Zucchini Lemon Orzo

I stumbled into making this easy orzo recipe when I had half a box of orzo in the pantry. It ended up being one of my favorite meals of the summer!

Zucchini Lemon Orzo Recipe

You know those days when you feel like there’s nothing in the fridge, but then suddenly you’re able to rally enough ingredients to pull together a great meal? You feel accomplished, creative, and oh-so resourceful. The best feeling! Well, this orzo pasta isn’t that recipe. This is the recipe that I came up with the night after.

Normally when the fridge is empty and I haven’t gone shopping, we would go out to eat. But it was late – I didn’t want to go out and I definitely wasn’t up for a trip to the grocery store, so I started poking around in the pantry and found a lot more than I expected. And what came out of it may be my favorite dinner from the whole summer.

Zucchini Lemon Orzo Recipe

There was a half box of orzo, pine nuts, some bread crumbs, and my favorite dried herbs of the moment – herbs de Provence. In the lonely vegetable drawer there was a shallot, a lemon, garlic, some feta cheese, and waaay back there was a giant eggplant (yay! a vegetable!). My mom’s basil and mint plants were blooming away outside, so I added handfuls of each to freshen up this pantry-based meal.

What is Orzo?

The results were delicious, but before I get carried away, I know some of you must be asking, what is orzo? It may look like rice, but orzo is actually a short-cut, rice-shaped pasta. Most orzo is made with white flour, but if you’re lucky, you may be able to find a box of whole wheat orzo at your grocery store. Either would be excellent in this recipe.

Orzo Pasta Recipe ingredients

Why I Love This Orzo Recipe

When summer rolls around, I want to eat ALL the veggies, especially living in Chicago, where we don’t have access to fresh local produce all year round. Luckily, the grilled zucchini and eggplant are surprisingly substantial in this vegetarian pasta. They’re so substantial, that there’s only a small amount of pasta in the recipe. The lemon and feta really highlight them, making the dish rich and tangy. The pine nuts and bread crumbs add a nice crunch in contrast to the soft textures in the rest of the dish.

Orzo Recipe Variations

The first night I made this, I flaked some salmon into the pasta (it’s what I had on hand), but for the final dish that’s pictured here (after a trip to the store), I used zucchini instead (if you’re not vegetarian, you could even try grilled chicken). There are a number of other variations worth making. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Use grated Parmesan cheese in place of the feta.
  • Substitute toasted walnuts for the pine nuts.
  • Toss the orzo with a bit of pesto.
  • Add other veggies – roasted red peppers or cherry tomatoes would be excellent.
  • Skip the cheese to make it vegan, and add roasted chickpeas or a few capers.

Let me know what variations you try in the comments. My family really loved this recipe, and I hope yours does to!

Lemon Orzo Pasta

Looking for more orzo recipes?

Try this salad or this rainbow chard bowl!

5.0 from 15 reviews

Zucchini Lemon Orzo

Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This easy orzo pasta recipe is a healthy summer dinner. Lemon & lots of herbs fill it with fresh flavor!
Recipe type: Main dish
Serves: 4
  • ½ cup dry uncooked orzo
  • ½ cup finely diced scallions or 1 small shallot (1/4 cup)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, more for drizzling
  • 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon herbs de Provence
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon, plus 4 small wedges for serving
  • 2 medium Italian eggplants, sliced into ½-inch rounds
  • 2 small zucchini, sliced in half lengthwise
  • ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 cups loose-packed fresh herbs - basil & mint, torn if leaves are big
  • ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons panko bread crumbs
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt, divided, plus more to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  1. In the bottom of a large bowl, combine the scallions, garlic, olive oil, sherry vinegar, herbs de Provence and ¼ teaspoon of salt.
  2. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare the pasta according to the instructions on the package, cooking until al dente. Drain and immediately add the hot orzo to the bowl. Stir in the lemon zest and set aside.
  3. Preheat a grill to high heat.
  4. Drizzle the eggplant and zucchini with olive oil on all sides, and sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of pepper.
  5. Grill the eggplant for 4 to 5 minutes per side, or until tender and charred, and the zucchini for 4 minutes per side, or until nice char marks form. Let cool slightly, then chop and add to the large bowl. Add the lemon juice and toss. Stir in the feta, herbs, and pine nuts, reserving a bit of each for garnish. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  6. Portion into 4 serving bowls and top with the breadcrumbs and remaining feta, herbs and pine nuts. Serve with lemon wedges on the side.



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Rate this recipe (after making it):  

  1. BarbG

    If you wanted to do this gluten free what would suggest instead of the orzo?

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Barb, I would just use the smallest shape of gluten free pasta you can find.

  2. Mara

    Thankyou for great recipe
    What I did though was coat eghplant/zucchini in breadcrumbs 1st ugh! Good though 😘

  3. Susan

    This a delicious dish to serve with grilled fish. Loved it!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Susan, I’m so happy to hear that you loved it! xo

  4. Gil

    It was delicious. Oregano is a very powerful herb and we felt somewhat like we’d eaten the pharmacy. Next time I’ll add parsley in a pesto type ratio. May keep the mint or not.

  5. Susan

    This does sound delightful. I like the idea of putting salmon in it, or using it as a side for a grilled pork chop or steak.

  6. Allyn Rosenberger

    Could you roast the eggplant and zucchini instead? If so, for how long would you suggest? Thanks!! Can’t wait to try!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      You could – I would chop them into 1″ pieces, arrange on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast at 400 for maybe 20-25 minutes? Take them out when the vegetables are lightly charred on the edges, but before the zucchini is mushy.

      Hope that helps! I also often use a cast iron grill pan on my stove if I’m not using an outdoor grill!

      • Allyn Rosenberger

        Amazing – thank you! I will give it a try!

  7. I need to start cooking more… got to used to eating fast food! 🙁

  8. Lexi @Lexi'scleankitchen

    Love the flavors in this! Such a perfect Summer dish! You had me at herbs de Provence and lemon!

  9. Maria from almostproperly.com

    I didn’t realize eggplant was a summer produce item until this summer!! I’m embarrassed to say:/ But I love it and this is a great way to incorporate it! Will be making soon for sure!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I hope you give it a try – I just love eggplant!

  10. Erin from wellplated.com

    I can see why this meal ended up as a new favorite!

  11. Maria

    Love the colors in this one!

  12. I absolutely love orzo, and this meal looks so satisfying! Can’t wait to try it out 🙂

  13. Kirsti

    Yum! I actually make something similar all the time because the fiancé and I can’t get enough of it. That said, I’d still love to try your version this week! 😉

  14. What a great pantry meal, so many of my favorite ingredients. And yes I totally know those days when it feels like there’s nothing in the fridge. Love the idea to add in flaked salmon too.

  15. Mrs E

    I think the Orzo cooking/combining instructions got skipped, otherwise recipe looks lovely!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      fixed now! sorry!

  16. Susan welch

    What about the orzo?????

    • Kat

      Wondering that myself!

      • Jeanine Donofrio

        fixed now! sorry!

    • Beverley

      It’s there. The orzo (pasta) after being cooked is added into the herbs from step 1 which is later incorporated into the charred vegetable.

A food blog with fresh, zesty recipes.
Photograph of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews in their kitchen

Hello, we're Jeanine and Jack.

We love to eat, travel, cook, and eat some more! We create & photograph vegetarian recipes from our home in Chicago, while our shiba pups eat the kale stems that fall on the kitchen floor.