Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Cheesy zucchini orzo

Absence is a funny thing.  They (who, exactly?  I've always wondered) say it makes the heart grow fonder.  It's the time apart that makes you appreciate that someone or something.  Even something that you swore you wanted a break from at last meeting.

No, this is not a subtle jab at any person in my life.  I love all of you dearly and wish I could see so many of you much, much more often!  :)

Instead, this is a bit of a sheepish apology to zucchini.  Last year, you see, I may have gone a bit overboard with zucchini recipes.  I grilled it, roasted it, fried it, and ate it raw.  I sliced it, stuffed it, and grated it into pieces.  I dressed it up and baked it into anything I could possibly imagine.  And it was so undeniably delicious.

I came up with new ways to eat and enjoy it and... we ate and enjoyed the zucchini.  But, after weeks and weeks of The Zucchini Show! around our kitchen, I grew a little tired of it.  It was still in season and so fresh, so I forced myself to take advantage of it while I could.

Then, all of a sudden, the zucchini crop dwindled, as it always does, and the massive grocery store displays of it disappeared.  I said good riddance to zucchini and jumped at the burgeoning supply of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and pumpkin.   "Thank goodness.  I'm so sick of zucchini," I lamented.

Months later, we found ourselves in the middle of winter when Matt got a craving for his all-time favorite pizza, and I wanted needed fresh zucchini bread in the worst way.  Always want what you can't have, right?

So, you can guess that the second I saw a stand, albeit small, of locally grown produce this spring, I was on it like white on rice green on zucchini.  The pizza and bread will have to wait just a bit longer because fantasies of this cheesy zucchini orzo monopolized my brain!

Tiny chewy orzo (aka official pasta of the summer months!) folded with sweet fresh zucchini in a creamy cheddar sauce with a hint of garlic.  Forkful after forkful after forkful, I literally could not stop and that was just during cooking!

I'm not going to say something crazy like this is better than mac & cheese, buuuuuuuuuuuut... it's prettydarnclose, folks!  And I felt good devouring it because it was loaded with vegetables.  Cheesy vegetables and pasta, but who's keeping track?

Two years ago: Pepperjack stuffed turkey burgers
Three years ago: Very peanut butter cookies

Cheesy Zucchini Orzo
(an original recipe!)
-makes 4 servings

A few notes: If you're a heat seeker, try adding red pepper flakes or a dash of buffalo sauce for an extra kick.  And, this reheats wonderfully if you can manage not to clear out the pan on the first round!

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 cup orzo
1 clove garlic, minced
Ground black pepper
1 medium zucchini, grated (about 2 cups)
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

In a large skillet over medium heat, toss orzo and garlic with oil until fragrant.  Add 2 1/2 cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon salt and bring to boil.  Reduce to a simmer and, stirring occasionally so that orzo does not stick to the bottom of pan, cook pasta until al dente and liquid has almost completely evaporated.  Stir in zucchini until warmed through.  Remove from heat and stir in cheese until melted.  If needed, add a splash or two of milk to achieve extra creamy texture.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Enjoy alone for a vegetarian dish or topped with a grilled chicken breast!


  1. I found this on pinterest and am making it tonight! seriously so excited to try something new. I'm a zucchini obsessor too. thanks for the recipe!

    1. You're so welcome, Suzzie! Hope you enjoy it as much as we did. I'm a zucchini addict, so I'm working on squeezing in as many recipes as I can before they're gone! :)

  2. Found this recipe on Pinterest and made it for dinner tonight. It was a great side dish and my family loved it. Thank you!

    1. So glad you enjoyed it! Just in time, too, as the zucchini harvest begins its takeover :)

  3. I would love to make this but only have one enormous zucchini. About how much shredded do I need?

    1. I use about 2 cups of shredded zucchini when I make this. However, the recipe is pretty flexible, so feel free to eyeball it and use more or less depending on how much you want to stretch the orzo and cheese. Thanks for the comment -- I updated the recipe with the amount.

  4. Randomly found this on pinterest last week and made it tonight. I cooked herb marinated chicken breasts on the grill to go with it. They went extremely well together and the orzo turned out fantastic! I'm very glad I ran into this recipe and it will likely be one I go back to often now since it's so easy, fast, and delicious. Thanks for this one!

    1. So glad you enjoyed it! Perfect timing with the summertime zucchini bounty, too.

  5. I added one pound of chicken, 1 lemon, fresh rosemary. I also use rice instead. Family loved it! I think I will use tofu next time. Thanks for the great recipe!