This easy one-skillet chicken and spinach orzotto is a delicious weeknight meal that the whole family will love! Orzotto is a variation of risotto made with orzo pasta instead of rice, and it’s quick and easy to make. Chicken and spinach are the perfect protein and veggie combo for this dish. You’ll love how simple yet flavorful this dish is!
The lemon juice and zest bring the perfect amount of fresh, bright flavor, and the feta cheese at the end adds a zing of flavor with its salty, tangy, creamy taste and texture.
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Orzo, also known as risoni, is simply pasta shaped like a large grain of rice or barley. In fact, the word orzo is the Italian word for barley. Orzo is traditionally made from flour from durum wheat.
Why this recipe works
You will love this spinach chicken with orzo pasta for many reasons.
- Full meal – It contains protein, carbs, and nutritious leafy greens.
- One pot – Everything is cooked in just one pan, so cleanup is a breeze!
- Easy variations – You can easily add or substitute the veggies to adjust the flavor to your liking or what you have.
- Chicken thighs – Many people prefer chicken breasts to thighs, but I think thighs work best for this recipe. They’re flavorful, just as tender and juicy as a chicken breast. In addition, they cook quickly, making them ideal for this dish.
- Orzo – This short-cut pasta is perfect for this dish. It cooks quickly and is excellent at absorbing flavors of whatever it’s cooking in.
Ingredients to use for this recipe
- Chicken thighs
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Orzo pasta
- Chicken broth
- Dry white wine
- Fresh spinach
- Lemon juice & zest
- Greek Feta cheese
- Sea salt & freshly ground pepper
How to make the Chicken and Spinach Orzotto
Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper.
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet.
Add the chicken to the pan and sear for 2-3 minutes per side. Remove the chicken to a plate, cover, and set aside.
To the same skillet, add the remaining olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes or until the onion becomes translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.
Add the orzo to the pan, and sauté it, stirring for another minute or two until it becomes lightly browned,
Carefully add wine to deglaze the skillet. Continue cooking for 2-3 minutes or until the wine reduces by half.
Add the chicken broth, lemon juice, and zest, and bring to a steady simmer.
Place the chicken and any accumulated juices on top of the orzo.
Cover with a lid and cook for about 20 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Test the chicken using an instant-read thermometer. The internal temperature of the chicken thighs should be 170°F.
Add spinach and continue for 1-2 minutes or until the spinach wilts.
Add in the half and half and stir well until the orzo becomes very creamy.
Sprinkle with fresh parsley and crumbled feta, and serve.
Variations of this Dish
- Orzo Pasta Substitution: If you can’t find orzo pasta, you can use any short-cut pasta, like ditalini or orecchiette, or white rice. You may need to adjust the cooking time and the amount of liquid to create the same consistency.
- Use chicken breast instead of chicken thighs, if desired. Butterfly chicken breasts or pound three medium-size chicken breasts to 1-inch thickness before cooking.
- Change up the greens by using collard greens, beet greens, radish greens, or even the leaves of carrot tops in place of the spinach or kale. Add more or fewer greens, as desired.
- Switch up the cheese. Change up the cheese using parmesan, pecorino romano, or even goat cheese.
- Add sundried tomatoes or mushrooms to the orzo while it cooks.
Notes and Cooking Tips
The fresh lemon zest adds a pop of flavor and aroma to this dish. Use a lemon zester to zest fresh lemon. Adjust the quantity of lemon zest to your preferences by adding more or less to the pan.
Test the chicken doneness using an instant-read thermometer. The internal temperature of the chicken thighs should be 170°F. See this page for more details on safe internal temperatures for cooked chicken.
If you don’t have chicken broth, use vegetable stock or water. The chicken or vegetable broth adds more flavor and nutrition to the dish.
Sautéing the orzo helps create a great nutty flavor in the orzo pasta, which compliments the rest of the flavors. Do not skip this step!
Using half and half instead of heavy cream, which many other recipes recommend, add richness and creaminess to the dish while keeping it on the lighter side.
We do NOT recommend using frozen spinach in this lemon chicken orzo pasta because it retains too much water.
Half-and-half is a combination of half milk and half cream. In the UK and Europe, it might be referred to as “light cream” or “half cream.” You may find fat-free half-and-half in the market, but we do not recommend using it in this recipe, as it is made from skim milk, corn syrup, and a thickener. (source The Spruce Eats).
Make-ahead tips and Storing leftovers
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Freeze for up to 3 months.
More one-skillet and sheet-pan recipes
Sheet-pan, one pot, and one skillet recipes are ideal for weeknight dinners. Here are some more ideas for you to try:
- One-Skillet Lemon Chicken with Summer Squash
- Sheet Pan Lemon Roasted Chicken Thighs with Vegetables
- Roasted Salmon with Fennel, Tomatoes, and Potatoes
- Baked Cod with Asparagus and Potatoes
- Sheet-Pan Boneless Pork Chops With Broccoli
One-skillet Chicken and Spinach Orzotto
- 4 chicken thighs skinless and boneless
- 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil divided
- 1 medium onion dicewd
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 cup orzo pasta
- ½ cup dry white wine (or chicken broth)
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 4 cups baby spinach
- ½ lemon juiced
- ½ tsp lemon zest
- ½ cup half and half
- 3 oz Greek Feta cheese crumbled
- ½ cup fresh parsley chopped
- Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper.
- Heat one tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet.
- Add the chicken to the pan and sear for 2-3 minutes per side. Remove the chicken to a plate, cover, and set aside.
- To the same skillet, add the remaining olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes or until the onion becomes translucent. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute.
- Add the orzo to the pan, and sauté it, stirring for another minute or two until it becomes lightly browned,
- Carefully add wine to deglaze the skillet. Continue cooking for 2-3 minutes or until the wine reduces by half.
- Add the chicken broth, lemon juice, and zest, and bring to a steady simmer.
- Place the chicken and any accumulated juices on top of the orzo.
- Cover with a lid and cook for about 15-20 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Test the chicken using an instant-read thermometer. The internal temperature of the chicken thighs should be 170°F.
- Add spinach and continue for 1-2 minutes or until the spinach wilts.
- Add in the half and half and stir well until the orzo becomes very creamy.
- Sprinkle with fresh parsley and crumbled feta, and serve.
This information is provided as a courtesy and for entertainment purposes only. This information comes from online calculators. Although eatmediterraneanfood.com attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.
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