This creamy orzo pasta is one of those cozy recipes you’ll return to when you’re craving an easy, creamy pasta dish that’ll be ready in under an hour. The true beauty of this recipe is that we blend cottage cheese with garlicky sautéed tomatoes to make a creamy sauce that is out-of-this-world-DELICIOUS.
Whether you need a new recipe for busy weeknights or special occasions or are just plain hungry, this orzo pasta is sure to satisfy. What makes this orzo pasta recipe unique? It’s a veggie-forward pasta recipe made with bursting cherry tomatoes and zucchini. Oh, and we creamed it with whipped cottage cheese for extra protein!
The entire team seriously loved this pasta so much. We had fun filming the video too and all went back for seconds it’s so delicious.
What’s In Creamy Orzo Pasta
- Cherry tomatoes: these sweet, juicy tomatoes add a burst of flavor and color to the dish. They pair perfectly with the creamy sauce and add a nice texture.
- Cottage cheese: when blended with garlic and tomatoes, it creates a rich, creamy marinara sauce without the added calories from heavy cream.
- Tomato paste: this gets immediately mixed with the orzo, so you’ll want to make sure it’s evenly distributed. It adds a deeper tomato flavor and helps thicken the sauce.
- Orzo pasta: this small rice-shaped pasta is perfect for soaking up all the delicious flavors in the dish.
- Zucchini: we love the way chunks of zucchini add a bit of crunch and fresh flavor to the creamy pasta.
- Fresh basil: this herb gives the recipe its signature Italian taste. We recommend using fresh basil.
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Variations and Substitutions
This tomato orzo recipe is like a blank canvas that you can customize to your liking.
- Swap the cheese: For instance, if you’d rather use cream cheese or ricotta cheese instead of cottage cheese, go for it! Just note that the texture and flavor will slightly differ. You can also add or swap vegetables like bell peppers, spinach, or mushrooms for extra flavor.
- Make it vegetarian: If you want to make this dish vegetarian, simply use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. On the contrary, if you want to add some protein, try adding cooked chicken or shrimp to the dish to make it a complete entree.
- Herb it up: Lastly, if you’re not a fan of basil, feel free to experiment with other herbs like rosemary or thyme. You could also add them in addition to basil for a more herb-forward dish. Anything is fair game, really!
Tips for Creamy Orzo Pasta
- To make this recipe even quicker, you can use pre-cooked orzo. Just be sure to reduce the cooking time accordingly.
- Don’t skip the step of blending the cottage cheese, garlic, and tomatoes. This is what gives the dish its creamy texture.
- When you blend in step #3, be sure you blend the sauce until it is light and almost frothy. That will ensure that it doesn’t curdle.
Storage + Freezer Directions
Store any leftover creamy orzo pasta in an airtight container and store it in the fridge for up to 3 days.
We don’t recommend freezing this recipe, as it is cream-based and won’t keep its same texture or flavor.
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Creamy Tomato Orzo Pasta
- 3 tablespoons olive oil divided
- ¼ white onion minced
- 5 cloves garlic minced
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes halved
- 1 cup 2% or whole fat cottage cheese
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt separated
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1.25 cups orzo pasta
- 1 medium zucchini cubed (~2 cups)
- 1.5 cups chicken broth
- ¼ cup thinly sliced fresh basil
- Optional red pepper flakes
- Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil becomes fragrant, add the onion and cook for 2-3 minutes, the onions should be translucent.
- Add the paprika, 1.5 teaspoons of the salt, and pepper. Stir to combine.
- Add the garlic and tomatoes and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
- Transfer the tomato mixture to a blender. Add the cottage cheese and blend on high speed for 2-3 minutes. The sauce should be light and the cheese should be completely blended. Set aside.
- Next, add the remaining olive oil to the skillet. When the oil becomes fragrant add the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute.
- Add the orzo to the pan to toast for about 2 minutes.
- Add the zucchini, remaining salt, and chicken broth to the skillet. Stir and bring to a boil. Place the lid on the top and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 10-12 minutes. The orzo should be fully cooked and soft.
- Remove from the heat. Transfer the cottage cheese sauce to the pan and stir to combine. Allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.
- To serve add fresh basil and crushed red pepper flakes.
Tips & Notes
- Make this dish vegetarian by using vegetable broth
- Rosemary or thyme could be used in this recipe in place or in addition to the basil.
- When you blend in step #3 be sure you blend the sauce until it is light and almost frothy.
- That will ensure that it doesn’t curdle.
Photography: photos taken in this post are by Ashley McGlaughlin from The Edible Perspective.