Orzo pasta with broccoli, white beans and bacon is an easy orzo recipe that the whole family will love. Crispy bacon mixed with broccoli and orzo with a chicken broth and a light Parmesan sauce.
This orzo pasta recipe is something I made for my family a few weeks ago, just using leftover ingredients from the fridge. A few stray pieces of bacon leftover from breakfast, the last of a head of broccoli, and some Parmesan cheese for topping were all put to use. I added a can of white beans from the pantry to bump up the protein. I love using bacon as a big flavor in pasta, like my bacon butternut squash pasta here.
The meal came together so well that I even snapped a photo for instagram. The replies to my instagram story came in quickly--so many people were asking for this recipe! Even my Mom texted me and asked if I had written it down yet!
So, I made a mental note to make this orzo pasta recipe again next week for my family, and jot down the ingredients this time. I've made it a few times since then, and it's a family favorite! Even the kids love it.
What is orzo? What does orzo taste like?
We should address this question first, just in case you've never had it. I know it's not your typical pasta shape, and it can be a bit hard to find--it's always on the bottom shelf at my store. Orzo pasta is short rice-shaped pasta, but don't confuse it with rice. It's true pasta, all the way! I love it because it has a silky, slippery feel that is begging to be coated in a thin sauce and cheese.
So we're clear: orzo is a pasta shape that's definitely not gluten free. I sometimes buy whole wheat orzo, and love it just as much.
Now that we've covered the fact that orzo is just a small shape of regular pasta, we should talk about clumping. Orzo is a bit more prone to sticking together, simply because of its shape. I've also noticed that if I boil it in a heavy enamel-coated pan, it likes to stick on the bottom.
So, a few tips: stir the orzo frequently while it cooks. And as for clumping in the final dish, it depends on the type of recipe you're making. If you're making a recipe that doesn't call for the orzo to go right into sauce, rinse the cooked orzo with cool water and toss with olive oil to prevent clumping. However, for this recipe, the orzo goes straight from the boiling water to the awaiting pan with broccoli and bacon drippings. This coats the orzo and prevents it from sticking.
How to make orzo pasta with broccoli:
The best part about this orzo pasta dish is the thin sauce that covers it. The sauce is made from a little bit of olive oil, bacon drippings, chicken broth, and Parmesan cheese. Those might just be my favorite things in life, actually.
- First, get a big pot of salted water going for the pasta. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions--stir it frequently while it cooks. You want to try to time the pasta being done with when it's ready to go in the skillet, so start the skillet at the same time.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, add the sliced bacon, and cook until almost crisp. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, sauté for 30 seconds, and then add the broccoli.
- Cook the broccoli until it's just starting to soften; I like my broccoli crisp-tender. Sometimes, I even turn off the heat so it can slowly cook and catch up to the orzo cooking.
- When the pasta is done, drain it, and add it to the skillet. Also stir in the chicken broth and rinsed canned beans.
- Toss everything together, and if you think it needs more sauce, add another splash of chicken broth.
- Add freshly ground black pepper and Parmesan cheese in to taste, and serve with extra Parmesan on the table. If you think it needs more salt, sprinkle it in, too.
This orzo pasta recipe makes 4 bowls of pasta. My husband and I each enjoy a bowl, the kids split a bowl between them, and there's one bowl leftover for lunch the next day. When I reheat the leftovers the next day, I always splash in extra chicken broth.
I hope your family loves this easy pasta dish as much as mine does! If you like orzo, also check out my orzo pasta salad with feta.
Orzo Pasta with Broccoli
Orzo pasta recipe with broccoli, bacon and white beans.
- 1 cup orzo pasta
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 strips of bacon, diced into 2" pieces
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 cup chopped broccoli*
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1 cup canned white beans, rinsed**
- ¼ cup Parmesan cheese
- salt, to taste
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- First, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the orzo according to the package instructions, and be sure to stir frequently.
- In a large skillet, add the olive oil and bacon pieces. Turn the heat to medium-high and cook the bacon until almost crisp.
- Stir the garlic and red pepper flakes into the bacon mixture, and cook for 30 seconds, until fragrant.
- Next, add the broccoli to the pan and stir to coat with the oil. Cook for about 5 minutes, and then lower the heat. Add the chicken broth and stir to combine, and keep warm while the pasta finishes cooking.
- When the orzo is done cooking, drain it, and add it to the skillet. Add the rinsed means, too. Toss to mix everything, and stir in the Parmesan cheese. Taste, and add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
*Frozen broccoli florets is totally fine here. No need to defrost!
**You may use the entire can of white beans, if your family loves beans. If you're cooking beans from scratch, it's a little less than ½ cup of dried beans, soaked and cooked.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 229Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 15mgSodium: 653mgCarbohydrates: 21gFiber: 2gSugar: 1gProtein: 9g
Can any beans or lentils be used?
Christina Lane says
Yes, that sounds great! We love lentils :)
Stephanie @ Long Distance Baking says
Made this for dinner tonight and loved it! The perfect easy, cozy dish for winter nights. Already dreaming of the other veggies I could use...peas, asparagus...this will be in our usual rotation!