A quick and comforting beef and spinach orzo makes for a perfect weeknight dinner option.
This hearty, healthy pasta recipe loads up on lean ground beef and mushrooms. The finishing touch of chopped spinach makes this a well-balanced, comforting dinner.
I’ve made this sauce several times in the past couple of weeks. It’s incredibly easy to make and still has a nice depth despite being so easy to whip up.
I love chopping up the spinach before adding it to the sauce. You can leave the spinach leaves whole if you don’t want to fuss with chopping them. I just prefer the spinach chopped from a texture perspective, but do whatever works for you!
How to make this beef and spinach orzo:
I love how quickly the sauce comes together. You only need to prep a few fresh ingredients: mushrooms, an onion, garlic, and spinach if you decide to chop it up. Beyond that, everything is a breeze to throw together.
What you need
- Ground beef: I recommend lean ground beef, but if you like it a bit richer, try it with 80/20. I use 90/10. You could even use ground chicken or pork instead.
- Mushrooms: I use plain cremini mushrooms, but any variety will work in the sauce. You could try it with a wild mushroom blend too!
- Aromatics: I keep it simple with onion and garlic, but try this with leeks or shallots for a slightly different flavor.
- Tomatoes: I use tomato paste and crushed tomatoes in this. You can use diced tomatoes, but you may want to strain off some of the excess water from the diced tomatoes first.
- Orzo: I’ve been loving whole wheat pasta, especially whole wheat orzo. If you prefer the standard durum semolina pasta, go with that. Or, if you love protein-rich pasta like lentil or chickpea pasta, that would also be fun! I recommend a short pasta. If you don’t have orzo, try it with fusilli, rigatoni, mezzi rigatoni, or orecchiette.
- Baby spinach: I add chopped baby spinach at the very end of cooking, but any green amenable to wilting will work here. Chopped kale, Swiss chard, or even arugula would be nice.
- Fresh basil: I finish with fresh basil leaves, but chopped parsley would be nice too!
How to make it
- Step 1: Brown the beef! I season it simply with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper. If you have an Italian seasoning blend that you love, add a few generous shakes here!
- Step 2: Cook up those mushrooms! Spend the time to get them nice and brown to get the most flavor out of them.
- Step 3: Fry the aromatics and then add the tomato paste.
- Step 4: From there, add a little water and canned tomatoes and return the beef and mushrooms to the pot. Let it simmer as you cook the orzo.
- Step 5: Finish it up! Throw in the baby spinach, add the cooked orzo, and toss it all together.
I like to pile the orzo on a big serving platter and scatter lots of basil on top. I finish with a small drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. If you love Parmesan cheese, it’s never a bad idea to finish with lots of finely grated Parmesan on top, but I probably don’t have to tell you that!
Let me know what you think of this recipe by dropping me a line in the comments below!
Beef and Spinach Orzo
- Large pot
- 1 pound ground beef, 90/10
- 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, trimmed, wiped clean, and sliced
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
- 1 yellow onion, peeled and diced
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- ¼ cup water, plus more if needed
- 2 14.5- ounce cans crushed tomatoes
- Pinch of sugar
- Crushed red pepper to taste
- 4 ounces baby spinach, finely chopped
- 2 cups dry orzo
- 10-12 basil leaves, for garnish
- Salt and pepper
Brown the beef:
- Place a wide pot over medium heat. Once hot, add the beef and cook, breaking it up as it cooks, for 15 minutes. Add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil if the beef is very lean. Season well with salt, pepper, and a big pinch of crushed red pepper. Once the beef is cooked through, transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
Cook the mushrooms:
- Add the mushrooms to the skillet and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes until they release their liquid and the liquid evaporates.
- Once the mushrooms are dry and turn light golden brown, add a pinch of salt and 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil. Fry the mushrooms in the oil for 1–2 minutes until deep golden brown. Transfer the mushrooms to the plate with the ground beef.
Cook the aromatics:
- Add the diced onion to the pot and cook, turning regularly, for 5–7 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute until fragrant.
Brown the tomato paste:
- Add the tomato paste to the skillet and use your spoon to mash it into the vegetables. Cook for 2–3 minutes until the paste deepens in color and begins to stick to the bottom of the pot.
- Pour in the water and bring to a boil. Stir to form a thick tomatoey slurry and lift anything stuck to the bottom of the pot.
Simmer the sauce:
- Add the canned tomatoes, a pinch of sugar, and a pinch of crushed red pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and add the ground beef and mushrooms. Taste and add salt and pepper. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes or until the sauce thickens. Add water if the sauce evaporates too quickly. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Cook the orzo:
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a big pinch of salt and the orzo. Stir as you add the orzo to the water to prevent it from clumping. Cook according to package instructions, about 7–8 minutes for al dente. Scoop out ½ cup of the water and then drain the orzo.
Finish the sauce:
- Taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings. Add the chopped spinach and simmer for 3–4 minutes until wilted.
Sauce the orzo:
- Add the cooked orzo to the pot and half the reserved pasta water. Stir to coat the orzo, adding the remaining pasta water if needed. Cook for 1–2 minutes or until the orzo is nicely coated. Taste and season one final time. Turn off the heat.
- Spoon the orzo into a large serving platter. Scatter fresh basil leaves on top. Finish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Enjoy!