One-Pot Creamy Orzo with Asparagus

By Emilie Raffa | February 25, 2016
One night while making dinner, I made an interesting mistake: The pot I used to cook orzo was too small. As the pasta boiled and swelled, the liquid spilled all over the place creating a huge, sticky mess. The logical solution would’ve been to transfer everything to a larger pot. But the lack of water made the pasta extra starchy, taking on a creamy risotto-like texture. It was delicious. We ate it cacio e pepe style, buttered with black pepper and Parmesan cheese. Later, I re-created my mistake (in a larger pot) with less liquid to achieve that gorgeous silky texture. To make it even easier, the asparagus is cooked together with the orzo—it’s one less pan to clean.


Serves 4

1 tbsp (15 ml) olive oil
4 oz (115 g) diced pancetta, about
¼ inch (6 mm)
1 clove of garlic, grated
1½ cups (250 g) orzo pasta
1 quart (1 L) Triple-Duty Chicken Stock, plus more as needed
1 lb (454 g) bunch of medium asparagus
1 tbsp (15 g) unsalted butter
Wedge of Parmesan cheese, for grating
A few turns of freshly ground black pepper

In a medium pot, warm the olive oil over medium-low heat. Sauté the pancetta until lightly golden, about 3–4 minutes. Add the garlic and orzo, and stir for about 30 seconds. The garlic should smell warm and nutty, and the pasta will be glistening from the oil.

Pour in the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer (lid tilted) for about 15 minutes. As the orzo absorbs the liquid, the texture will begin to thicken. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.

Meanwhile, prepare the asparagus. Snap off the woody ends at the base of each stalk and discard; they are too tough to eat. Slice the asparagus on a diagonal about ½-inch (1.3-cm) thick to mimic the angular shape of the orzo.

When your pasta is at the 15-minute mark, add the asparagus to the pot. Continue to cook (uncovered) until the asparagus is tender, about 3–5 minutes depending on size.

At this point, the texture of your orzo should be creamy and silky, not too thick. Quick Tip: Because different brands of pasta absorb liquid at varied rates, add additional chicken stock to your orzo as needed.

Add the butter and some freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Season with a few turns of freshly ground black pepper—you should be good on the salt from the pancetta.

Portion into shallow bowls and top with extra cheese, if you’d like.

TIP: This creamy orzo is excellent the next day, served at room temperature with a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

Excerpted from The Clever Cookbook: Get-Ahead Strategies and Timesaving Tips for Stress-Free Home Cooking by Emilie Raffa. Page Street Publishing, 2016.

  • One-Pot Creamy Orzo with Asparagus