Wham! Bam! Done in one pan! This is a cheeky little number if ever there was one. Lemon chicken orzo bake, ready in three simple cooking stages and wildly flavoursome. It’s a tangy family favourite filled with nutritious lean meat and greens.
Serve this frisky Mixed Olive Tapenade with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Feta antipasto to really get the tastebuds tingling in anticipation.
Searching for week night dinner inspo can be a bore and chore! But this recipe for a sharp and zingy chicken and pasta combo will have the plates licked clean, bellies full and vitamin levels restored. Don’t give it another thought.
Why you’ll love it
Where to start?? This easy lemon chicken orzo dish is a naughty little triple threat: delicious, convenient, nutritious.
Let’s start with delicious: a powerful line up of olives, pesto, lemon, Parmesan, Tuscan kale (Cavolo Nero) and chicken. It’s a flavour festival and this orzo recipe is your ticket in!
Convenient: in under 40 minutes you can have a square meal on the table using standard shopping list ingredients. No need to hunt for exotic items. It’s a quick and easy one pan dinner.
Nutritious: skinless chicken and fresh leafy greens ensure your family is fuelled and well-fed.
And although we often think of citrus with seafood, a bit of lemon is amazing with chicken too. Check out my Lemon Pepper Chicken for more of this goodness!
What is orzo?
Stay with me here. This puzzling pasta looks like rice, it’s made from semolina flour, its name translates as ‘barley’ but it’s classified as pasta. Got that? Phew!
But what you really need to know is that orzo pasta can be cooked in two ways. Either quickly in salted boiling water then drained, like pasta. Or more slowly beginning in cold water and not drained, like rice.
The results are very different! The first making the orzo firm and al dente, ideal for soups and salads like this Greek Orzo Salad. The second yields a rich creamy consistency, similar to a risotto, which is what we’re aiming for here.
Recipe tips and notes
- I’ve used boneless chicken thighs. While chicken breast is the leanest and considered the healthiest, thighs are less expensive and the tastiest. The thigh meat is darker and firmer and definitely juicier than the breast. The choice is yours! And if your prefer bone-in thighs, that’s fine too.
- Basil pesto is a shortcut to layer flavours. It’s a quick kick to fruity nuttiness thanks to the little pine nut (not actually a nut FYI.).
- Coming across a rogue green olive in this dish is a delight. Contrasting with the other shapes and textures, it’s a briny flavour bomb in itself.
- Lastly, don’t forget to throw in your greens! I use cavolo nero as I love the colour contrast and it’s slight bitterness. Leafy greens cook quickest so curly kale and spinach are equally speedy substitutes.
Storage and leftovers
Leftovers can be frozen. But bear in mind the texture of the orzo might change from velvety smoothness to a little mushy! However, the completely cooled chicken orzo pasta bake can be stored in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months.
Or cover and keep in the fridge for 2-3 days. Reheat on the hob with a splash of water to loosen.
Favourite one pan dinner recipes to try
- Tomato Cream Cheese Pasta with Chicken and Pancetta
- One Pan Greek Chicken and Orzo
- Spanish Style Baked Chicken and Potatoes
- Baked Penne alla Vodka with Meatballs
Lemon Chicken Orzo
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 6 skinless boneless chicken thighs
- 2 large shallots or 1 onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic
- 100g/ ½ cup basil pesto
- 1 lemon
- 1.25 litre/5 cups chicken stock
- 50g/1/4 cup pitted green olives
- 1 tsp salt
- 120g/4 oz Cavolo Nero/Kale, rib removed or spinach
- 500g/17 oz orzo
- 50g/1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
- Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Season the chicken thighs with salt and brown them in 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large and deep pan over medium heat until golden but not cooked all the way through. Remove to a plate.
- To the same pan add the chopped onion and cook over low heat for 5-7 minutes, then add the minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds longer. Stir in basil pesto, juice of ½ lemon, chicken stock and salt, bring the liquid to a simmer.
- Once it’s bubbling add the chopped cavolo nero, Parmesan cheese, olives and orzo, stir to combine, then top with the chicken thighs, cover with a lid and cook in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, then uncover and cook for 5-10 minutes longer. Serve with additional grated Parmesan and lemon wedges.