Parmesan Orzo with Asparagus

I was immediately inspired by this recipe from Tasty Kitchen. I’d only had orzo once before in my life, and it was in a very fancy dining room at Indiana University called the Tudor Room. I associate orzo with elegance, and the thought of making such an mahvellous little dish in only 20 minutes was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. Add to that my love of asparagus and garlic, and you understand that it was quite simply meant to be!


(Serves 4)

1/2 lb orzo pasta
1 bunch asparagus
Zest from 1 lemon
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup pasta water
2 cloves garlic
4 TBS olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper, to taste

Boil up some salted water, and cook the orzo until it’s al dente.

My package said it would take 9 minutes for al dente pasta, and it was right. Before draining it, measure out some pasta water . . .

. . . and set it aside.

In the meantime, snap the tough ends off the asparagus, and chop it up into 2 inch lengths.

Heat up 2 TBS of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. When hot, add the asparagus . . .

. . . and cook for about 8 minutes, until crisp tender.

For some reason I always want to punch myself in the face after using the descriptor ‘crisp tender,’ but I can think of no other phrase that sums up that ideal quality of the perfectly cooked vegetable so precisely. At least no concise phrase–we could always go with ‘not mushy/schmooshy but not undercooked either, slightly bitey but not tough, with a soft crunch, but by ‘soft’ I don’t mean ‘soggy’ and by ‘crunch’ I don’t mean like a potato chip.’

Anyway, make sure to season the asparagus with salt and pepper as it cooks.

Set the cooked asparagus aside.

At this point, I used the same skillet to cook up a couple steaks.

A little more prep, and we’re ready to get this served up. Locate the nearest pair of man-hands, and kindly request that they grate up mountains of Parmesan.

More! More! I said ‘mountains,’ not ‘one lonely hillside’!

That’s better. Thank you, man-hands.

Zest the lemon:

Pause to inhale the wonderful tangy smell of that golden pile. Mmmm.

Finally, put the garlic through a garlic press or mince it up really, really finely.

Now it’s just a matter of throwing everything together. Return the cooked orzo to the pot. Stir in the Parmesan, garlic, lemon zest, 2 remaining tablespoons of olive oil, asparagus, and pasta water.

Add plenty of salt and pepper, to taste. Et voilà, mon petit chou-chou!

You don’t mind if I call you my ‘little chou-chou’, do you?

Great. I didn’t think so.

Serve with fish, steak, chicken . . .

. . . or alone!

Some shrimp stirred in wouldn’t be bad either, now that I think about it.

Load on the extra Parmesan, if you so desire.

Woohoo! The Tudor Room no longer has a monopoly on my orzo experience.

Click here for printer-friendly version: Parmesan Orzo with Asparagus

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19 Responses to Parmesan Orzo with Asparagus

  1. Jill says:

    I posted a recipe just like this one with dried cranberries yesterday. :) It’s a delicious combination.

  2. bevweidner says:

    Dear holy mother.

    Orzo and asparagus share my heart. I’m all over this, if I can regain balance in my life after reading this.


  3. Rowenna says:

    I heart orzo–I do a really simple one with garlic and parm all the time as a side, and make “orzo bowls” with pesto chicken and veg for simple dinners. I’ll have to give this version a try–thanks, Jenna!

  4. Vicki DeArmeyv says:

    Jenna, this will be on my “to do menu” very soon.
    Could I just make one suggestion for your recipes? I really do enjoy the explanations w/pix because you do such a wonderful job w/ photography and your humor as you explain the cooking process is delightful I so want to print it out but w/ pix it is way too much. I usually copy/paste the ingredients and the cooking instructions in bits and pieces and mail it to myself to print out. Would it be possible to do all the explanation in one part and then have the pix? I know that is probably defeating the purpose of show/tell, but it would make it faster to copy/paste, mail and print…any other ideas there?
    You can ignore this and continue to do what you do and I will continue to follow you and do your recipes, no matter what!!

  5. Vicki DeArmeyv says:

    P.S. I saw, after my second read, that you had put the link up so I was able to print this one out. Maybe you do this with all your recipes but I think some of them are your own, so maybe they are the ones I have done the long way.

  6. Veronica says:

    I’m a little bit scared of how alike culinary minds think. After seeing your plated orzo with the steak, I thought, this would probably be really good with some shrimp mixed in. The next sentence I read? My thoughts exactly! (cue Twilight Zone music.) Anyway, this sounds scrumptious and looks it too. YUM!

  7. giselle says:

    I love orzo yum yum

  8. oooh yum! though, sadly, my husband hates asparagus so this might have to be on the “make when ben is gone for the night” list. :) or else, i could just make him fish sticks or something equally manly instead, haha.

  9. Jenna, I am here with Olga and Marta, reading the automatic translatiion to Spanish of your blog…. what a hoot!! Mom
    Hola! aquí estamos “intentando” entender algunas de tus recetas con el traductor simultaneo, pero creo no va muy fino, entre lo que medio se entiende y lo que la imaginación da…nos estamos riendo un rato :)

    • Jenna says:

      Jajaja! I’ve never tried the automatic translation, but now I think I will just for the laughs! Un saludo y un abrazo fuerte a todos!

  10. Hola! Desde España un saludo.
    Hemos estado (tu madre, Marta y yo) viendo un poco tu blog (prometo mirarlo más despacio), y nos hemos reido un rato porque hemos puesto el traductor simultaneo de google y es que tienes que usar más la imaginación que otra cosa. Un Beso ;)

    • Jenna says:

      Abrazos y besos a las tres! Nunca he utilizado el traductor simultaneo, pero ahora tendre que mirarlo cuando tenga ganas de reirme un rato. =)

  11. Mmmm, pretty. You made it so creamy. Love this recipe.

  12. Tracy says:

    I really hate asparagus, but I might try this! :-)

  13. Kimby says:

    If your writing and photos weren’t so riveting and I wasn’t so eager to rush to the comment section to spill forth enthusiasm for your culinary efforts, Jenna, I’d have noticed the handy-dandy print feature on my way past, too… :) Thank you for making life less tedious. LOL!

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