What is orzo and how to cook it?

Orzo is a type of wheat semolina pasta in the shape of a grain of rice. Have you ever heard of it? Here you will know its peculiarities, how to cook it and how to incorporate it in your recipes.

Orzo is a type of durum wheat semolina pasta made in Italy and other countries, with a certain similarity to rice grains. It is perfect for making the most delicious and varied preparations with it. 

In this article, you will learn how to make a salad that contains chicken, cherry tomatoes and pesto sauce but there are numerous orzo pasta recipes that you can try at home.

Now, it is arriving to kitchens and is becoming more and more fashionable. This product can be found, like other pastas, dried or fresh and both neutral and flavored and colored with spinach, carrot, beet, and it gives a very appetizing touch to any recipe. There is also a whole grain version of this cereal, also known as puntalette.

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Uses of orzo

It is an ideal pasta for preparing soups, but not exclusively. It is perfect for salads and to accompany all kinds of meat, chicken and fish stews and even as a base for stuffing onions, peppers, eggplants or zucchini. As it has the shape of a grain of rice and the capacity to absorb water or broth, try it in the form of paella or risotto, keeping an eye on the cooking times so that it does not overcook.

How to cook it

It is always recommended following the instructions indicated on each package by the manufacturer for cooking products such as pasta. In the case of orzo, the cooking time can be between 6 and 8 minutes, both in boiling water and in boiling broth. The best way is to leave it al dente and not to overcook it.

But there is another formula which is to toast it previously, dry, with a little oil and then add the liquid, in a proportion of a little more than half and cook until it is absorbed, as we would do, for example, in a paella.

Step by step: orzo and chicken salad with pesto sauce

This pasta is ideal for all kinds of preparations. As a base for salads it is ideal. In this recipe, chicken and cherry tomatoes are added and choose a pesto sauce for the dressing.

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For the salad

  • 8.8 oz of Orzo.
  • 12 units of cherry tomatoes.
  • 2 pieces of chicken filets.
  • Fresh basil.
  • Salt.
  • White pepper.
  • Extra virgin olive oil.

For the pesto sauce

  • 12 fresh basil leaves.
  • 1 clove of garlic.
  • 3.5 oz pine nuts.
  • 3.5 oz Parmesan or Pecorino Cheese.
  • Extra virgin olive oil.
  • Salt.


  1. Heat a casserole with plenty of water and when it starts to boil add a spoonful of salt and the orzo.
  2. Stir with a spoon to loosen the pasta and when it comes to the boil again, lower the heat and let it cook for 8 to 10 minutes.
  3. Refresh the pasta in cold water to cut the cooking time, drain and reserve a couple of tablespoons of the cooking water.
  4. Cut the chicken into pieces, season with salt and pepper and grill in a frying pan with a little oil. Set aside.
  5. Wash, dry and halve the cherry tomatoes and set aside.
  6. Peel the garlic, chop and place in the blender.
  7. Add the basil, the cheese, the pine nuts and blend adding the oil and the reserved water from the orzo cooking until you obtain a creamy texture.
  8. Mix the orzo with the chicken and the cherry tomatoes.
  9. Stir in the pesto sauce and mix well.
  10. Your salad is ready to eat!