In continuing with the comfort food train during this difficult time, this may just be the mother of all comfort foods. Yet after eating it, we were the perfect amount of full. (Heck, even if we weren’t, we’ve all been going to bed a little earlier just sheerly out of boredom right?)
If I’m being honest with myself, it does not take a trying time to make me reach for the pasta and parm. Being raised Italian, it is more of a way of life than a comfort reflex. Especially when springtime flavors such as artichoke hearts, fresh spinach and basil are involved.
In about 45 minutes total, you have a dish that is the perfect amount of savory without being overly rich, and creamy without being soupy. The best part? Many of these items are probably already sitting in your pantry, and it only takes one pan. Yes, ONE. PAN.
We have a winner, folks.
“There’s never a frown with golden brown…”
This recipe starts with getting your chicken nice and browned on both sides. The breasts we had in the freezer were quite large <insert Michael Scott quote here> and needed to be cut down into about thirds. Chicken thighs would also work wonderfully in this recipe (ususally my go-to,) and would probably not need to be cut down.
In a large sauté pan, I added approximately one tablespoon of olive oil to start on medium heat. It is impotant to note that the chicken will not be cooked all the way through but will finish cooking later in the orzo. After it was nicely browned, about four minutes on each side, I set mine aside on a plate in the microwave.
As mentioned previously, the same sauté pan will be used for the entire recipe! After moving the chicken aside, I added another tablespoon of olive oil and the chopped onion. I used a sweet onion we had laying around, but white or vidalia onions, and even shallots would also work great. Cooking right now has kind of become like that show Supermarket Stakeout, except it’s not some random person’s groceries, it’s your own pantry. The point being, work with what you’ve got! Sometimes it’s even more fun that way.
Once the onion was nice and soft, about five minutes, I added the garlic, which we kept a little larger for this particular recipe, but minced would work jussstt fine. Next came the butter, artichoke hearts cut into quarters, and uncooked orzo before adding the salt, pepper and oregano. This allows the orzo to toast for a few minutes before adding the liquids, giving it even more flavor.
One of my favorite parts of this recipe is that the orzo cooks right in the pan in the chicken or veggie stock, and does not have to be boiled seperately! I used Delallo Italian orzo, which also makes a wonderful gluten-free option.
After about two minutes of toasting the orzo with the butter, garlic, onion, artichokes and seasoning, I added our homemade veggie stock as well as the half and half and lemon juice. Chicken stock and any other kind of milk or cream (even unsweetened coconut milk!) can easily be substituted. Next, the spinach (or kale) can be stirred in by the handful.
Now it was time to reintroduce the chicken, adding it back to the pan and nestling it in the orzo so that it could continue cooking properly. I covered the pan, leaving on medium heat, and let cook for another 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until all the liquid was absorbed, but still a bit creamy.
Once all the liquid was absorbed but before it got too dry, I stirred in the parmesan cheese, parsley, basil and a bit more pepper before removing from the stove top.
For the finishing touches, I garnished with a bit more parmesan cheese (naturally) and the leftover minced parsley. We enjoyed this meal with some garlic bread, but a salad would also be a perfect, lighter accompaniment. Pour a glass of wine, put on your favorite show, and enjoy!
Suggested substitutions for what you may already have instead:
- chicken breasts | chicken thighs, salmon, or no protein at all
- sweet onion | white or vidalia onion, or shallots
- artichoke hearts | zucchini, squash or sauteed mushrooms
- fresh spinach | frozen spinach or kale
- orzo | gluten-free orzo or rice
- half and half | milk, heavy whipping cream, or unsweetened coconut milk
- veggie or chicken stock
- basil + parsley | thyme or oregano
Lemony, Buttery, Garlicky Artichoke + Spinach Orzo
- stove top
- sauté pan
- 3 large chicken breasts or 6 chicken thighs (optional)
- 1 tbsp all purpose seasoning
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter
- 6 cloves chopped garlic (or 2 tbsp)
- 1 large sweet or white onion chopped
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp black pepper
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 1 1/2 cups uncooked orzo pasta
- 3 cups chicken or veggie stock
- 1 cup half and half
- 3 cups fresh spinach
- 8 ounce jar artichoke hearts halved or quartered
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1-2 tbsp chopped parsley (optional)
- 1-2 tbsp chiffonade sweet basil (optional)
- Cut chicken breasts into cutlets (or into about thirds) and sprinkle with all purpose seasoning on both sides. If using thighs, you do not need to make them smaller unless desired.
- In a large sauté pan, heat approximately 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add in chicken and sear on each side until a nice golden brown. Remove from pan and set aside. *Note: Chicken will not be cooked all the way but will continue cooking later.
- Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in same pan over medium heat. Add in chopped onion and sauté until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes, stirring often.
- Stir in butter, minced garlic, cut artichoke hearts, uncooked orzo, salt, pepper and oregano. Cook for an additional 1-2 minutes to toast the orzo slightly.
- Stir in chicken or veggie stock, half and half and lemon juice.
- Gently stir in spinach by the handful.
- Place chicken back into pan, nestling it into the orzo.
- Cover pan and cook for 25 minutes over medium heat or until all liquid is absorbed and chicken is cooked through, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in parmesan cheese, basil, parsley and any additional seasoning if desired.
- Remove from heat and garnish with any additonal parmesan, basil or parsley.
- Serve with garlic bread or salad and enjoy.