This faux risotto uses whole wheat orzo instead of the traditional arborio rice, making it a less temperamental version of an Italian classic.
Say it ain’t faux! Yes it is! Faux ri-soh-tto to be exact.
I’m a big believer in real stuff. Real butter. Check. Real friends. They’re the only kind. Real flowers instead of fake? Always.
So why go faux with risotto?
1. In my humble cooking opinion, using orzo makes this recipe a whole lot less temperamental to cook. Traditional risotto takes a lot of hand holding—and constant stirring—to ensure success. Orzo is a bit more forgiving.
2. This orzo is organic AND whole wheat — healthy carbs rejoice!
3. I make it often because it cooks up in just 30 minutes and can be served as a main dish, or served as a side. It’s flexible like that. And one of my pantry staples.
If you’re a risotto fan you already know that this beloved dish of Northern Italy tastes like a pasta but is actually a rice. A short little grain of rice that’s very starchy with glutens—usually arborio rice—that makes for a very creamy dish, sans the cream.
Orzo’s texture when cooked risotto-style is very similar to arborio—but it’s not trying to be a pasta imposter like arborio, it’s true blue pasta! And the whole wheat variety is a great way to introduce more whole grains into your (familiy’s!) diet. Sneaking in healthy foods, I love it!
This version is cooked the same style as traditional risotto, with the chicken or vegetable broth added in waves, allowing the broth and lemon juice to be absorbed into the pasta. The starch releases from the pasta as it cooks to create a creamy consistency that’s pumped up with melty parmesan cheese.
About the recipe:
I used a 3-quart, 10-inch diameter saute pan for this recipe because just like all pasta, the orzo puffs as you add the broth. Use a larger skillet or dutch oven if you don’t have a high sided saute pan.
When cooking the onions, the addition of olive oil will make it less likely for the butter to burn. A drizzle or scant 1 teaspoon will do the trick. Watch the onions as they cook and turn down the heat if they begin to brown. You want soft, transparent onions not browned, which could make the dish bitter.
Convincing my family to eat whole grains and especially whole wheat pasta is not an easy task, but I must say, I’m making headway. Hey, I don’t want to eat cardboard either! I love DeLallo’s whole wheat orzo pasta, and all of their pastas, because of their quality, and because their whole wheat pasta actually tastes good. Who woulda thunk?
I prefer chicken broth in this recipe because I think it pairs best with the lemony flavor, but feel free to try vegetable broth, and let me know if you like it. Add the broth in stages, replenishing as the broth is absorbed into the pasta. I used the suggested 32-ounces in this recipe, but it’s a good idea to have an extra smaller can of broth on hand if you need it.
I mentioned that using orzo makes this less of an on-the-job-can’t-leave-it’s-side recipe than using traditional risotto. However, that does not mean you can sneak off and watch an episode of The Voice (Team Gwen! Somebody’s gotta cheer the girl on…) and ignore it all together. You will want to stir it regularly so it doesn’t stick to the pan.
To reheat, simply stir in an additional ¼ to ½ cup of additional broth into the risotto and warm it up on the stove or in the microwave.
If you try this recipe, please let me know! Leave a comment below, or take a photo and tag it on Instagram or Twitter with #foodiecrush!
Easy Lemon Orzo Faux Risotto
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 cup diced onion , (about 1 medium onion)
- 1 16-ounce package DeLallo organic whole wheat orzo pasta
- 4-5 cups chicken or vegetable broth , 1 (32-ounce) box or can and 1 (15-ounce) can
- Zest of 2 lemons , divided
- Juice from 1 lemon or ¼ cup
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or to taste
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup chopped Italian parsley
- Melt the butter and olive oil in a 3-quart, 10-inch, high-sided saute pan or a 12-inch skillet. Add the onion and cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring often, until the onion becomes soft and transparent. If the onion begins to brown, reduce the heat to medium-low.
- Add the orzo to the skillet and mix into the onions. Add enough broth to cover the orzo, and gently stir, then bring to a low boil, and reduce to a simmer so that the pasta gently bubbles. Stir often, until the broth is absorbed or about 10 minutes. Add the lemon juice and half of the lemon zest to the risotto and continue adding the broth ½ to 1 cup at a time, stirring often, until the liquid is absorbed and the pasta is al dente, about 30 minutes.
- Remove from the heat, season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper and stir in the parmesan cheese. Sprinkle with the Italian parsley and the remaining lemon zest.
This post is sponsored by DeLallo Foods. As always, thank you for reading and supporting companies I partner with, which allows me to create more unique content and recipes for you. As always, all opinions are my own.
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This is the closest recipe I could find that is similar to a side dish my Aunt made many moons ago. I have made it many times but my 18 year old daughter who is just learning to cook, wanted the recipe and one doesn’t exist lol. My aunt didn’t use lemon, and used garlic. Thank you so much for this recipe! It gives my daughter more detailed instructions then I could lol.
Ashley @ Foodie Crush
That makes me so happy!
Hello, I personnaly cook the orzo first, with no stirring and no fuss, like regular pasta but in broth. It cooks quickly. I then add it to the onions and the rest of the ingredients. That keeps me from staying in front of the stove for 30 minutes, as I would with arborio rice… just saying… try it! Great short cut.
Ashley @ Foodie Crush
Thank you for this, Mia!
This looks amazing! I am definitely craving this right now!
Wonderful recipe. Add 2 cups diced cooked chicken and you have a one pot meal.
Kathy @ Olives & Garlic
This is both beautiful and delicious. Great recipe Heidi.
jenna @ just j.faye
This dish looks dreamy and oh so delicious.
This looks so good! I definitely want to try it!
Yum! This faux risotto looks like the perfect weeknight meal and I love, love healthy carbs!
Liz @ The Lemon Bowl
I love everything about this but you know my ears are ringing from all of the luscious lemon!! PS Love that you’re using whole wheat orzo!
sue/the view from great island
I always know I’ve hit on a winning recipe when I rush to pin it before I’ve even read the post — just gorgeous!
Jennifer @ Show Me the Yummy
I love orzo! It has such an interesting texture. Love that you used to for “risotto”!
Millie l Add A Little
This looks delicious! I actually made risotto today too -snap!
Amy @ Parsley In My Teeth
Great alternative to risotto which takes way too long to cook IMHO. But I love it, so it’s great to have a quick version like this yummy dish.
Phi @ The Sweetphi Blog
LOVE this faux risotto!! Do you ever watch cooking shows where they have like 30 minutes to make a dish and someone always tries (and fails) to make risotto? My hubby and I always laugh, it’s like the kiss of death and you-will-for-sure-get-eliminated-if-you-make-risotto type of joke (we’re dorks, I know)…if only they were as smart as you Heidi, this faux risotto sounds super good, and if you were making it on a cooking show, you’d for sure be the winner :)
Risotto can be hard! You’ll have to give this version a go in your own kitchen cooking show. Put your man to work!
Ali | Gimme Some Oven
Faux-sotto! Sounds great. Your lemon orzo recipes are always winners. :)
Hee, hee. They’re reader favorites, blogger favorites and mine too.
Erin | The Law Student's Wife
I <3 that whole wheat orzo—have a bag in my pantry rightthissecond. I use it all the time in soups, but never thought to do a risotto. You are so smart!
Alice @ Hip Foodie Mom
I love orzo!!! probably more than arborio rice. . so you don’t need to sell me on anything .. love this!! and will definitely look for DeLallo’s whole wheat orzo pasta!!
Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar
This sounds like a great meal! I have yet to master risotto, so I appreciate recipes like this. Also, thank you for the pan suggestion!
I LOVE that pan, glad you checked it out. I use it all of the time because it isn’t as big and cumbersome as some of the others, and you can cook one-pot dishes in really easily since it has the higher sides.