Creamy Orzo with Broccoli – Sharon Palmer, The Plant Powered Dietitian


You can make the most delicious vegan creamy orzo with broccoli with this simple recipe in only 30 minutes! First up, you make your own yummy cashew ricotta, then cook up orzo pasta, and saute a quick and easy broccoli filling which includes garlic, oregano, cherry tomatoes, olives, and white beans. Toss it altogether for creamy pasta goodness the plant-based way! Packed with nutrition from pasta, beans, broccoli, and tomatoes, this is a one-dish meal that will power your day. The leftovers are mighty good too! Is this recipe for orzo gluten-free? No, orzo naturally contains gluten, but you can swap out the wheat-based orzo pasta with gluten-free orzo pasta to make a gluten free orzo version. 

What is Orzo Pasta? 

Orzo may look like rice kernels, but it is actually a small, thin, rice-shaped wheat pasta from Italy that is categorized as pastina (little pasta). Orzo is popular in Italian soups, but it’s also good in pasta dishes and salads. How to cook orzo? Just fill a medium pot two-thirds full with water, bring it to a boil, add a package of dried orzo pasta, and cook it until it’s al dente (about 7-12 minutes); then drain and stir the pasta into your favorite recipes, such as this Creamy Orzo with Broccoli. 

Is Orzo Healthy?

Orzo is made from refined wheat, but you can find whole wheat orzo to make recipes even healthier. Note that al dente pasta has a lower glycemic index and studies show that even consuming regular pasta made from refined wheat flour has been linked with health benefits, because it is usually a gateway to eating more vegetables (we often eat our pasta filled with veggies and tomato sauce–which is a good thing!).


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This delicious healthy vegan Creamy Orzo with Broccoli is based upon a home-made vegan cashew ricotta, orzo pasta, and delicious verdant broccoli. 

Cashew Ricotta:

Orzo Pasta:

  • 1 pound dried orzo pasta
  • Water

Broccoli Filling: 

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound broccoli rabe, broccolini, or broccoli, rinsed, coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • ½ teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh chopped or dried oregano
  • ½ cup olives, pitted
  • 1 (15-ounce) can white beans, rinsed, drained

  1. Make cashew ricotta by placing raw cashews in a small dish and covering with boiling water. Soak for 15 minutes (while soaking, gather together the remaining ingredients for the cashew ricotta, and start cooking the pasta), then drain off liquid. Add soaked, drained cashews to a small blender with garlic, nutritional yeast, tahini, salt (optional), white pepper, plant-based milk, and 2 tablespoons lemon juice from the lemon (reserve the rest of the lemon for making zest in step 6). Blend until well combined but not completely smooth (the consistency of ricotta). May pause to scrape down sides as needed. Set aside cashew ricotta while you prepare pasta. 
  2. Fill a large pot two-thirds full of water, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-high, add pasta, and cover. Cook (according to package instructions) for about 7-12 minutes, until al dente stage. Reserve 2 cups of pasta water, then drain remaining water, and set cooked orzo aside.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare the broccoli filling by adding the olive oil to a large sauté pan or Dutch oven. Add the garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes. 
  4. Add the broccoli and the red chili flakes and sauté for 3 minutes.
  5. Add 1 cup of reserved pasta water, tomatoes, and salt (optional), and continue to cook for about 6 minutes, until the broccoli is crisp-tender yet bright green. 
  6. Add the zest of the lemon, olives, white beans, cooked orzo pasta, and cashew ricotta. Stir gently to combine. May add additional reserved pasta water, one tablespoon at a time, until you achieve a smooth, creamy texture. Heat just until mixture is hot. Serve immediately. 

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Category: Side Dish
  • Cuisine: American


  • Serving Size: 1 serving
  • Calories: 424
  • Sugar: 6 g
  • Sodium: 257 mg
  • Fat: 17 g
  • Saturated Fat: 4 g
  • Carbohydrates: 57 g
  • Fiber: 13 g
  • Protein: 17 g

Keywords: orzo rice, is orzo gluten free, how to cook orzo, gluten free orzo, orzo substitute, is orzo healthy, creamy orzo

For other plant-based pasta recipes, check out:

Mushroom Bomb Lentil Pasta
Vegan Pasta with Roasted Vegetables
Lemon Basil Pasta Salad
Vegan Pasta with Creamy Spinach Ricotta Sauce
Vegan Pasta Amatriciana
Pasta with Rapini, Fava, and Mushrooms

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