli cheddar vibe) or even goat cheese! Why not.
Seasoning: The seasoning for the orzo is kept simple simple (just salt and black pepper). Of course feel free to jazz it up if you like.
Broccoli florets: I used broccoli florets that I bought at my local market already cut and with most of the stem removed. I finely diced and added what was left of the stems to the orzo. For me this was about a half cup of broccoli stem (hidden veggies!). If you have the entire head of broccoli with the whole stem then that will add much more volume and bulk if you use it all in the orzo. It's up to you if you want to do this - the only real constraint is the size of your skillet and your taste for broccoli.
Cherry tomatoes: I used multicolored (red, orange and yellow) whole cherry tomatoes as a sort of proverbial cherry on top for this dish. The cherry tomatoes add a lovely pop of color and sweet juice which contrasts beautifully with the broccoli parmesan flavor. When cooked they become even sweeter and tend to keep their shape which looks lovely. You can also substitute whole chopped tomatoes if you prefer.
You will need a pan that can go from stovetop to oven. A simple oven safe skillet or saucepan will do. I used an All Clad Stainless Steel Fry Pan.
This dish is really simple to make. You can have it on the table in less than 30 minutes.
The only prep is cutting the onion, garlic and broccoli florets. Remove the stems from the florets and dice them finely. Then finely dice the onion and mash or mince the garlic.
Put your skillet on high heat and add these ingredients along with the butter. Sauté a few minutes until things begin to brown lightly.
Once there's a bit of browning action, you can add the orzo, salt, black pepper, lemon zest, and most of the stock.
Then you'll cook for about 10 minutes. You want to get the orzo either cooked through or close to it.
After 10 minutes the liquid will be reduced a lot and you can swirl in the parmesan cheese until it's melted in. Then add the broccoli and tomatoes along with the rest of the stock.
The stock is added in segments so it doesn't all evaporate or soak into the orzo. Being pasta, orzo will continue to absorb liquid and if it's all added at once and cooked off, it can make the orzo stodgy. So I prefer to keep it a bit 'wetter' to avoid it getting thick or stiff....which is never how you want to describe a luscious, creamy casserole.
This orzo is really easy to turn into a one pot dish. For example you can combine it with herb crusted cod to make a one pot meal for only about another 10 minutes.
The lemon you zested for the orzo doesn't have to go to waste. Slice it up and serve it alongside. A perfect pairing.
Chicken could also work but should be browned well on all sides and added to the pot before the orzo. Allow it all to cook together for as long as recommended for the cut you're cooking. The orzo will be even more flavorful from cooking together with the chicken.
Looking for more side dish inspiration, try one of these:
Broccoli Parmesan Orzo with Burst Tomatoes
- large oven safe skillet or saucepan with lid
- 1.5 cups orzo 320 grams / 11.25oz
- 2 cups broccoli florets
- 1 cup parmesan cehese 60 grams, grated
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes
- 5.5 cups low sodium vegetable stock 1375ml
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 0.5 cups yellow onion finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic minced or mashed
- 1.5 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 lemon zest only
- Cut off what's left of the stems on the broccoli florets then finely dice the stem pieces and set them aside.
- Finely dice the onion and mince or mash the garlic.
- Sauté the onion garlic and diced broccoli stems in the butter over high heat until just beginning to brown.
- Add the orzo and pour in 4 cups of the stock, the salt, black pepper and lemon zest.
- Lower heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes, stirring often.
- After 10 minutes, stir in the parmesan until melted then add the rest of the stock, broccoli florets and tomatoes.
- Cover and cook another 10 minutes or until the broccoli is tender, tomatoes are burst and orzo is fully cooked.