I’ve had a real thing with bacon lately, which somewhat amuses me because most of my life I didn’t really love it. Yet there’s something about it’s crispy, salty flavor that lends an incredible savoriness to just about anything you pair it with.
Usually I like to buy turkey bacon because it’s leaner and we aren’t that into pork, but as of recently I’ve been picking up the real deal bacon and it’s been a great addition to some of our weeknight meals.
Last week I made a creamy carbonara with angel hair pasta (coming soon!), a few weeks ago we threw together classic wedge salads for dinner and now I’m all about this easy, creamy parmesan orzo with garlic, spinach, crispy bacon and all the veggies you could dream of. Also who could forget about my incredible bacon wrapped dates? Drooling just thinking about them.
Today, we’re talking all about this deliciously easy spinach garlic parmesan orzo! It’s a delicious 30 minute healthy dinner you can throw together during the weeknight that everyone loves it thanks to that flavorful, crispy bacon. Personally I’m a huge fan because it’s a great excuse to use up all the veggies in your fridge (including an entire package of spinach!).
I recommend serving this recipe with a side of my best ever garlic bread, because the hell why not?
What is orzo?
Although orzo looks like a form of rice, it’s actually a rice-shaped pasta. I love using orzo for quick and easy lunches and dinners because you can actually cook it like you do traditional pasta, or you can cook it the same way you would rice. Recipes like this parmesan orzo pasta are delicious eaten hot or cold, and orzo is even amazing in veggie-packed salads.
How to cook orzo:
I typically cook orzo using a traditional pasta method: boil a large pot of water, add a pinch of salt, stir in orzo, and cook until al dente about 6-8 minutes. Once orzo is done cooking, drain pasta and set aside in the colander.
You can also cook it using a rice method: in a pot bring orzo and double the amount of water to a boil, lower the heat, cover your pot, and let the orzo simmer until all of the liquid is absorbed.
What ingredients do I need for this parmesan orzo pasta?
- Garlic cloves
- Butter or Olive oil
- Shredded Carrots
- Red Bell Pepper
- Corn or peas
- Garlic Powder
- Red Pepper Flakes
Tips for this garlic parmesan orzo pasta recipe:
- Feel free to use whole grain or regular orzo pasta. This is the brand that I like to use.
- If you are gluten free, simply use your favorite gluten free pasta. This is the brand I recommend.
- Use freshly grated parmesan instead of the parmesan that comes out of the green jar, which often has caking agents in it. We want the real deal parmesan for flavor and simple ingredients! You can usually buy fresh, already grated parmesan at the store.
- Make sure to reserve some pasta water after you boil the pasta and before you drain it. The pasta water is starchy and will help to create a nice creamy sauce when mixed with the pasta and parmesan cheese.
Tips for cooking your bacon:
- Make sure you use good-quality bacon! This is of the utmost importance.
- Since bacon can easily burn, I recommend cooking your bacon over medium heat at first, then switch to medium low to prevent burning.
- If you want crispy bacon, cook longer, if you want less crispy bacon, cook for a shorter amount of time. Bacon will be done once it’s nice and golden on both sides.
- After done cooking, transfer bacon to a paper towel and blot up excess grease.
More easy weeknight dinners you might love:
Spinach Garlic Parmesan Orzo with Crispy Bacon
- 8 slices bacon
- 10 ounces uncooked orzo pasta (about 1 2/3 cup uncooked orzo)
- 1/2 cup reserved pasta water, after pasta is done boiling
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
- ½ cup shredded carrots (or carrots cut into matchsticks)
- 2/3 cup frozen or fresh sweet corn
- 1 red bell pepper, cut into chunks
- 1 (5 ounce) package organic spinach
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes, plus more if desired
- Freshly ground salt and pepper
- To garnish: Fresh flat-leaf parsley + extra parmesan cheese, corn and bacon on top
Add bacon to a large skillet or pan and place over medium heat, cook bacon on both sides until crispy and golden brown. If the pan starts to smoke at any point, simply lower the heat. I always cook my bacon on medium low heat. Once bacon is done, blot with a paper towel to absorb excess grease, then chop into bite sized pieces and set aside.
While the bacon is cooking, place a large pot of water over high heat and add in a generous amount of salt. Once water boils, stir in the orzo and cook until al dente about 7-9 minutes. Once orzo is done cooking, drain pasta and set aside in the colander. Make sure to reserve ½ cup of the pasta water.
Next add 1 tablespoon butter to the same pot you cooked the pasta in and place over medium heat. Once butter is melted, add in minced garlic, carrot, corn, red bell pepper and saute for 2 minutes.
Next add in spinach; cooking until the spinach wilts, about 2 minutes. Add the cooked orzo back into the pot and turn the heat to low. Stir in the reserved pasta water, parmesan, garlic powder and red chili pepper flakes.
Finally, stir in bacon crumbles. Add salt and pepper to taste. I like to add A LOT of black pepper into this dish -- it just gives it a really nice flavor! If you think it needs a little extra parmesan cheese, feel free to stir in 1/4 cup more. Enjoy. Serves 4.
If you don't want to use bacon, you can easily use 4 chicken sausages instead; just slice into rounds, saute in pan, then stir into pasta like you would the bacon.
If you want to make this vegetarian, I think a can of rinsed and drained white beans or even roasted, crunchy chickpeas would be a really nice option.
Feel free to use a different pasta, such as orecchiette or angel hair pasta. I prefer orzo because it keeps the pasta nice and creamy. Feel free to add in more veggies.
Recipe by: Monique Volz // Ambitious Kitchen | Photography by: Eat Love Eats