This orzo skillet can be adapted to whatever’s in your kitchen

Ellie Krieger

THE WASHINGTON POST – In the kitchen, as in other realms, a reliable formula can feel like a lifeline, providing a needed semblance of order and predictability to the world.

You plug variables into a tried-and-true pattern and you wind up with consistently good results.

That’s what this orzo skillet dinner has been for me for years, a trail guide for a tasty, healthful, one-pan meal that is adaptable to the ingredients I have on hand. I can’t image a time when it’s needed more.

The dish pivots around the orzo. If you have that, you can riff on the rest using the basic framework that follows. (I use whole-grain orzo, but regular works perfectly, too. Other small pasta shapes or grains such as rice would also be likely to work, but the cook time and liquid needed for those would probably differ.)

First, heat an allium in oil – here I use an onion, but you could opt for leeks, shallots, garlic, scallions or a combination of those.

Orzo skillet with salmon, peas, dill and feta. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST

Add the orzo to the skillet and stir to coat it in the oil and toast it lightly, then add water and/or broth and simmer until the pasta is about halfway cooked.

Toss in a few cups of tender vegetables and herbs – for this iteration I used peas, spinach and dill, but grape tomatoes, chopped asparagus, green beans, kale, Swiss chard or even frozen vegetables would work, as would any fresh, tender herb or, instead, a teaspoon or two of dried herbs.

A squeeze of lemon juice adds a bright acidity, but a splash of vinegar, lime or orange works, too.

Then comes the seafood – my usual is chunks of salmon – but any firm, fresh fish fillet would work, as would shrimp, scallops or even flakes of canned salmon or tuna.

To make the dish vegetarian, you could add a drained can of beans instead.

A finishing sprinkle of briny feta on top makes the dish for me, but you could substitute soft goat cheese, or go for some sliced olives or capers to add a salty punch instead.

This recipe is fulfilling and packed with fresh spring flavours as written, but I hope you see it as a template to accommodate a range of ingredients. Just make sure to pick up some orzo next time you are at the store.


30 minutes

Four to six servings

This healthful, one-pan meal is brimming with tender green vegetables and chunks of fresh salmon, all cooked along with the orzo pasta they are nestled in. The dish is lemony and herbaceous and is dreamy with a briny sprinkle of feta cheese melted in at the end, for a fast, fresh and fulfilling meal.


Two tablespoons olive oil

One small yellow onion, diced

One and a half cups whole-grain orzo

One cup low-sodium chicken broth

One and a quarter cups water, or more as needed

Half teaspoon kosher salt, divided

Two cups, lightly packed, chopped fresh spinach leaves

One cup peas, fresh or frozen

Three tablespoons chopped fresh dill

Three tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Quarter teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

One and a half pounds skinless salmon fillet, cut into one-inch chunks

Half cup crumbled feta cheese


In a large, deep skillet with a lid, heat the oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until softened, about three minutes. Add the orzo and cook, stirring, for two minutes more. Add the broth, water and quarter teaspoon salt and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer, stirring once or twice, until the orzo is about halfway cooked, about five minutes.

Stir in the spinach, peas, dill, lemon juice, the remaining quarter teaspoon salt and the pepper and cook until the spinach is just wilted, one to two minutes. Nestle the fish into the orzo, then cover and cook, stirring once or twice, until the fish is cooked on the outside but still quite rare inside, three to four minutes.

Add one to two tablespoons water to the pan if it seems dry.

Sprinkle the feta over the top, cover and continue to cook until the cheese softens and the fish is cooked to your liking, two to four minutes more. Serve right away.


Based on six servings – Calories: 563; Total Fat: 32g; Saturated Fat: 6g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 389mg; Carbohydrates: 38g; Dietary Fibre: 9g; Sugars: 3g; Protein: 31g.