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
Cuisine:
Italian, Mediterranean
Serves – 4 people
Course:
Entree or Side Dish

Ingredients
  

  • 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)

Instructions
 

  • 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.

Video

Notes

  • 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

Nutrition

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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Comments

  1. Jamie says:

    Hi, I am following your meal plan and having a fabulous time! however I cannot eat gluten (I've been making substitutions when necessary). Is this a recipe I should skip completely or could I substitute some other grain into it? It looks delicious.

    1. TMD Team says:

      Hi, Jamie. This is Kate, Suzy's gluten free team member :). I've actually tried this a few times with gluten free pasta and it is delish! I didn't attempt to toast it though, so I'm not sure if that part will work as it does with regular pasta. I think I need to do a little experimenting there.

  2. Tami says:

    I’d like to try adding kalamata olives and feta.

  3. Linda says:

    4 stars
    We really like orzo, and sun dried tomatoes are the best. But I honestly couldn’t imagine dill in this, so I subbed fresh basil at the end and we loved it. Toasting pasta gives it a whole lovely depth of flavor. I did decrease the oil too.

  4. Valerie says:

    5 stars
    Toasting the orzo made a big difference. All I had on hand for herbs was Thai basil which I tossed in fresh at the very end. Great! Next time I will use less oil when sautéing the garlic—as much as I love olive oil it was bit too much for us. Sun dried tomatoes also a very nice touch.

  5. Jan says:

    4 stars
    I like the idea of toasting the orzo but would use less oil. I would also make it in advance because I had three other dishes cooking at the same time and kinda goofed and put the sun dried tomatoes in too soon. This is really good with roasted balsamic veggies on top. Zucchini, mushrooms and carrots. Could eat your orzo with the veggies as a main dish for dinner!

  6. Darlene says:

    5 stars
    Hi Suzy! My family loved your toasted orzo!! It was absolutely delicious! I plan to keep it!! I am watching my calorie and protein intake so I appreciate the nutrition information. However, it does not mention what amount a serving size is. Can you please let me know? And if other recipes don’t mention the serving size do I assume it is 1/2 cup or 1 cup. I just don’t know. Thank you so much! I love watching you cook! Your so sweet and so fun!! 🥰

    1. TMD Team says:

      Hi, Darlene. Our recipes can be divided by the number of servings listed to get the "serving size". The nutrition info here is our best effort and we use a program that calculates that for us based on the ingredient list. Unfortunately, the exact serving size measurement (by cups, etc) is another layer that's harder for us to precisely calculate at the moment.

  7. Kristen says:

    5 stars
    Gorgeous. I love the olive oil content. Love the spark of the sun dried tomatoes, and love them as a contrast to red pepper flakes. The dill and parsley add veg brightness.
    Perfection with grated parmigiano reggiano atop.

    1. TMD Team says:

      What a lovely review, Kristen! Thank you.

  8. Leah says:

    3 stars
    Very bland. I’d quadruple the seasonings and maybe add diced onion for more flavor depth.

    1. TMD Team says:

      Thanks for the feedback, Leah.

  9. Elizabeth Allen says:

    Suzy, I did this today. It was very good, the only thing noticed was the it was very greasy.

  10. Katie Hall says:

    5 stars
    Very, very good

    1. Suzy says:

      Thanks, Katie!

  11. Ashley says:

    Delicious. I will reduce the oil to maybe 1/3 cup next time but otherwise will keep it the same.

  12. Melissa says:

    5 stars
    The whole family loved this receipe. Easy to make and delicious. This will definitely be in regular rotation.

    1. Suzy says:

      Awesome! Thanks, Melissa!

  13. Marie says:

    This is delicious! I wanted something fast and relatively easy to make for a late dinner and this was perfect. I used less parsley and dill, due to being low on supply, but it still turned out great. I added sautéed onions just for fun and it was a good addition for additional flavor.

    1. Suzy says:

      Thank you for sharing, Marie!

  14. Amy I says:

    Hey, Suzy. I don't care for sundried tomatoes, Do you have another suggestion??

    1. Suzy says:

      Hi, Amy. What about regular tomatoes? You could cook some cherry tomatoes with the sauce, or even roast some in the oven and then toss them in at the end.

  15. Nikki says:

    5 stars
    Followed this recipe exactly and it came out great! I usually add more seasoning than a recipe suggests but this one was perfect. Seems like it would be good with some extra sun dried tomatoes and spinach.

    1. Suzy says:

      Thanks, Nikki!

    2. Suzy says:

      Thanks for the feedback, Nikki!

  16. Maria Del Re says:

    5 stars
    Very flavorsome dish with appetizing aromas. Followed the recipe as is. Thank you.