This Creamy One Pot Spinach Orzo is better than any boxed pasta side you’ll get at grocery store. It’s easy, full of good-for-you ingredients and will pair perfectly with just about any entrée.
Sides – the often forgotten, or haphazardly thrown together element of a meal. Kind of unfortunate since a well-executed side can really catapult an average meal into something kind of spectacular.
Growing up a meal wasn’t complete without at least two sides, and while I try to continue on with that mentality in my home as a grown up, I often find myself on the other end by lazily throwing something together at the last minute or worse, omitting it altogether. Something tells me, I’m probably not the only one who has this problem.
Honestly, sometimes after cooking all day, I just don’t have the energy to break out the knives one more time or dirty up another set of pots and pans. However, lately (as in the last week) I’ve made a conscious effort to be better about putting as much time into our entrée meal planning as I am to the side planning, and it’s helped tremendously.
As far as sides go, for as long as I can remember my guilty pleasure has been those creamy boxed pasta sides you find lurking near the hamburger helper and mac and cheese. Even to this day, I’ll sometimes snatch a box when Kevin is out of town, just to have a brush of nostalgia and get my sodium fix in one fail swoop. I would love to indulge in them more than once or twice in one year, but I just can’t get past the fact that one serving maxes out almost half of my sodium for the day, and I’m acutely aware that anything I make from scratch will be a thousand times better.
It’s been on my agenda for quite some time to try and replicate it at home, but I wanted to make sure I mimicked the flavor and creamy texture while also keeping the preparation just as easy as the boxed version. A few months back, I made my first attempt to pair with this Balsamic Chicken, and when it was met with rave reviews, I knew it was safe to share here.
For maximum flavor, whole-wheat orzo, onion and garlic are toasted in a touch of butter (or olive oil if you prefer), before a low-sodium chicken stock is added in. Toasting the pasta first isn’t a required step, but it just adds another nutty-like layer of flavor in the final product that I happen to love.
For there, the process is pretty simple. The mixture is brought up to a boil, then reduced to a simmer and cooked until almost all of the liquid is absorbed and the orzo is aldente. Before serving, a few cups of spinach, a touch of heavy cream and a half cup or so of freshly grated parmesan cheese is added in until the spinach is wilted and the cheese is melted.
If the mixture seems a little more sticky than creamy, adding a bit more chicken stock is an easy remedy. As with any dish, the final step before serving is to taste to make sure the seasoning are correct, I almost always have to add an extra pinch of salt and pepper.
For more easy dinner sides, check out these dishes:
- 1½ tablespoons butter
- ½ cup diced onion
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 2 cups whole-wheat orzo
- 2½ cups low-sodium chicken stock
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
- 2½ cups fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped
- Heat a medium pot to a medium heat. Add butter. Add onion and garlic. Saute until slightly softened and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add orzo. Toss to coat in butter, Toast orzo, stirring often, until some pieces are slightly brown.
- Add chicken stock and salt. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for 10-12 minutes or until orzo is aldente and most of the chicken stock has been absorbed. You may need to stir halfway through to prevent the orzo from sticking. If the orzo is still not done once the liquid has absorbed add in another ¼ cup of chicken stock.
- Once the liquid has been almost absorbed and the orzo is aldente, add heavy cream, parmesan cheese and spinach. Stir until spinach has wilted and cheese has melted.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with more parmesan cheese.