Cheesy Spinach Orzo Pasta Sides

Use orzo pasta to make a delicious side dish with spinach and Parmesan cheese that your family will be sure to enjoy with almost any meal.

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One of the food items I’m always the worst at is trying to come up with side dishes to go with our meals. I get so focused on the main dish that I forget about anything else. I love orzo pasta and have made a few meals with it before. We planned for Cheesy Spinach Orzo to be the main dish one night. It ended up working better as a side item.

Orzo is so versatile because it’s the size and shape of rice but still tastes like pasta. I have only made a few recipes with it and enjoyed every one of them. The trick is to get the orzo cooked just right. Since it’s so small it’s easy to overcook, make sure to keep a close eye on it while it boils.

Until I had made Chicken Orzo Pasta with Vegetables, most of my extended family had never had orzo. All the women were here to visit earlier this year and thoroughly enjoyed those leftovers. Now, we all have made a few recipes with orzo in it.

Step by Step

Each brand of orzo is slightly different, so start by cooking the orzo as directed on the package. Typically, you are just boiling the pasta in water for a set amount of time, usually about 10 minutes. Stir it occasionally, so the orzo doesn’t stick to the pan, then drain in a colander. Remember, the pieces are small, so you need a small-slotted strainer for this. My regular spaghetti one has too large of holes, so I use a mesh strainer.

You need to act quickly when making this, so nothing sticks to the pan. Before you start, measure the ingredients. This allows you to move quickly when adding the ingredients.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the minced garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook these for about a minute, until the garlic is fragrant.

Add the flour and whisk this into the oil mixture, then stir in enough milk to whisk the flour until there are no lumps. I find about 1/4 to 1/2 of the milk is enough for this. Once there are no lumps, continue to whisk in the rest of the milk.

Bring this to a simmer and cook for about 6-8 minutes. The sauce will start to thicken.

Pour in the spinach and cook for a few minutes until it has wilted.

Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese until it melts. Add the orzo to the sauce. Stir gently until it is coated. Garnish with extra parmesan cheese or spinach leaves and serve your Cheesy Spinach Orzo immediately.


Originally Published On: February 9, 2018

Last Updated On: September 18, 2019


Cheesy Spinach Orzo Pasta Sides

Use orzo pasta to make a delicious side dish with spinach and Parmesan cheese that your family will be sure to enjoy with almost any meal.
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Keyword orzo, pasta, spinach
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4 cups
Calories 288kcal
Author Stephanie Lynch


  • 16 oz orzo pasta
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2/3 cup spinach chopped
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese shredded


  • Cook orzo pasta as directed
  • Meanwhile, heat olive oil in medium pot and add minced garlic, salt, and pepper
  • Cook about 1 minute, until garlic is fragrant
  • Add flour and whisk until combined
  • Slowly add milk while whisking to eliminate lumps
  • Simmer for about 6-8 minutes until the sauce starts to thicken
  • Mix in spinach and cook for a few minutes until it wilts
  • Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese until it’s melted
  • Add the orzo to the sauce and stir to coat
  • Garnish with extra parmesan cheese and serve immediately


Serving: 0.5cup | Calories: 288kcal | Carbohydrates: 45g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 7mg | Sodium: 119mg | Potassium: 186mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 333IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 124mg | Iron: 1mg

View Comments (40)

  • I am also terrible at side dishes. I always forget and we are half way done eating by the time I remember. This sounds amazing I love cheese and spinach!

  • Sides are harder than they seem! But I really like what you did here - I am a huge fan of orzo so I might have to give this one a go! Pasta? Check. Cheese? Check. Garlic? Check check check. I am in!

  • A recipe that makes in 30 minutes or less for four is exactly what I look for in a recipe! The ingredients are super simple and things that I won't have to run around looking for. My mouth is watering just looking at the pictures!

    • We are the same way, those are the best recipes for my family, too. And my boys will eat this, which is always a win here!

  • So glad as I got older I learned to love spinach. All that cheese and spinach oh my I couldn't ask for a better dish to enjoy.

  • Im deffo going yo try this, but a lor of parms aren't vegetarian. Do you think using mozzarella would work just as well?

    • I haven't tried it, but I often substitute one for the other if we are out of one of the cheeses and it doesn't seem to make a huge difference. So I would think it would still work well!

  • Oh yum! This looks too good!!! Thanks for the pictures, it always makes these kinds of posts that much more amazing!!!

    • I always find it easier to have photos of the steps when I am cooking, so I try my hardest to include them. I'm glad you find them helpful!

  • I think this is a great side dish but could also be an awesome main dish! Add a little grilled chicken or shrimp and voila! I love fresh baby spinach! This looks delicious.

    • Oh, that sounds delicious! I do have a recipe for spinach and orzo, but it's still different from this. I am going to have to try adding either that or chicken next time. Great idea!

  • Oh my heck girl! Literally my only wish is for you to come cook for me. Hahaha this looks and sounds amazing!

  • I like foods and try to cook by myself. But the thing is I don't get enough time for it. The recipe you showed here looks less time-consuming. I should try this out when I get time. Thanks for sharing.

  • I like so much spinach, since it has a lot of amazing healthy benefits. Also, it's so delicious with any meal. This spinach orzo pasta is a must try for me. I'll make it!

    • Yes, it's great when I can get it into a meal that the whole family will eat. Spinach is such a healthy food.

    • There are a lot of ways to make orzo. It does get overcooked quickly, though, since it's such small pieces of pasta. You just have to keep a close watch on it.

  • Love the way it tastes - creamy and delicious. Mine turned out just as on your photo. Thanks to your directions of course.

  • This looks so tasty and I haven't made orzo in so long. Now I have a reason to put it back on our menu.

  • I make something very similar and it is an absolute crowd pleaser in my house. Delicious, simple, and reasonably good for the kiddos!

  • Such a yummy, easy side! My hubby makes several variations on this - I love the spinach/parm version you have here, but he also has one with goat cheese and one with sundried tomatoes/pine nuts. All delish!

    • Oh, interesting. I've never tried goat cheese, but I do have a variation with sundried tomatoes. But it doesn't have pine nuts in it.