This Mediterranean Orzo is sure to become a midweek favorite! It’s really easy to put together; we just chop a few veggies and let the oven do its magic while we cook the orzo. Mix it all together with some fragrant basil, lemon, and pine nuts, et voilà! It requires about 10 minutes of actual prep time and very minimal dishes, which is always a plus after a long day.
When creating recipes, one of my favorite questions to ask myself is, “What can I add to make this even more nourishing?” And this Mediterranean Orzo is the perfect example of applying that principle.
I first made this dish after a tough day, and all I wanted was a big, cozy bowl of pasta, but I also didn’t feel like cooking. So, I started by selecting my pasta and my usual garlic, olives, basil, and tomatoes. Then I decided to add chickpeas for protein, broccolini for extra fiber, baby spinach for those dark leafy green vegetable benefits, and pine nuts for a nut and seed boost.
And just like that, a comfort meal was upgraded to a complete and balanced meal that tasted delicious and left me feeling amazing!
Why This Recipe Works
A versatile, nutritious, and delicious dish that’s so easy to make. Perfect for a cozy vegan dinner, this recipe combines the robust flavors of Mediterranean cuisine with the simplicity of a baked meal with minimum dishes. Here’s why you’ll adore it:
- Simple and straightforward preparation
- Rich in plant-based nutrients
- Bursting with vibrant Mediterranean flavors
- Perfect as a hearty main or a side dish
- Ideal for meal prepping and leftovers
- Orzo: A small pasta shape, ideal for absorbing flavors.
- Cherry Tomatoes: Sweet and tangy, adding freshness and bursting with flavor. Tomatoes contain lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that is enhanced when heated and combined with a source of healthy fat (here, olives and a drizzle of olive oil).
- Broccolini: A nutritious green from the cruciferous family with a subtle crunch.
- Chickpeas: A source of plant-based protein and fiber.
- Basil: The epitome of the Mediterranean flavors of my childhood. Fresh herbs bring a lot of flavors, but did you know they are also packed with polyphenols and nutrients?
- Lemon Juice: Adds a zesty touch and helps to increase nonheme iron absorption.
Start by preheating your oven. Prepare the garlic and vegetables, tossing them together before baking. Cook the orzo in a large pot of salted water according to the package instructions. Then drain, and reserve a bit of the pasta water. Combine the baked vegetables and orzo, adding fresh lemon juice for a zesty touch. Garnish with pine nuts and basil for a beautiful and flavorful presentation.
- Can I use other types of pasta? Use any pasta you would like; shorter pasta varieties work best.
- Is this recipe suitable for meal prepping? Absolutely, it stores well. If planning for leftovers, do not mix in the baby spinach. Add them at the top of your container, and they will cook when the meal is reheated, for the best texture and preserving more nutrients.
- Can I add more vegetables? Yes, feel free to include your favorites. Broccoli can be used instead of broccolini. Chopped kale can be used instead of spinach. Red bell pepper or chopped red onions would also be a great addition.
- What olives can I use? My favorites are kalamata olives, but choose your favorite ones and make sure to remove the pit.
- Greek Touch: Try adding some plant-based feta cheese, lemon zest, fresh dill, or fresh parsley for a twist on the flavors.
- Is this dish gluten-free? Swap orzo for a gluten-free small pasta option, or use cooked rice instead.
- How long does it keep? Up to 4 days in the refrigerator.
Variations and Tips
- Add a sprinkle of nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavor.
- Boost protein by adding more chickpeas, some lentils, or nutritional yeast.
- For a spicy kick, include a dash of red pepper flakes or freshly chopped chili.
Why You’ll Love This Easy Mediterranean Orzo
- Quick Prep
Easy Mediterranean Orzo Recipe
- ½ garlic head, or more to taste
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes
- 1 bunch broccolini, chopped
- 1 cup cooked chickpeas
- 6 black olives, pitted and chopped
- 1 tsp dry oregano
- ½ tsp chili flakes
- ¼ tsp sea salt flakes
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- ⅔ cup dry orzo (also called risoni in Australia)
- 1 tsp veg stock powder (low sodium preferred)
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 100 g baby spinach
- 2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
- ½ cup fresh basil
- Preheat the oven to 400 °F.
- Cut a large garlic head horizontally halfway. Wrap the bottom half in baking paper and place face down in a large baking dish. Reserve the rest of the garlic for another recipe.
- Add the broccolini, chickpeas, tomatoes, olives, oregano, chili flakes, salt, and olive oil to the baking dish. Mix to combine, and bake for 30 minutes, stirring halfway.
- In the meantime, prepare a pot of boiling water, add the vegetable stock powder, and cook the orzo according to the packet instructions. Reserve ¼ cup of the cooking water. TIP: Aim to synchronize this step with the completion of the baked veggies to ensure everything is served warm and fresh.
- Once baked, remove the garlic from the paper. Squeeze the flesh out of the garlic skin into a small bowl and mash with a fork. If it’s too hot, use a cloth to protect your fingers, or place in the fridge for a couple of minutes.
- Add the mashed garlic back to the tray and the cooked orzo, reserved pasta water, baby spinach, and lemon juice. Mix to combine, adjust salt to taste, and top with pine nuts and fresh basil.