Charred Broccoli and Chicken Orzo

Charred Broccoli and Chicken Orzo

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This cheesy charred broccoli and chicken orzo is an easy, cacio-e-pepe-adjacent pasta recipe you’ll love on a weeknight. It’s peppery and cheesy and has a touch of brininess from capers.

I could probably eat some version of ground chicken and pasta at least once a week…maybe five times a week. It’s one of my favorite quick, nutritious weeknight dinner combinations.

orzo with broccoli and chicken

How to make this charred broccoli and chicken orzo

In this version, I fry chicken with lots of Italian seasoning, garlic powder, crushed red pepper, capers, and diced onion. It creates a fragrant, lightly spicy, briny base to the sauce.

What you need

  • Ground chicken: You can use your favorite ground protein here, like ground beef, pork, or turkey.
  • Spices: I use Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and crushed red pepper.
  • Capers: If you don’t have capers, you can skip them or chop up a few black or green olives. One or two anchovy fillets would also be delicious mashed into the sauce.
  • Dijon mustard: This adds a nice little mustardy bite to the sauce.
  • Broccoli: I use fresh broccoli florets, but you can use baby broccoli too!
  • Romano and Parmesan cheese: You can use all Romano or all Parmesan cheese. I used Romano cheese because I had a bunch leftover from My Grandma’s West Virginia Meatball Recipe. Romano cheese differs slightly from Pecorino Romano. Italian Pecorino Romano is made with sheep’s milk, but in the US, it’s typically made with cow’s milk and sold as just Romano cheese. Romano cheese is a bit milder and less salty than Pecorino Romano, so you can decide based on your taste preference.
  • Black pepper: This recipe is not attempting to be a cacio e pepe dish, but it does borrow the cheesy, peppery flavors. I use lots of freshly cracked black pepper for a nice bite.
  • Whole wheat orzo: I’ve mentioned that I’ve been a fan of whole wheat pasta lately, but you can use white pasta, too. Orzo, ditalini, or any small pasta shape will work here. Even Farfalle would be fun!
  • Finishing touches: I finish the pasta with a touch of lemon juice and fresh basil to give it a bright, herby finish.

How to make it

  • Step 1: Start with the chicken. Fry it in a little oil with all the seasonings, then add the onion and capers. Add chicken broth and Dijon mustard, and let the chicken simmer in the sauce as you prepare the broccoli and pasta.
  • Step 2: Roast the broccoli. Because you’ll be folding the broccoli into the hot pasta at the very end, you don’t want to roast it too long at this stage. Go until it’s bright green and a bit charred around the edges. You need just 9–10 minutes in the oven to start.
  • Step 3: Make the cheese mixture and cook the orzo. Combine the cheese with lots of black pepper in a small bowl. Reserve a pinch or two for garnish. Once the orzo finishes cooking, reserve some of the pasta water and drain it.
  • Step 4: Make the cheese sauce. Whisk in half the hot water to the cheese mixture and whisk until smooth.
  • Step 5: Toss the cooked orzo with the ground chicken and add the basil. Add the cheese mixture and lemon juice and toss to combine.
charred broccoli pasta
  • Step 6: Add the broccoli. Finish with the broccoli and toss until it just warms through. Turn off the heat and transfer to a serving platter.

From there, you’re ready to serve! Scatter more basil on top and sprinkle the reserved cheese mixture over the dish.

Broccoli chicken orzo recipe

I hope you loved this recipe as much as I did! If you make it, please rate the recipe and comment below to let me know how it turns out. I’d love to hear from you.

ground chicken orzo recipe

Charred Broccoli and Chicken Orzo

This cheesy charred broccoli and chicken orzo is an easy, cacio-e-pepe-adjacent pasta recipe you'll love on a weeknight.
5 from 3 votes
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Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Inactive time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 614kcal



  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • Crushed red pepper to taste
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 tablespoon capers, drained
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 pound broccoli, cut into florets
  • ½ cup grated Romano cheese
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 8 ounces dry orzo
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 12–15 basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • Salt and pepper


Cook the chicken:

  • Preheat oven to 450ºF.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil in a wide pot over medium heat. Add the chicken and season with salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and a pinch of crushed red pepper to taste. Cook for 12–15 minutes, breaking it up with a spoon until cooked through.

Prepare the sauce:

  • Add the onion and capers to the chicken. Cook for 5 minutes until the onions begin to soften.
  • Pour in the chicken stock and Dijon mustard. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20–25 minutes or until the sauce reduces by half. Taste and season.

Roast the broccoli:

  • Toss the broccoli with 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil on a baking sheet. Add salt, pepper, and a pinch of crushed red pepper. Arrange the broccoli into an even layer and transfer to the oven for 10 minutes, until the broccoli begins to char around the edges. Do not overcook! Remove from the oven and set aside.

Prepare the cheese mixture:

  • Combine the Romano, Parmesan, and black pepper in a bowl. Pick a pinch of cheese from the bowl and transfer it to a small bowl for garnish.

Boil the orzo:

  • Bring a pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add the orzo and cook until 2 minutes under al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain the orzo.

Finish the sauce:

  • Add ½ cup of the pasta water to the cheese. Whisk until smooth.

Finish the pasta:

  • Add the cooked orzo to the chicken and toss to coat. Simmer for 2–3 minutes. Add the chopped basil to the pot and stir to combine. Finish with the cheese mixture and lemon juice. Stir until the pasta is well-coated, adding more pasta cooking water as needed. Add the broccoli and simmer for 1–2 minutes. Taste and season. Turn off the heat.

To serve:

  • Spoon the orzo onto a platter and garnish with more basil leaves and the reserved grated cheese. Enjoy!


Calories: 614kcal | Carbohydrates: 58g | Protein: 41g | Fat: 25g | Sodium: 585mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin C: 104mg
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