I’ve had a real thing with bacon the past few of years, which somewhat amuses me because most of my life I didn’t really love it. Yet there’s something about its 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 I’ve been picking up the real deal bacon and it’s been a great addition to some of our weeknight meals. A couple of years ago I perfected this healthier pasta carbonara, and who could forget about my incredible bacon wrapped dates? Drooling just thinking about them.
A couple of summers ago I shared an amazing bacon parmesan brussels sprouts spaghetti, which was loosely inspired by this incredible, creamy garlic parmesan orzo pasta with spinach, crispy bacon and all the veggies you could dream of.
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This delicious, healthy 30 minute dinner is one that you can throw together any day of the week. 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.
Two ways to cook orzo
There are actually two super easy ways to cook orzo!
- The pasta method: I typically cook orzo using this traditional method. You’ll 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.
- The rice method: You can also cook it the same way you cook rice. 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.
Everything you’ll need to make this parmesan orzo pasta
This easy garlic parmesan orzo is filled with colorful veggies, tender orzo pasta and some savory bacon. What more could you ask for?! Here’s what you’ll need to make it:
- Orzo: the base is, of course, delicious orzo!
- Bacon: we’re adding a wonderful savory, salty element with bacon.
- Produce: you’ll also need garlic, spinach, shredded carrots, red bell pepper and corn. Gorgeous!
- Butter: I like to cook down the veggies in butter, but feel free to use olive oil or avocado oil.
- Seasonings: don’t forget garlic powder, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes (if you like a little heat).
- Parmesan: gotta have that melty cheese in every bite! Plus, garlic and parmesan together is just *chef’s kiss*.
Our fav ingredient swaps
Looking to customize a bit? Here’s what we can recommend for substituting in this orzo recipe:
- Swap the bacon. Feel free to use sliced, sauteed chicken sausage instead, or even some cooked, shredded chicken!
- Make it vegetarian. A can of rinsed, drained white beans or even roasted, crunchy chickpeas would be the perfect swap for the bacon to keep the recipe vegetarian.
- Choose your pasta. I love the creaminess of orzo, but you can really use any pasta shape you’d like! Orecchiette or angel hair would be fabulous. You can also use your favorite gluten free or whole grain pasta.
- Up the veggies. Feel free to swap or add in any veggies you’d like as well. Broccoli would be delicious.
Tips for the best garlic parmesan orzo
- 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.
- Use good-quality bacon and cook it over medium heat, then switch it to medium low to prevent burning. Feel free to cook it for more or less time depending on how crispy you like it, and blot the excess grease from the bacon when it’s done.
How to store leftovers
Add any leftover orzo to an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator for up to 4-5 days. Simply reheat in a microwave safe dish.
More pasta recipes you’ll love
- Crispy Broccoli Sweet and Spicy Sesame Tahini Noodles
- 30 Minute Brown Butter Goat Cheese Grilled Veggie Orzo
- One Pot Cheesy Mushroom Spinach Beef Pasta
- Sweet & Spicy Hot Chili Chicken Noodles
- Buffalo Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
Get all of our amazing noodles & pasta recipes here!
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I hope you love this easy, delicious garlic parmesan orzo recipe! If you make it be sure to leave a comment and a rating so I know how you liked it. Enjoy, xo!
Spinach Garlic Parmesan Orzo with Crispy Bacon
Easy, flavorful spinach garlic parmesan orzo pasta with crispy bacon and gorgeous veggies like red bell pepper, corn, carrots, and spinach. This creamy garlic parmesan orzo recipe comes together in 30-minutes, is the perfect meal prep dinner, and is delicious hot or cold!
- 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.
To swap the 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.
To make 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
This post was originally published on March 26, 2019, republished on September 1st, 2021, and republished on April 12th, 2023.
This makes me happy and so excited for spring!!!
Same!! We’re almost there 🙂
The colors – SWOON!
Loading up on spring veggies! 🙂
This sounds absolutely lovely, Monique! Love those colors!
Thanks, Britt! Packed all of the veggies in here <3
I bought frozen corn and spinach. Is this going to be a problem? Eek!
We will most certainly be making this again. So light, yet savory in flavor.
Absolutely. The perfect dinner!
Such a comforting yet nourishing recipe! Used canned sweet corn and some extra pasta water for a tad more creaminess…delish!
Perfect! Glad you enjoyed 🙂
Just picked up some fresh fiddleheads would those work good in this dish?
Just made this for my 3 kids and they LOOOOOOVED it! Said Mum please add this to your regular rotation. I could see doing this even through the winter months with winter veggies. I was a total goofball and poured all the pasta water out while chatting with a friend on the phone. So I grabbed some chicken stock (same amount called for) from the fridge and added it and it was Amazing!!!!! Thank you Monique!!! Love your recipes!!
Amazing!! So happy to hear that, Cindy. This would be delicious with winter veggies – let me know if you end up trying it!
DELICIOUS!!! Will definitely be making this again! Thank you!
So happy to hear that! Such a great dinner 🙂
I have made A TON of your recipes and I feel bad every time I don’t post a comment because I get lost in the cooking and then forget but I am so thankful I found your blog. I found your turkey chili like 2 years ago and make it all the time and then like 6 months ago my sister asked for the recipe and I sent her the link. She said, “ I should have known! I love her…she’s pregnant you know!” And I started following your journey having just had a little boy myself and I have made so many of your recipes. This one is my new favorite! Thank you for all the jam up recipes!!
Thanks so much for your note, Caitlyn! I’m so happy you’re loving the recipes here 🙂 hope you keep finding new favs and congrats on your little boy, too!
Made this today and it was fantastic. Also the first time I tried baking my bacon on a cookie sheet. Works like gang busters.
Amazing! Glad you enjoyed 🙂
Awesome recipe. I modified it by adding half a yellow onion and subbing the bacon for diced pancetta. Absolutely delicious. Unlike most creamy parmesan recipes, this reheats SO WELL. I meal prepped it for the week and I am not disappointed at all.
Perfect! And yes, love meal prepping this one. Glad you enjoyed!
Delicious! My husband said, “This is a keeper.” I definitely agree. He took all the leftovers for lunch. I need to be quicker next time!
So happy you both enjoyed! You’ll have to make a double batch next time 🙂
Loved the veggies in the recipe and I tried it without the bacon. The bacon would have been great in it but we had to forgo the bacon tonight. However, I would have liked to add some tomatoes to the recipe too!
Tomatoes would be delicious in here! Glad you loved the other veggies and let me know if you give it a try with the bacon 🙂
Made this tonight. Pretty easy meal. I followed the recipe, but I did add grape tomatoes and onion to the sauté because I needed to use them up.
A good, quick, healthy meal!
Perfect! Glad you enjoyed!
I made this tonight and loved it! I only used 1/2 the orzo and 4 pieces of bacon, but left everything else the same. It turned out so good! I can’t wait to eat the leftovers!! Thanks for another great recipe!
So simple yet SO GOOD!! Instead of bacon, we did crispy chickpeas on the top and it worked perfectly. Also added peas! Thanks for another great recipe!
Love that idea! Sounds amazing. Glad you enjoyed!
This recipe sounds so delicious! Is there a preference in serving this hot or cold?
It’s wonderful both ways! Try it out warm when you first make it 🙂
Another dinner winner from Ambitious Kitchen! First of all, this could not be easier to prep & it comes together pretty quickly. I love that I usually have all the ingredients needed on hand. All the fresh veggies make this a great spring or summer dinner. Bonus points: my husband loves it, too… with extra bacon of course. I feel like it would be easy to mix it up — I might use fresh Michigan asparagus next time… my favorite!
Amazing! So happy to hear that. One of my fav dinners, too!
This has become our family’s favorite. Love the attention to flavors and that there are tons of veggies in there too. Yummmm
Amazing! I’m so glad 🙂
Very flavorful! Easy week night meal! Will add it to my rotation!
So glad you enjoyed!
This recipe is simply AMAZING! Meal prepped this for my husband and I, and we cannot get enough of it. I added chicken for some extra protein and used a yellow pepper instead of red- YUM. Thank you, Monique! Love your recipes, but especially this one!
Perfect! I’m so glad you both loved it!
Very tasty and easy to make! However, not all that healthy really considering it’s just pasta. But, still good! Lots of room to customize with the veggies- I added zucchini and it tasted great!
Glad you enjoyed! Everyone’s definition of “healthy” is different – I definitely include pasta in mine, plus, everything in moderation 🙂 Love the idea of adding zucchini!
Simple ingredients that make a really tasty meal. Definitely recommend for an easy weeknight meal!
Absolutely! Perfect weeknight dinner (and great leftovers).
Made this tonight and loved it! I subbed broccoli for bell pepper because I don’t like pepper and it was great! Love this recipe.
Perfect! Glad you enjoyed 🙂
This dish is amazing!! I made it for our meal prep lunches and had a hard time refraining from eating it while I was dividing it into our prep containers. I gave my husband extra and found myself taking bites of his once I was done eating mine 😅 I used turkey bacon instead of regular bacon which doesn’t get as crispy, but the dish was still delicious! I also forgot to reserve the pasta water, but it still came out great.
Haha it’s too delicious! Glad you both enjoyed 🙂
We are big fans of this recipe in my house!! My partner does not like bell peppers, and I do not eat meat, so when I make it I substitute chickpeas for the bacon and asparagus for the pepper. It is such a refreshing meal and very satisfying. It’s part of our regular meal rotations and I highly recommend it!
Perfect! This one’s great for customizing 🙂 glad you both enjoyed!
This was great! I didn’t have any red bell pepper, so I just left it out. I had some grape tomatoes that only had a day or two left in them, so I threw them in. A great recipe that you can riff on a bit based on what’s in your fridge!
Perfect! Yes, this one’s great for customizing. Glad you enjoyed!
This dish is great. I’m making it for a Mini Marriage Retreat this weekend (20 couples). Can’t wait to share it with them.
Perfect! Hope everyone loves it!
I love this recipe! It was so quick and easy and perfect for a mid week dinner. The balance of flavours was spot on. I, of course, added extra Parmesan as suggested as I think you can never have enough cheese!
Love it! One of our fav dinners, too 🙂
Meal prepped this for lunches this week, and it was easy and delicious! The only thing I added was a little apple cider vinaigrette.
Perfect! Glad you enjoyed!
This was so easy to make! I added a can of peas. I also baked a few chicken breast in the oven, cut them up in bite sized pieces, and added those as well since I was making it for dinner. I will definitely make again. Could leave out the chicken and make as a side dish for a cookout or something.
Perfect! This one’s great for customizing 🙂 Glad you enjoyed!
Love it!! Added a little feta in with the parmesan and I thought it was delicious. 10/10
Perfect! Sounds amazing 🙂
I LOVE this recipe. I am a busy college student and this has been one of my go-to recipes with I need something quick and delicious! This recipe keeps really well so it is perfect to meal prep on busy weeks!
Amazing! So happy to hear that 🙂
I can’t even tell you how many times we’ve made this! I honestly think it’s our favorite meal. I love that I can add any extra veggies or protein I have, too! Soooooo yummy. Thank you for this 😍
Such an easy weeknight meal, I’m so happy you love it, too! And yes agree, it’s really versatile 🙂
This dish is delicious! It’s a yummy, comforting pasta that can be eaten as a side or a meal!
One of my fams favorites. We eat so many AK recipes but this one is a favorite that we come back to often. Reheats great (or tasty cold too) so perfect for busy families who meal prep on the weekends.
Really yummy, simple AND will impress your guests! Will make over and over again!
I found a new favorite recipe. My husband even asked if we could double the recipe next time, so we can eat it a few days longer!
Also, we had some leftover smoked sausage in the fridge and added that in. Super tasty!
Omg yayyyy so glad you both are loving this one!! That smoked sausage sounds delish 🙂
Absolutely fabulous! I felt like I was eating a sophisticated, healthy, and perfectly creamy mac & cheese! I had to restrain myself from eating all four servings.
Loved this recipe- made it for Saturday lunch- would much rather have pasta than a deli meat sandwich!!
Will def make again. Might up the veggie to orzo ratio next time!
So. I SWORE I had orzo in the cabinet. Well, after my hour long grocery run, I came home to find out my assumption was wrong. Here comes the substitution because I wasn’t going back out there: red quinoa. This recipe is great, even with my substitution. My husband of course is excited to try it as designed, but if you forgot the orzo, try quinoa!
Oh amazing, so happy to hear it worked well!! Thanks for sharing 🙂
Very tasty! Would be equally good served cold as a side dish during the summer.
Definitely add the extra pepper as recommended by Monique.
Happy you enjoyed it! And totally agree that it would be great as a summer pasta salad 🙂
Yummy flavors and so easy to make!
Made with regular pasta because my store was out of orzo and it turned out great!
Glad that worked well! 🙂
Another easy and delicious dinner from you. I use your recipes at least once a week. THANK YOU!
I can always count on AK for all my cooking inspiration and recipe needs! This was super tasty. I added some grilled marinated artichoke hearts and the extra parm. I cooked the red peppers separate (my hubby can’t eat them) added them to my bowl and some chopped up sundried tomatoes to his. Can’t wait to eat the leftovers cold tomorrow! Thanks again Monique!
Hi!! Love making this for fam and I!! It’s a great spring recipe. Thanks for all the good eats!!!
One of my favorites! I use a tiny pasta made of chickpeas and red lentils (gluten free) because I can’t find orzo over here but the taste is amazing. Thanks again!
That sounds like a great substitution! So happy you love this recipe, Vanessa 🙂 Thanks for leaving a review.
Excellent recipe! Easily and super yummy. Added tomatoes, onions, some chicken and splash of lemon juice. Fantastic and bright!
Sounds incredible! So glad you loved it 🙂
One of our favorites! We use precooked bacon to make it extra easy to throw together on a weeknight.
Is there a way to make this dairy free?
Hi! You can definitely use dairy free butter and vegan parmesan cheese 🙂
Monique…This was delicious!! Hubby does not like red peppers so I did cherry tomatoes and crispy turkey bacon. Your recipes are so devious and pretty! Thank you!!
Aw this means so much! So glad this recipe is a hit and you both enjoyed it ❤️
This dish was amazing! Even my kids gobbled it down and lined up for seconds. Thanks for the great recipe!
Perfect! Always a win when it’s kid approved ❤️
Delicious! Used the parmesan from the green lid that is not as fresh but it was still delicious. Next time I want to try more fresh grated parmesan.
Loved this recipe! Easy weeknight meal. I subbed zucchini for carrot. Will definitely make again!
This was delicious, easy to make and I love that it packs so many veggies in! I will definitely be making it again!