Cheesy Kale Orzo With Herbed Bread Crumbs

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Orzo pasta is awesome because it’s so flexible. You can cook it just like regular pasta, use it instead of rice, or even make it like risotto. In this recipe for cheesy kale orzo, we’re going with the creamy risotto method, then adding crunchy herbed bread crumbs on top for extra yumminess. The cool thing about this method is that the orzo soaks up all the cheesy sauce, so you get a lot of creamy goodness in every bite.

To make this dish, we start by toasting the bread crumbs in the pot until they’re golden and crispy. Then we mix in some tasty stuff like garlic, lemon, and parsley. After that, it’s time to cook the orzo and kale. With risotto-style orzo, you toast the orzo first, then add all the liquid at once. It might seem like a lot of liquid, but the orzo absorbs it while thickening into a saucy delight. Like risotto, you stir the orzo, but not constantly.

Once the orzo is cooked and the sauce is thick, add the kale and Parmesan. When the kale turns bright green and wilts, it’s ready to serve. Dish up hot bowls of orzo and sprinkle the bread crumbs on top, along with a little extra Parmesan for good measure.

Cheesy Kale Orzo With Herbed Bread Crumbs

Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Course Main Course
Servings 6


  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter divided
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 4 cloves garlic finely chopped, divided
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest plus lemon wedges for serving
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound dried orzo about 2 1/2 cups
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 4 cups packed chopped curly or Tuscan kale leaves
  • 3/4 cup finely shredded Parmesan plus more for serving


  • In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot over medium heat, melt 3 tablespoons butter. Add panko and cook, stirring frequently, until toasted, about 4 minutes. Add one-quarter of garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Put the bread crumb mixture into a bowl and mix in parsley and lemon zest; season with salt and pepper.
  • Wipe out the pot and return it to medium heat. Cook orzo and remaining garlic and 2 tablespoons butter, stirring occasionally, until orzo is lightly toasted and garlic is fragrant, about 4 minutes. Add broth, milk, and 1 cup water; season with salt and pepper. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring frequently and adding more water by the tablespoon if the liquid is thickening too fast, until the liquid is mostly absorbed and orzo is tender, 10 to 12 minutes.
  • Add kale and Parmesan and stir until kale is wilted and cheese is combined and melted, about 2 minutes; season with salt and pepper.
  • Divide orzo mixture among plates. Top with bread crumbs and more Parmesan. Serve with lemon wedges alongside.

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