This recipe for Asparagus Orzo is the perfect side dish for spring! Loaded with fresh flavors, quick to make, and totally versatile, it needs to be on your spring dinner menu.
Table of contents
Why We Love this Asparagus Orzo
For starters, the ingredient list is short but this dish is loaded with fresh flavors from lemon and herbs. It’s also totally adaptable—use whatever fresh herbs are growing in your garden or available at the market. Plus, this side dish recipe can easily be turned into a main dish when topped with grilled shrimp, chicken skewers or or served alongside pan-seared salmon.
If you can find whole-wheat orzo go ahead and use it! I’ve found it’s hard to find at most grocery stores, so I most often use regular orzo. You’ll need 1 cup of dry orzo, which is 6 ounces.
Because the asparagus only cooks for a couple of minutes, I prefer to use small- to medium-thick stalks in this recipe. Be sure to snap off the woody ends and cut the tender stalks into 1-inch pieces.
I prefer to buy large chunks of Parmesan and grate it myself on a Microplane. You can use Parmesan that’s sold already grated, just make sure it doesn’t have any added anti-caking agents included.
This recipe is loaded with flavor from fresh lemon (zest and juice), basil, dill, garlic, and red pepper flakes.
Unsalted butter and olive oil
This combo achieves the best of both worlds—flavorful and healthy.
Step 1: Bring a pot of water to a boil.
Fill a large pot of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, season water generously with salt.
Step 2: Cook orzo
Stir orzo into boiling salted water and cook until al dente, according to the package directions. Add the asparagus pieces with two minutes left in cooking. Drain the orzo and asparagus.
Step 3: mix together the cheesy herb mixture
Mix together the Parmesan, oil, herbs, garlic and spices.
Step 4: Stir in the butter
Add the cooked orzo and asparagus back to the pot and stir in the butter until melted.
Step 5: Add the herbs and cheese
Stir in the Parmesan-herb mixture and toss until the cheese is melted and everything is combined.
FAQs and Expert Tips
This can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. The flavor and texture is best when served fresh, but if making ahead, be sure to reheat on the stove top and add an extra pat of butter and some additional Parmesan to bring it back to life.
This can absolutely be made without butter, just substitute with a robust-flavored extra-virgin olive oil.
Any tender herbs would be a delicious substitute or addition. Try chives, tarragon, or parsley.
More Asparagus Recipes to Try
- This Shrimp and Asparagus Pasta is another springtime dinner recipe to add to your menu.
- Two favorite asparagus side dishes are our Roasted Asparagus and this Grilled Asparagus.
- The Sesame Roasted Asparagus Salad is another simple side with an Asian flair.
- This vegetarian Asparagus Panzanella with Poached Eggs is a fantastic brunch or dinner option.
- Don’t miss our chilled Asparagus with Tarragon Vinaigrette.
- Adding asparagus to salads is another delicious way to enjoy it. Try this Spring Salad with peas and hard boiled eggs, this Shaved Asparagus Salad or this vegetarian power salad with Roasted Asparagus and Chevre.
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A light and fresh pasta side dish studded with tender in-season asparagus and loads of lemon and fresh herbs.
- Kosher salt
- 1 cup (6 ounces) dry orzo pasta
- 1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch thick slices
- ¾ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
- ¼ cup chopped fresh dill
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced
- 1 clove garlic, grated
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil; season generously with salt then add orzo and cook until al dente according to package directions. Add asparagus in last two minutes of cooking. Drain orzo and asparagus.
- Return pot to stove, not over heat, and allow to dry (or wipe out).
- Whisk together Parmesan, basil, dill, oil, 1 teaspoon lemon zest, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, garlic, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes in a medium bowl.
- Add orzo and asparagus back to now empty pot. Place over medium-low heat and stir in butter, continue stirring until butter is melted. Off heat, add Parmesan-herb mixture and gently stir until completely combined.
- Season with additional salt and pepper flakes to taste.
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Category: Side dish
- Method: Stove top
- Cuisine: Ameran
- Serving Size: ½ cup
- Calories: 109
- Fat: 9.4
- Saturated Fat: 3.6
- Carbohydrates: 3.8
- Fiber: 1.5
- Protein: 4.5
Keywords: Asparagus orzo