Summer Vegetable Orzo with Chicken is an easy meal packed full of summer vegetables and amazing pesto flavour! Cherry tomatoes, zucchini and spinach pair beautifully with your favourite pesto and sautéed chicken. Make it for dinner tonight!
Have you ever used orzo before? The first time I had it was years ago when my mom made a Greek chicken orzo salad from an Ina Garten cookbook (Ina’s such a legend). I loved how the dressing coated the orzo, so every bite was full of flavour.
So, orzo seemed like the natural pasta candidate for this dish. The small size of the pasta allows you to get a little bit of everything in each bite: cherry tomato, zucchini, spinach and chicken, and all of it covered in basil-y goodness from the pesto.
- Uncooked orzo – 1 pound or approximately 1.5 cups dry measure
- Olive oil – for sautéing
- Chicken breast – 1 pound or approximately 2 large boneless skinless breasts
- Yellow onion
- Cherry tomatoes
- Baby Spinach – 3 cups (about 3 big handfuls)
- Red pepper flakes, salt and pepper
- Pesto – your favourite store-bought brand or one batch of my Easy Cashew Pesto
How to Make It
Step One: Make the orzo
- Cook the orzo according to package directions and set aside.
Step Two: Sauté the chicken
- While the orzo is cooking, heat olive oil over medium heat in a large, deep skillet or dutch oven
- Sauté the chicken until fully cooked, about 5 to 7 minutes
- Remove from skillet and set aside on a plate
Step three: Sauté the vegetables
- Heat a little more olive oil in the skillet
- Sauté the onion until turning translucent, about 3-5 minutes
- Add the tomato, zucchini and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper and cook until softened.
- Add the baby spinach and cook until just wilted.
Step Four: Add the chicken, pesto and cooked orzo
- Add the pesto and reserved cooked chicken to the skillet. Stir until vegetables, pesto and chicken are evenly dispersed
- Add the cooked orzo and stir until well combined and pesto coats the orzo evenly
- Serve immediately. Garnish with freshly grated parmesan, if desired.
Can I use a different pasta?
Yes, but for best flavour and texture I suggest using a very small noodle (like super tiny macaroni) or a type of noodle that “catches” lots of flavour, like rotini. In fact, if you need a gluten-free option, rotini is a great choice (I haven’t had luck finding gluten-free orzo).
Can I use other vegetables?
Yes! Use your favourite vegetables. I just happen to love the tomato and zucchini combination.
Can I make this vegetarian or vegan?
Yes! To make it vegetarian, simply leave out the chicken. For added protein and fibre you could add beans. During testing, I tried cooked cannellini beans (white kidney beans). Navy beans would be nice, too. Add them at the same time as the spinach to ensure they’re warmed through.
To make it vegan, leave out the chicken, but also be sure to use a vegan pesto. I have a vegan option for my Easy Cashew Pesto.
More Veggie-Filled Weeknight Dinner Ideas
- Quinoa Chickpea Salad with Lemon Dill Dressing
- Stuffed Pepper Skillet (one pan!)
- Thai Pumpkin Curry
- Sweet Potato & Chickpea Coconut Curry
Summer Vegetable Orzo with Chicken
- 1 lb uncooked orzo (about 1.5 cups dry measure)
- olive oil
- 1 lb chicken breast, cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces
- 1 yellow onion, small dice
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 pints cherry tomatoes, sliced in half (about 4 cups dry measure)
- 2 cups zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick quarters (about 2 small zucchini)
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- 3 handfuls baby spinach
- salt and pepper (to taste)
- 1 cup pesto (store-bought or one batch of linked recipe)
- grated parmesan
- Cook orzo according to package directions and set aside.
- Meanwhile, heat 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil over medium heat in a large deep skillet or dutch oven. Sauté chicken until fully cooked. Remove chicken from skillet and set aside on a plate.
- Warm another 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil to the skillet and sauté onion until translucent, about 3-5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and sauté another 30 seconds, stirring continously, until fragrant.
- Add the zucchini, cherry tomatoes and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper and cook until softened, about 7-8 minutes. Add the baby spinach and stir until evenly dispersed. Cook until spinach has wilted.
- Add the cooked orzo, cooked chicken and pesto to the vegetables. Stir until everything is warmed through and evenly coated with pesto. Serve immediately and garnish with grated parmesan, if desired.
- Make it vegetarian by omitting the chicken. For extra protein and fibre, add white beans at the same time as the spinach (cannellini or navy beans would be nice).
- Make it vegan by omitting the chicken and using a vegan pesto. Skip the parmesan garnish.
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