Mediterranean Baked Orzo
with steamed artichoke / pesto aioli
This baked pasta dish is made with rice-shaped orzo, cheese, and a Mediterranean tomato sauce. Because orzo are so small, they don't need to be pre-cooked before baking. With steamed artichokes on the side, this seasonal meal that was last featured in 2017 is perfect for early spring.
- Artichokes - 4, trimmed
- Lemon juice - 2 tsp + 1 tsp
- Bay leaf (opt) - 1
- Pesto, store-bought - 1 Tbsp
- Mayonnaise - 1/4 cup
- Onions, medium - 1, chopped
- Bell peppers, fire-roasted - 3/4 cup, chopped
- Cheese, fresh mozzarella - 5 oz, cubed
- Zucchini - 1 lb, chopped
- Oil, olive - 1 Tbsp
- Tomato paste - 3 Tbsp
- Pesto, store-bought - 1/4 cup
- Italian seasoning - 1 tsp
- Pasta, uncooked orzo - 1 cup
- Stock, any type - 1 3/4 cups
- Artichokes - If prepping right before cooking, get water boiling so that you can start steaming artichokes before continuing with prep. Trim artichokes. Alternatively, you can steam artichokes in an Instant Pot for 9 to 15 minutes at high pressure and do a manual release. (Can be done up to 4 days ahead)
- Onions / Bell peppers / Cheese / Zucchini - Prep as directed. Store separately. (Can be done up to 5 days ahead)
- Heat oven to 400F / 204C degrees.
- Fill a large stockpot with 1" / 2.5 cm of water. Season with some salt and add the first portion of lemon juice and bay leaf (if using). Place a steamer basket (if you don't have a steamer, you can simmer the artichokes directly in the water) over the water. Put the lid on the stockpot and bring to a boil over high heat. (Alternatively, you can steam artichokes in an Instant Pot for 9 to 15 minutes at high pressure and do a manual release.)
- When water is boiling, reduce to a simmer. Place artichokes, stem-side up, over simmering water. Cover and allow artichokes to steam until the leaves can easily be pulled from the choke, 35 to 60 minutes (depending on the size of the artichokes). Check the artichokes every 10 minutes or so and add additional water, if needed. (Watch this video to see how to steam artichokes.)
- While artichokes steam, heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add oil and then onions and zucchini with a pinch of salt. Saute until very tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Add bell peppers, tomato paste, pesto (the portion for the orzo), Italian seasoning, and orzo. Stir to combine.
- Pour stock over top and bring to a simmer. Stir in mozzarella and cover with a lid. Bake, covered, until orzo is tender, 13 to 16 minutes.
- While artichokes and orzo cook, make pesto aioli. Combine pesto (the portion for the artichokes), mayonnaise, and the second portion of lemon juice.
- Serve artichokes with pesto aioli for dipping (again, check out this video for tips on enjoying every last bite of an artichoke). Enjoy with orzo on the side.
No oven needed. I left it covered on the stove and it came out perfect. The artichokes were fantastic!1 Helpful
Super easy. I might use shredded mozzarella instead of fresh because the fresh seemed to clump up instead of melt evenly. Added some of our leftover bruchetta to it - adds some protein and kept the flavor. Didn't have artichokes, so roasted brussel sprouts instead. Used red pesto instead of green pesto - liked how that turned out.0 Helpful
I added some fresh garlic and a can of fire roasted diced tomatoes to the orzo. Like others said, this also turned out a little soupy, but I wasn't exact with my liquid measurements. This was yummy on its own, but I threw in some grilled sausage at the end, which I feel enhanced the flavor.0 Helpful
Good and easy bake. I added canned white cannellini beans because I thought we would miss the protein, which was a good match for the dish.0 Helpful
Forgot the buy the artichokes. Still was delicious!0 Helpful
Delicious. I skipped steaming artichokes and instead adding canned artichokes to the orzo.0 Helpful
This was yummy. We liked the way the pesto, tomato paste and veggies came together. I might use less cheese next time — not because it was bad, just to lighten it a little.0 Helpful