Cheesy Broccoli Orzo


Cheesy Broccoli Orzo is a crowd-pleasing, quick and easy side dish recipe for dinner!


Want to know what I find difficult?

Besides finding a hair length I like, painting my own toes, sleeping in cars, wearing high heels (team wedge!) and recently discovering that Atomic Fireballs have 40 calories a piece (highly disappointing considering I’ve been subjecting my tongue to their delicious, delicious burn since my in-laws brought Ben and me a bag from Cracker Barrel last week…)

Finding a good side dish recipe.


I don’t know. I’m the kind of person who can sit down with a big bowl of soup or piece of lasagna and be just fine, but Ben likes himself some options at dinnertime!

In the summer I’ll slice up a couple peaches or a make a side salad with cucumbers and tomatoes from the garden for dinner, but I have to be careful, you see. There are plenty of side dishes I’ve been politely asked to “discontinue” due to the fact that I get obsessed and try to serve them 4 days a week.

(Cough, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, cough. OMG that reminds me! The brussels sprouts in my garden are budding wee sprouts! Will post an update soon.)


I don’t like to spend a ton of time on fussy side dishes either, so I’m always on the hunt for recipes that are not only quick, but interesting, and aren’t just serving as dinner “fillers”. Enter Cheesy Broccoli Orzo.


Lip-smacking delicious, easy, and FAST – this is one side dish Ben requests over and over. Sometimes I surprise him with it because it literally makes him so incredibly happy. Bahahaha! Anyways.

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All you do is boil a cup of rice-shaped orzo pasta for a few minutes, then add chopped broccoli and cook for a few more minutes. BTW – you could use brown rice in place of the orzo for a whole-grain boost, but it takes about 30-40 minutes to cook. Orzo is for when time is of the essence!


Drain the mixture really well, as broccoli florets are notorious for holding onto water, then return to the pot.


Add a little bit of shredded cheddar cheese, grated parmesan cheese (fresh or pre-grated – doesn’t matter) and a pat of butter.


Then stir everything together with milk.


Season with salt to taste (may not need it) then dish, and dine!


Cheesy Broccoli Orzo

Print this recipe!

Serves 3-4

1 cup orzo
1-1/2 cups chopped broccoli florets
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 Tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
1 Tablespoon butter
1/4-1/2 cup 2% milk


  1. Add orzo to a large pot of salted boiling water. Cook for 3 minutes then add chopped broccoli and cook for 2 more minutes, or until orzo is tender. Drain well (broccoli florets are notorious for holding onto water) then return to the pot. Add cheeses, butter, and 1/4 cup milk then stir well and add more milk if needed. Season with salt to taste.


Might want to make a double batch of this stuff, ’cause it will go fast. It’s just so simple and GOOD, know what I mean? Well you probably don’t, but after you make it you will!


I recently served Cheesy Broccoli Orzo under chicken breasts brushed on both sides with extra virgin olive oil then seasoned with salt & pepper and sauteed (aka THE BEST CHICKEN EVER) but this simple side dish will pair well with most anything.


Here are a few more easy side dish recipes to try (besides roasted, steamed, or raw fresh fruits and veggies, which are always healthy, easy options too!)

Roasted Green Beans

Trader Joe’s Harvest Grains Blend (cooked in chicken broth = AMAZING)

Roasted Seasoned Potatoes

Grilled Zucchini (cut fresh zucchini on the bias, toss with extra virgin olive oil, salt & pepper then grill)


Your turn! What are some of your favorite side dishes to serve with dinner?

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  1. Oh, this looks perfect! Anything with “cheesy” in the title is a winner for me!

  2. These photos are amazing! They belong in a magazine. Not to mention creamy, cheesy, orzo is always amazing!

  3. You cannot go wrong with anything cheesy!

    My usual standbys are a salad, sweet potatoes (either in baked or fry form) or some sort of rice pilaf.

  4. Omg, I’m with you – I’m all about one pot wonders but the man demands sides… Kind of wasteful in my humble opinion. I’m totally excited to try this!! Looks super yummy.

  5. Terra 08.16.2012

    I love love cheesy broccoli treats!!! I don’t get excited about a lot of meat, I always want a fun, hearty side dish though. This would be fantastic, and perfect with my sweet hubby’s ribs he plans wood smoke this weekend:-) Delicious, Take care, Terra

  6. Kayle 08.16.2012

    If you used rice would you still use one cup uncooked?

  7. Chris Hoebelheinrich 08.16.2012

    I heard the bad news re: Fireballs via a co-worker a couple of weeks ago. I am in denial and continue to indulge :-)

  8. I agree with Ben; I’ve got to have a side. My go sides are sweet potato fries, roasted green beans or a salad loaded with veggies.

  9. Jen 08.16.2012

    Love this simple idea, and even my kiddo would eat – always a plus! You know you can get whole wheat orzo, right? Cooks in 8 minutes. :-)

  10. Oh no you didn’t! Looks awesome. Broccoli and cheese is a classic.

  11. Marie B. 08.16.2012

    Looks wonderful! Am going to have to try real soo, like tomorrow! Thanks!

  12. Kathi 08.17.2012

    What a delicious and easy side- I can’t wait to try it! Our go-to veggie side dish is asparagus tips sauteed in a little EVOO and fresh garlic, with a squeeze of lemon juice and a dash of shredded asiago cheese on top. YUM.

  13. Kristen 08.17.2012

    Looks great!!! And THANK YOU for the tip on the Trader Joe harvest grain! I just made the 90 minute trip to Des Moines yesterday for Trader Joes. I purchased the harvest grains, and was sorta wondering what I was going to do with them!!! I kind of want to add squash to it too. It might just be too early!!!

  14. I LOVE this! Totally pinned to make for dinner this week :)

  15. Ali 08.17.2012

    I’ve been following your blog for a couple weeks now and I’m finding myself pinning almost all of your recipes! Can’t wait to try this one in particular!

  16. Trisha 08.17.2012

    I have a feeling my broccoli cheese soup loving husband will gobble this one right up! Side dishes are always a struggle here too. I go for roasted veggies while the hubby always makes himself some sort of potato, which I always end up sampling. I know he’ll love this one though!

  17. Kim 08.17.2012

    Definitely going to have to try this – side dishes are my thing! Couple simple faves are roasted asparagus, and roasted cubed butternut squash. Both just olive oil, salt, & pepper — so simple & so yummy! Loving sauteed greens lately too, with some lemon juice, crushed red pepper, mushrooms & olive oil. Delish!

  18. Ashley 08.17.2012

    That looks so yummy! You’re photography is always wonderful, I’ve been meaning to mention that to you for quite some time.
    I have a couple of go to side dishes – grilled asparagus when it is in season and couscous that I mix with sauteed pineapple, toasted macadamia nuts, fresh cilantro and lime juice.

  19. I can’t wait to try this! Looks delish ❤ I have trouble with side dishes, too (I generally expend all my energy on the main dish!)

  20. I always struggle with figuring out side dishes that aren’t the same.old.thing. This looks delicious! Can’t wait to give it a try.

  21. Molly 08.17.2012

    First of all, I feel like we would be friends IRL.

    Second, this sounds delicious. I am making this tonight. I love all things carb + cheese + broccoli, plus it’s quick. Yum.

    Last, LOVE your Friday Favorites and Workout logs — seeing how you stay active keeps me going when working out sounds like a drag!

  22. Tracy 08.17.2012

    I’m on Team Ben on the side dish issue. The entree just seems so lonely on the plate without a side or two. I think I get bored of the entree while eating, too. haha! Side dishes FTW! This one sounds great btw.

  23. Erin 08.17.2012

    Uh…YUM! This looks like I could make a meal of it. Thanks for sharing.

    Erin –

  24. Mary Beth 08.17.2012

    This may win for the most random comment but on painting your toes- try Sally Hansen Salon Effects. They are awesome, last about 2-3 weeks with a top coat and are way way easier than polish! :)

  25. Hannah 08.17.2012

    yay! More meatless recipes, please!

  26. Michelle 08.21.2012

    We made this last night for dinner and it was yummy…my picky kids even enjoyed it. :) Thanks for a new side for our dinner planning.

  27. Jill 08.21.2012

    I just made this and it was FANTASTIC! Thanks so much Kristin for another great recipe!

  28. Kelly 08.22.2012

    I use my steamer pot when I do pasta broccoli combos, then you don’t have to worry about the broccoli holding onto water. :) This looks awesome!

  29. Kristin 08.25.2012

    Some side staples in our household:

    Roasted broccoli
    Cauliflower (roasted or just plain and seasoned with chili powder and garlic salt — so good!)
    Grilled asparagus
    Grilled squash/zuchinni/eggplant
    Grilled/roasted/baked sweet potatoes
    Grilled peppers! I’m obsessed with these right now… I bought a bag of mini red/yellow/orange peppers, wrapped them in foil and threw them on the grill … so good!

  30. Gwen 08.27.2012

    Holy cheesy goodness….I would NEVER get tired of this. Just made a pot for dinner. I hope there’s some left when everyone’s home for dinner!

  31. Ally 08.30.2012

    I find all of those things so difficult too! (minus the Atomic Fireballs :)) Go Team Wedge!!

  32. Lesley 09.01.2012

    We had this tonight with grill pork chops and everyone loved it! Thanks for the recipe, we’ll be enjoying this again!

  33. jaci 09.04.2012

    Made this tonight…..slightly unusual texture for me but I got over it and its good….extras for my boys lunch for school tomorrow …needs salt n pepper

  34. Ashley 10.03.2012

    I found this on Pinterest and made it last night. My husband and I both loved it! Thank you for sharing!

  35. Stacy 10.14.2012

    Can you use frozen broccoli and if so how long do you cook it for

    • Iowa Girl Eats 10.15.2012

      I think you can, I’d probably just prepare it according to package directions, then add it in!

      • Stacy 10.15.2012

        Thank you

        • Katie Hammett 11.03.2012

          I just put the broccoli still frozen right in and let it cook 2 or 3 minutes and it came out great.

  36. kvuelv 10.17.2012

    I saw this on Pinterest and made it for dinner last night. My husband and daughter loved this! We’ll be making this on a regular bases from now on. Thanks for the recipe.

  37. Candace 10.26.2012

    This turned out EXACTLY like the picture and was so amazingly yummy. I used a bit more orzo and wish I had added more broccoli to compensate, but I’m so happy this turned out correctly. So often my pinterest recipes don’t come out just right, and this did. Thank you! A must try for anyone, so much better, easier, and cheaper than any rice/pasta mix from a box.

  38. Elise 10.29.2012

    I just found your blog… through Pinterest of course. I think you are the Iowa version of me. Yay for being awesome :) Keep up the great work over here :)

  39. Katie Hammett 11.03.2012

    This is amazing! I love how simple and quick this is. It’s also more cost efficient and healthy than those pre-made packages you can get at the grocery store. My husband isn’t a big fan of broccoli like I am, and he loves it! Thank you for sharing this recipe :+)

  40. Marie 11.06.2012

    This recipe looks great. How does it hold up for a Thanksgiving office potluck? Is it okay to prepare this the night before and just re-heat in the microwave before serving? How do you suggest adjusting the recipe to feed 10 or so people?

    Thanks for the help!

  41. […] makes 4–6 servings | source […]

  42. […] Cheesy Broccoli Orzo: Very simple. It wasn’t as flavorful as I had hoped so I loaded it up with crushed red pepper. Nom. […]

    • michelle 11.11.2013

      I agree. It wasn’t at all flavorful like it sounded. In fact, it grossed out the whole family. Boiling the broccoli made it lose it’s flavor. Steaming and adding it with the cheese would have been better, but honestly, even that couldn’t salvage this dish.

  43. AJ 12.02.2012

    This recipe just rocked my world. It is being added to the rotation! So easy and delicious.

  44. […] is always on the look out for a good side dish.  I saw this was like “Orzo?  Cheese?  Sign me up!!”  I don’t have a lot of pictures because […]

  45. T 12.22.2012

    This side dish looks really good and I can’t wait to try it, but I also would like to know how did you prepare the fish or chicken that is in the picture????

    • Iowa Girl Eats 12.26.2012

      It was chicken brushed on both sides with extra virgin olive oil then seasoned with salt & pepper and sauteed!

  46. […] Orzo with Broccoli Recipe adapted from: Iowa Girl Eats Serves: 3-4 Prep/Cook: 15 minutes (start to […]

  47. Lina Mohr 01.03.2013

    This sounds amazing and am planning on making it soon (probably tonight) but was wondering if you could sub mozzerella for the cheddar? I don’t have any at home and don’t really want to run back to the store again.

  48. Bonnie 01.09.2013

    This was a big hit with my family and so easy to make. My 11 year old is a big fan of Mac and cheese (in the blue box). But I think this may be his new favorite.

    Love,love love your site, I want to make everything you post! Some other family faves are your fresh apple cake, and cheeseburger quesadillas. Next up to make is your chicken fried rice.

    Thanks for such great recipes and wonderful photography.

  49. Kacey 01.11.2013

    Made this tonight and it was a total hit! I almost ate all of it while waiting for the rest of dinner!

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