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Creamy Garlic Mushroom Orzo

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This creamy garlic mushroom orzo pasta recipe is easy to make and always so comforting and delicious.

Say hello to one of my favorite back-pocket recipes that’s elegant enough to dress up for a dinner party or date night…yet also totally easy enough to whip up for a busy weeknight dinner in. ♡

This comforting creamy garlic mushroom orzo works for just about any occasion. And here in our house, it is always such a winner. It’s made with a full pound of mushrooms, which we’ll sauté in butter with garlic and shallots until browned and extra-flavorful. To those, we’ll layer in a creamy basil sauce made with lots of umami-rich Parmesan, plus some (optional) lemon juice and zest if you’d like. And just before serving, everything is mixed together with al dente orzo and fresh spinach to create a well-balanced, comforting, and beautiful pasta dish that everyone is certain to love.

We generally serve this dish vegetarian in our house, but feel free to add in an extra protein (Italian sausage, chicken, shrimp, etc) or some meatballs if you would like. You’re also totally welcome to add in some extra veggies or sun-dried tomatoes, or change the seasonings here completely (ideas below). The dish itself is quite flexible and versatile, so it’s a great one to bookmark and customize with whatever ingredients you happen to be craving and have on hand.

Let’s make some orzo!

Creamy Garlic Mushroom Orzo Ingredients

Here are a few quick notes about the ingredients you will need to make this orzo pasta recipe:

  • Orzo: I love the fun texture of tiny risotto-ish pasta in this recipe, but feel free to use whatever small pasta shape you love best.
  • Mushrooms: I recommend a mix of mushrooms here if possible (I used half baby bella, half shiitake), which we will slice and sauté in butter until browned. A wild mushroom mix would also be delicious here, or you can keep things simple with all baby bella mushrooms.
  • Shallot and garlic: Fresh shallot and garlic will serve as our aromatics to season the cream sauce. If you don’t have a shallot, feel free to sub in minced red or yellow onion.
  • Spinach: We will wilt a few handfuls of fresh baby spinach into the warm pasta just before serving for an extra pop of flavor and freshness.
  • Parmesan: I strongly recommend freshly-grating a block of Parmesan to add the best salty, nutty, umami flavor to this dish. (Freshly-grated adds so much more flavor and melts easier than pre-grated store-bought cheese.) But of course, use whatever Parm you have on hand and don’t hesitate to add more if needed.
  • Cream: We will add in a splash of cream to make the sauce extra silky and creamy.
  • Basil: I recommend adding a very generous amount of roughly-chopped fresh basil just before serving, which freshens up the dish with its sweet and slightly peppery flavor.
  • Lemon (optional): Fresh lemon zest and juice are optional here. (The dish is still quite delicious without it.) But I always enjoy pairing lemon with basil and love how the lemon brightens up all of the flavors here.
  • Seasonings: Finally, we will season the pasta with a hint of crushed red pepper flakes, fine sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper.

Recipe Tips

Full instructions for how to make this orzo are included in the recipe below, but here are a few extra quick tips to keep in mind:

  • Generously salt the pasta water. Don’t be shy when it comes to salting the water for the orzo. This is your main opportunity to season the pasta and ensure that its best flavor shines through! We will also reserve some of the starchy pasta water to mix into the pasta just before serving so that it’s plenty moist and creamy.
  • Take time to brown the mushrooms. It can be tempting to rush through this step, but taking time to sauté the mushrooms until they are nice and browned adds so much depth of flavor and umami to this dish. Since we will be using so many mushrooms, it’s best to brown them in two batches so that they can cook in a (more or less) even layer. And be sure to wait long enough between stirs so that the mushrooms have a chance to brown on the bottom.
  • Season generously. Be sure to take a moment to taste and season the pasta before serving. You may find that it needs more salt, pepper, lemon juice…or any other flavors that you would like to highlight.

Recipe Variations

Here are a few more delicious variations that you’re welcome to try with this creamy orzo pasta recipe:

  • Add meatballs: Add classic meatballs, chicken meatballs or your favorite vegetarian meatballs.
  • Add another protein: Add cooked Italian sausage, chicken, steak, shrimp, salmon or scallops.
  • Add extra veggies: Add extra veggies to the mushroom sauté, such as artichoke hearts, asparagus, bell peppers, peas or zucchini.
  • Add sun-dried tomatoes: Add chopped sun-dried tomatoes, olives or capers to this dish.
  • Use different herbs or seasonings: In place of the basil, substitute your favorite fresh Italian herbs (such as rosemary, sage, thyme or oregano), season the dish with Old Bay or Cajun seasoning, or try a Mediterranean vibe (with oregano, sun-dried tomatoes and extra feta).
  • Omit the cream: Omit the cream if you would like to lighten this dish up and add extra water or vegetable broth in its place.
  • Make it gluten-free: Use your favorite gluten-free orzo or pasta.

More Orzo Recipes To Try!

Looking for more easy orzo recipes to try? Here are a few of our favorites:

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Creamy Garlic Mushroom Orzo

  • Author: Ali
  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 25 mins
  • Total Time: 40 mins
  • Yield: 3 to 4 servings 1x

Description

This creamy garlic mushroom orzo pasta recipe is easy to make and always so comforting and delicious.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 8 ounces uncooked orzo
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 pound mixed mushrooms, sliced (I used half baby bella, half shiitake)
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 5 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • fine sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1 ounce freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 handfuls fresh baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup loosely-packed chopped fresh basil
  • zest and juice of 1 small lemon (optional)

Instructions

  1. Heat the water for the orzo. Bring a large saucepan full of generously-salted water to a boil.
  2. Brown the mushrooms. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add half of the mushrooms and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring and flipping every few minutes, until browned. Transfer the cooked mushrooms to clean plate. Repeat with an additional 1 tablespoon butter and the remaining mushrooms, then transfer the mushrooms to the plate.
  3. Cook the orzo. Add the orzo to the boiling water and cook until 2 minutes shy of al dente.
  4. Sauté the veggies. While the orzo cooks, add the remaining butter to the sauté pan along with the shallot, garlic and crushed red pepper flakes. Sauté for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the cooked mushrooms, heavy cream, a generous pinch of salt and pepper and stir to combine. (If the pasta isn’t quite ready at this point, remove the pan from the heat. Otherwise, continue on.)
  5. Combine. Once the pasta is ready, transfer it to the sauté pan along with 1 cup of the starchy pasta water. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the pasta is al dente.
  6. Finish. Remove pan from heat. Add in the Parmesan, spinach, basil, lemon zest and juice (if using), and stir gently until the spinach has wilted. If the pasta seems too dry, add some of the reserved starchy pasta water. Taste and season with salt, pepper and/or extra lemon juice if needed.
  7. Serve. Serve warm, garnished with extra Parmesan, and enjoy!

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7 comments on “Creamy Garlic Mushroom Orzo”

  1. Making this tonight!

  2. An excellent side dish or dinner recipe share. A healthy and mouth watering dish. I can’t hardly wait to make it really thank you.

  3. Just made this – delicious 🤤

  4. Followed recipe as written, omitted lemon juice and zest. Added some diced sautéed chicken. So yummy! Family rated it restaurant quality 😊

  5. I made this last night and it’s delicious! I didn’t have orzo, so I used medium shell pasta and I loved they way they soaked up the flavor. I will definitely make this again!

  6. Would love to make this for Christmas dinner. Do you have any tips on making it in advance?

  7. Can I use dried mushrooms for this dish?