This simple but flavorful pesto and mushroom orzo is made in just one pot in 30 minutes! It's packed with bright and briny flavors from capers and pesto and is perfect for easy weeknight meals.
A handful of pantry staples like basil pesto and capers mix with fresh ingredients like baby bella mushrooms and shallots in this flavorful, warming mushroom pesto orzo.
Like many of my favorite weeknight meals, this is a one pot pasta recipe. It's similar to my cherry tomato orzo and butternut squash orzo because the orzo cooks in the pot with all of the other ingredients.
This means you only need one pot or pan, which means less cleanup for you (and me)!
- Dietary features: vegetarian, vegan-optional, soy-free and nut-free
- Quick & easy: Made in just one pot or pan in just about 30 minutes.
- Simple & versatile ingredients: Mushroom orzo requires only 10-ish ingredients (plus salt & pepper). It's easy to make swaps using ingredients you already have on hand, like using arugula in place of spinach or white beans in place of chickpeas. You can also use storebought or homemade pesto.
- Flavors: As you might expect, pesto is the star of the show. Capers add a touch of brininess and mushrooms add extra depth. Cooking orzo in one pot results in an almost creamy result because the starch from the orzo adds silkiness to the sauce.
Looking for a cold orzo recipe? You might like this pesto orzo salad instead.
What you'll need
- Orzo: This is a type of pasta that is shaped like a large grain of rice. It can be found in the pasta aisle at most grocery stores. Just like with risotto, the starches in orzo make this dish naturally creamy without adding any cream or cheese.
- Mushrooms: Baby bella is my go-to due to its rich flavor, but white mushrooms or less common varieties of mushrooms also work. If you don't want big pieces of mushrooms in your orzo you can finely chop them up instead of roughly chopping them.
- Shallots: Shallots are like a milder version of onion. You can substitute with white or yellow onion as needed.
- Pesto: While homemade pesto (like the kind in my avocado pesto pasta, which is super popular!) is delicious, we're using jarred store-bought pesto in this recipe to cut down on prep time. Either option works, but remember that pesto is the backbone of the dish so choose one that you enjoy.
- Capers: This ingredient is super salty, so a little goes a long way. I recommend tasting the dish before adding more.
- Spinach: Add for a pop of color and extra vegetables. It wilts up a lot in the dish, so a lot goes a little way.
- Chickpeas: Because this is a vegetarian dish, chickpeas are the main protein source. White beans also work, or you can pair the orzo with whatever protein you have on hand.
Step by step instructions
Equipment: One pot orzo works in a skillet or in a pot. I find that tall-walled skillets work best, so that is what I recommend. But a medium pot will work if you don't have a deep skillet that can be covered with a lid.
- Heat a medium pot or skillet over medium heat. Drizzle in 1 tablespoon olive oil. Once hot, add the shallots, mushrooms and salt. Cook until mushrooms are softened, about 8-10 minutes.
- Add the orzo. Toast orzo for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. This gives the orzo a nutty flavor, similar to the method used with risotto.
- Drizzle in a small amount of vegetable broth to deglaze the pot and remove any stuck-on bits of orzo. Add remaining vegetable broth.
- Bring to a rapid simmer over high heat. Reduce to a simmer over medium-low and cover. Cook until the orzo is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Stir the orzo every few minutes to help it cook evenly.
- Once the orzo is cooked through to al dente, remove the lid and stir in the remaining ingredients: pesto, chickpeas, spinach and capers. Serve topped with freshly ground black pepper and additional capers if desired. Enjoy!
- Serving: Serve mushroom orzo with plenty of freshly ground black pepper and red pepper flakes to each serving. You can also add extra capers to taste and freshly shredded Parmesan cheese.
- Veggies: Pesto orzo goes well with roasted or steamed veggies like zucchini, bell peppers, or eggplant. Add these in at the same time as the pesto.
- Protein: You can mix in Italian-style veggie sausage or baked tofu for extra protein.
- Vegan option: Choose dairy-free pesto to make this recipe vegan.
Leftovers: Best within 3-4 days. Let cool to room temperature before refrigerating in a closed container. Reheat on the stove over medium-low heat with a splash of vegetable broth or reheat in the microwave.
Freezing: I have not tried freezing orzo before, but it should work. Let cool before transferring to a freezer-safe container. Thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating.
Looking for more ways to use pesto?
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Mushroom and Pesto Orzo
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large shallot finely chopped
- 8 ounces baby bella mushrooms roughly chopped
- ½ teaspoon salt plus more to taste
- 1 and ½ cups orzo
- 2 and ½ cups vegetable broth see note #1
- 6 ounces pesto see note #2
- 15 ounce can chickpeas drained and rinsed
- 2 handfuls spinach
- 1 tablespoon capers more to taste
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- red pepper flakes for serving (optional)
- Parmesan for serving (optional)
- Heat a medium pot or tall-walled skillet over medium heat. Drizzle with olive oil. Once hot, add the shallot, mushrooms, and ½ teaspoon salt. Cook until mushrooms are softened, about 8-10 minutes.
- Add the orzo. Toast orzo for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. Add extra oil as needed.
- Drizzle in a small amount of vegetable broth to deglaze the pan and remove any stuck-on bits of orzo. Add remaining vegetable broth.
- Bring to a rapid simmer over high heat. Reduce to a gentle simmer over medium-low. Cover with a lid. Simmer un the orzo is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Stir the orzo every few minutes to encourage even cooking.
- Once the orzo is cooked, remove the lid and stir in the remaining ingredients: pesto, chickpeas, spinach, and capers. Cook uncovered on low until the spinach is wilted and the pesto is warmed. Serve topped with freshly ground black pepper, red pepper flakes, Parmesan, and additional capers if desired. Serve hot.
- Vegetable broth: I use vegetable bouillon mixed into water. You can use just water but may need to adjust the seasons.
- Pesto: Jars vary in size but anywhere around 6-7 ounces works. You can also use homemade pesto.
- Leftovers: Keep refrigerated in a closed container for 3-4 days. Reheat on the stove over medium-low heat with a splash of vegetable broth or heat in the microwave.
- Equipment: My one-pot pasta recipes generally work in medium pots or tall-walled skillets. I prefer skillets because they allow vegetables to brown more than pots.