You can make this nutty, Mediterranean-style Toasted Orzo Pasta Recipe with Garlic, Parmesan and Sun-dried Tomatoes in just 15 minute! It will steal the show next to your favorite protein, and you can even serve it as a quick and easy vegetarian meal on its own.

toasted orzo pasta with sundried tomatoes, parmesan, garlic and fresh herbs in one pan

What is orzo?

While orzo may be shaped like rice, it is a tiny pasta. It is most often made from wheat semolina flour or white flour but whole wheat and gluten-free orzo options are now widely available. It cooks up quickly in just about 7 to 8 minutes, which makes it an ideal add-in for dishes as well as a quick and easy side dish.

I love using orzo to add a little bulk and texture to one pot meals and dishes like shrimp soup, Greek youvetsi (lamb and orzo stew), or creamy orzo with blistered tomatoes. It's also a great choice for pasta salads.

The majority of people will cook orzo plain and serve it as a side. While there's nothing wrong with plain orzo, that's not what we're making today: We're making one of my favorite combos: pasta and sundried tomatoes!

Prepare to make an orzo pasta recipe that is way more than a little side--I call it my "kicked up" toasted orzo! Prepared Mediterranean style, this nutty orzo with garlic, fresh herbs, parmesan and sun-dried tomatoes is a meal in its own right! But sure, you can serve it as a side next to your favorite protein like lamb, baked chicken, or lemony cod. So many ways to use it even as a simple vegetarian meal.

toasted orzo recipe served in blue bowl with sundried tomatoes and a garnish of parsley

How to cook orzo?

You cook orzo pasta just as you would any other pasta - in boiling, salted water (for 1 ½ cups of orzo, you'll need about 7 cups of boiling water). But first, for best flavor, toast your orzo in a little bit of extra virgin olive oil before you cook it in boiling water! Just warm up the oil and add the orzo, then toss it around until it turns golden brown). This short step enhances the flavor and gives the orzo a delicious and subtly nutty flavor. Once toasted, add the orzo to a pot of boiling water, seasoned with a good amount of salt and cook for about 7 to 8 minutes, until the pasta is chewy but still slightly firm--to al dente as they say.

Before you drain your pasta, remember to keep a bit of the starchy water to use for your sauce.

What you'll need to make this orzo pasta recipe

Overhead view of ingredients for orzo recipe including orzo, sundried tomatoes, parsley, parmesan cheese, green onions, garlic and lemon

This Mediterranean-style toasted orzo pasta is made with just a few ingredients with bold flavors. Here is what you'll need to make it:

  • Extra virgin olive oil - Be sure to use a quality olive oil for toasting the orzo, as well as cooking the aromatics. For this recipe, I used our Italian Nocellara EVOO, which is a delicious, medium-intesity olive oil with aromas of freshly cooked tomatoes and vegetables.
  • Orzo pasta - You can use regular, whole wheat, or even gluten-free orzo pasta for this recipe.
  • Herbs and spices - Salt and pepper, fresh garlic, red pepper flakes (optional but add a nice heat!), fresh parsley and fresh dill add all of the flavor to this simple Mediterranean-style orzo dish.
  • Lemon - Fresh lemon juice adds a pop of citrus flavor to the final product.
  • Sun-dried tomatoes - You can use sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil or packaged dry, either way. They provide a slightly sweet and tangy flavor.
  • Grated Parmesan - Freshly grated parm is great to stir in the orzo and to garnish at the end.

How to make Mediterranean-style toasted orzo

Here is how to make this kicked-up orzo for the perfect side or little vegetarian meal:

  • Toast and cook the orzo. First, warm up some extra virgin olive oil in your cooking pot and add the orzo. Toss it around until toasted beautiful golden brown.
    Then add about 7 cups boiling water. Salt the water very well, this is a great chance to season the tiny pasta as it cooks. Cook to al dente according to package instructions (mine took about 8 minutes).
    Remember to save a cup or so of the starchy pasta water before draining, you'll be using this for the sauce.

    Toasted orzo in a pan
  • Work on the olive oil and garlic sauce. In another large pan, warm some more olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, and season with salt and red pepper flakes and cook until just fragrant (just a few seconds). Add juice of one lemon and about ½ cup of the pasta water. Bring to a gentle boil. Stir in some fresh herbs (parsley and dill are great here).

    Fresh parsley and dill sauteed in a pan with olive oil
  • Combine the pasta with the sauce and finish. Drain the orzo and add it to the pan with garlic and herbs. Toss to combine and season with a good dash of kosher salt and pepper to taste. Stir in some chopped up sun-dried tomatoes (about ⅓ cup) and grated parmesan (about ½ cup). Toss around, and if needed add a little more pasta cooking water or more olive oil to help coat the pasta with all the delicious flavors.
    To serve, sprinkle with additional parmesan and red pepper flakes, if you like.

    A blue plate of toasted orzo with a fork

Tips for success

If this is your first time cooking toasted orzo, here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Toast until the pasta is just golden brown. When toasting the orzo, be sure to keep stirring it to avoid burning or charring any of the pasta.
  • Salt the water. When it's time to boil the pasta, don't be shy when it comes to adding salt to the water! It really does make a difference in the flavor.
  • Don't overcook the pasta. Orzo cooks quickly, particularly in this recipe after being toasted. Keep an eye on it and be sure to remove from heat and drain as soon as it turns al dente!
A blue bowl of toasted orzo with garlic tomatoes and parmesan

Serve it with

As I mentioned above, while this toasted orzo pasta recipe was intended as a way to spruce up a plain side, you can easily turn it into a meal on its own! It would make a great vegetarian meal for sure.

But, I do typically serve it as a side dish. One thing I love about orzo is that it can take the place of rice as a side dish and it goes with basically everything. This toasted orzo can be served with everything from baked chicken thighs to shrimp, or even with my favorite vegetable skewers to keep it all vegetarian!

How to store leftovers

Leftover orzo can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat on the stovetop for best results (or the microwave in a pinch) and note that you may need to add a splash of water to prevent it from drying out.

More orzo recipes:

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4.95 from 90 votes

Mediterranean-Style Toasted Orzo with Parmesan and Sundried Tomatoes

Suzy Karadsheh
toasted orzo recipe served in blue bowl with sundried tomatoes and a garnish of parsley
Prepared Mediterranean-style, this nutty Toasted Orzo Pasta Recipe with Garlic, Parmesan and Sundried Tomatoes will steal the show next to your favorite protein. You can even serve it as a quick and easy vegetarian meal on its own!
Prep – 5 minutes
Cook – 10 minutes
Total – 10 minutes
Italian, Mediterranean
Serves – 4 people
Entree or Side Dish


  • extra virgin olive oil (Our Italian Nocellara EVOO is a good choice here)
  • 1 ½ cups orzo pasta
  • Kosher salt
  • 5 cloves garlic (minced)
  • red pepper flakes (optional)
  • ½ lemon (juice of)
  • 1 cup parsley (chopped, packed)
  • ½ cup dill (chopped)
  • cup sundried tomatoes in olive oil (chopped)
  • black pepper
  • ½ to ¾ cup grated parmesan (more to your liking)


  • In a large saucepan, eat 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil over medium-high. Add the orzo and cook, tossing around, until toasted to a beautiful golden brown.
  • Add at least 7 cups of boiling water to the saucepan and season well with kosher salt. Cook the pasta in boiling water to al dante according to the package instructions (about 7 to 8 minutes).
  • Just before the pasta is fully cooked (about 5 minutes), take a cup of the starchy pasta water and save it aside for now.
  • In a large pan, warm ½ cup extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and season with a pinch of kosher salt and red pepper flakes, if using. Cook, tossing regularly, until just fragrant. Add the lemon juice and ½ cup of the pasta cooking water. Raise the heat if needed to bring to a boil. Add the parsley and dill.
  • When the pasta is ready, drain and add it to the pan and toss to combine. Season with kosher salt and black pepper. Add the sundried tomatoes and a bit of the grated parmesan. Toss to combine. If needed, add a little more of the pasta cooking water. Finish with more Parmesan and red pepper flakes, if you like.



  • This recipe will feed 4 people as a vegetarian main and about 6 or so as a side. 
  • Leftovers will keep in the fridge for 3 to 4 days in a tightly closed container. Warm over medium heat. 
  • Visit Our Shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including extra virgin olive oils and spices


Calories: 536.9kcalCarbohydrates: 49.6gProtein: 12.5gFat: 32.9gSaturated Fat: 6gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3.5gMonounsaturated Fat: 21.5gCholesterol: 10.9mgSodium: 259.9mgPotassium: 452.3mgFiber: 3.4gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 1946.3IUVitamin C: 42.6mgCalcium: 170.1mgIron: 2.6mg
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I'm Suzy; born and bred right on the shores of the Mediterranean. I'm all about easy, healthy recipes with big Mediterranean flavors. Three values guide my cooking: eat with the seasons; use whole foods; and above all, share! So happy you're here...
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4.95 from 90 votes (65 ratings without comment)

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  1. Mike says:

    If you follow the recipe exactly, it will be bland. Use less dill and way more lemon. Also, don’t just blindly follow the steps. There are two different times where the author tells you to pour water into hot oil. With the steps being laid out so poorly to time things, I was STRESSED lol. I wasn’t paying as much attention as I should have and I just barely caught myself from burning myself really badly with the hot oil/water.

  2. Sue says:

    Under Nutrition, what does Serving: 4g mean? You can only eat 4 grams for 517.4Kcal?

    1. TMD Team says:

      Hi, Sue. Thanks for catching that. It was a bit of a typo and has been fixed. There are 4 servings in this recipe (if you are going to serve it as a vegetarian main course). Each serving is actually 536 calories.

  3. Heather says:

    5 stars
    Very good recipe. Added lemon zest and chopped arugula, left out the dill. Thank you!

  4. Rachel says:

    Hi Suzy,

    I am making a LARGE meal that involves multiple items to cook. I was wondering if this recipe would taste just fine if I made it the day before and then heat it up on the stove the day of the event?

    1. TMD Team says:

      Hi, Rachel. For best flavor and texture, we recommend serving this immediately after cooking. You can try to make this ahead, I just worry that it might loose some of it's life when you go to reheat it.

  5. Donnie says:

    Looking forward to trying this tonight.... but wondering about changing up and using spinach.... thoughts?

    1. TMD Team says:

      Hi, Donnie! I think spinach would be a delicious addition to this! enjoy!

  6. Linda says:

    4 stars
    Good, but a bit bland even though I used chicken broth. Next time I will increase the salt and lemon juice. I couldn’t get behind using dill, so maybe that’s why it needed more flavor. I should have subbed basil for the dill. I did add some sautéed mushrooms. Will make again with a bit of tweaking for bolder flavor. thank you for sharing your recipe.

  7. Ali Thompson says:

    You heat 1/2 cup of oil? That can’t be correct?

    1. TMD Team says:

      Hi, Ali. 1/2 cup is correct... it's important for that amazing sauce!

      1. Dianne says:

        Amazingly unhealthy and I don't normally fuss about a few grams of fat here or there.

        One half cup of EVOO contains 108 grams of fat total. This recipe says it makes four servings. The nutritional information provided at the bottom of the recipe states that that there is 4.7 grams of fat (per serving). What happened to the 89.2 grams of fat that was in the EVOO all by itself?

      2. TMD Team says:

        Hi, Dianne. We took another look and realized that 1/2 cup olive oil was left of the ingredients list, therefore it was not part of the nutritional information calculation. Thanks so much for pointing this out. It has been fixed.

  8. Doug says:

    5 stars
    Love the toasted orzo. Smells amazing when toasting and taste great, the whole family loved this.