Bensonhurst Kitchen: Parmesan Basil Orzo

What can I say about orzo? As with most pasta dishes, it’s something I reluctantly ate growing up, but often find myself craving today.

As the days slowly get shorter and chilly weather begins to creep in, there’s really nothing like coming home to a hot bowl of orzo. When I was very young, I remember wondering what it was – I mean it tasted pretty much like pasta but the shape always threw me off.

Orzo actually means “barley” in Italian and throughout much of the world it’s known as risoni, or “big rice.” After checking out wikipedia, I learned that in the nations lining the Mediterranean Sea, this familiar dish is pretty much universal.

What Americans know as orzo is kritharáki (“little barley”) to the Greeks, arpa şehriye (“barley vermicelli”) to Turks, and lisān al-`uṣfūr (“songbird tongue”) to the Arabs.

If you’re looking for a non-seafood Lingua Franca for Mediterranean cuisine, this just might be it.

In this week’s edition of BK, Colleen stays true to orzo’s roots with a few simple, fresh and delicious ingredients that – like some friendly and oddly familiar stranger – both boldly and subtly compliment this old world comfort food.

Colleen’s Parmesan Basil Orzo

(Serves four)


3 tablespoons butter
1 clove of garlic minced
1 cup uncooked orzo pasta
1 3/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste


Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in orzo and minced garlic, saute for approximately 1-2 minutes.

Stir in chicken broth and bring to a boil.

Cover and reduce heat and simmer until orzo is tender and liquid has been absorbed. This should take approximately 10-15 minutes.

Mix in Parmesan cheese and basil. Season with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately.


Don’t have fresh basil? Substitute 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon of dried basil.

Are you a big fungus fan? Add sautéed mushrooms when you mix in the Parmesan and basil for a different take on the dish.

Recipe and tips by Colleen