Meatballs and Orzo (ONE Pot!)

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You’ll use just one pot to make this irresistibly delicious Meatballs and Orzo dinner, complete with one-ingredient “meatballs” and luxuriously creamy Italian-seasoned orzo. 

Overhead image of the Meatballs and Orzo

Meatballs and Orzo is part of our Back-To-School Lifesavers — a series of recipes that are intended to have little (or no) veggie chopping, minimal prep time, around 10 ingredients, or less (not including pantry staples), and use kid-friendly ingredients. Click here to see all the recipes in the series!

Meatballs and Orzo

This Creamy Orzo (along with this Chicken Orzo and Creamy Pesto Orzo) are all on frequent rotation at my home — we have one of these creamy orzo dishes at least every other week. They’re easy to make and every member of the family loves them! Plus I’m always excited to “sneak” more veggies onto my kiddos’ plates.

So after recently perfecting and sharing this one-pot Meatballs and Rice, I had the idea to combine the two meals — joining the “meatballs” with the creamy orzo. The result? A huge dinner winner! I can’t wait to hear what you think of this recipe!

Process shots-- images of the onion, sausage, peas, and garlic being cooked

One Ingredient Meatballs

When you think of meatballs, you may think you’ve got an investment of time ahead. But not with this recipe! In true “back-to-school lifesaver” form, the “meatballs” in this recipe need only one ingredient with no rolling or shaping required.

The one ingredient? Italian sausage. We’ll slice the sausage into small coins and there you have it  — “meatballs” in a hurry!

  • Depending on personal preference, use mild or spicy sausage — either works. (When making this for my kids, we use mild.)
  • Make sure to get Italian sausages with casings (as opposed to ground Italian sausage) so the sausages can be cut into the mini “meatballs.”  If you do get the ground sausage, you could remove it in one large piece and cut into squares.
  • Before cutting the sausage, remove the casings

Process shots of Meatballs and Orzo-- images of the gravy mixture being made

SHORTCUTS

Meatballs and Orzo Shortcuts

Besides using sausage for our meatballs, here are a few other shortcuts to use:

  • High-quality, flavorful chicken stock adds tons of flavor while allowing us to cut down on adding more spices. We highly recommend Swanson’s® chicken stock in this recipe.
  • Use pre-minced garlic (or fresh garlic and a garlic press).
  • Most grocery stores sell diced yellow onions in the produce section of the store. Or, use a food processor to quickly chop an onion.
  • We’re using frozen veggies (peas) that don’t require any prep at all!

Process shots-- images of the milk, pasta, seasonings, and cooked sausage being added to the pot

What’s Orzo?

As mentioned, we use orzo pasta in this Meatballs and Orzo recipe. If you aren’t familiar, orzo is a type of short-cut pasta that looks like large grains of rice. And for some reason kids think it’s extra special….so using it in a meal almost guarantees success!

You can find orzo in the pasta aisle of most grocery stores. And we don’t use the entire box in this recipe, so you the leftovers in one of these tasty recipes: Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup or this Italian Sausage Orzo Soup!

QUICK TIP

I would not recommend any substitutes for orzo pasta in this recipe. The orzo takes on a risotto-type creamy consistency that is not well duplicated with different (larger) pasta. Also, it’s a common misconception that rice and orzo can be interchanged, but they are different and won’t cook the same in this recipe. Orzo may look like rice, but it’s still pasta and cooks much faster than rice.

Process shots of Meatballs and Orzo-- images of the Parmesan cheese being added

How To Make Meatballs and Orzo (Tips)

  • Prep everything before you start cooking. This is a dish where the cooking goes pretty quickly so you want to make sure to have everything ready to go before starting.
  • Don’t be stingy with the seasonings. This dish doesn’t have a whole lot of seasoning because it’s relying on the chicken stock (which has plenty of seasonings already), the seasoned sausage, and Parmesan cheese. Don’t be afraid to add more salt and pepper!
  • Use whole milk. While 1% or 2% milk will work, I highly recommend whole milk in this recipe. I do not recommend skim milk or a dairy milk alternative. This is a creamy recipe, and the lower-fat choices just don’t achieve that texture.

Up-close overhead image of the dinner in the pot

QUICK TIP

Use the right Parmesan cheese! Finely grated Parmesan (off a block) is what we’re looking for in this recipe. Parmesan from the can will be too salty and won’t melt into the sauce nicely. 

Serve One Of These Dishes On The Side:

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Meatballs and Orzo

5 from 2 votes
You'll use just one pot to make this irresistibly delicious Meatballs and Orzo dinner, complete with one-ingredient "meatballs" and creamy Italian-seasoned orzo. 
Print Recipe

Meatballs and Orzo

5 from 2 votes
You'll use just one pot to make this irresistibly delicious Meatballs and Orzo dinner, complete with one-ingredient "meatballs" and creamy Italian-seasoned orzo. 
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword Meatballs and Orzo
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4 -6 servings
Calories 616kcal
Author Chelsea Lords
Cost $9.12

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-1/2 cups finely diced yellow onion (1 large onion)
  • 19 ounces Italian sausage (Note 1)
  • Fine sea salt & pepper
  • 1 bag (12 oz.) frozen peas
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons each: unsalted butter and white flour
  • 2 cups chicken stock/broth
  • 2-1/4 cups whole milk (Note 2)
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon each: onion & garlic powder
  • 1-1/2 cups dry orzo pasta (Note 3)
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese freshly grated, divided (Note 4)
  • Optional: fresh parsley, lemon (for serving)

Instructions

  • PREP: This dish moves quickly; prep first! Start by measuring the milk and setting it aside (warmer milk = cooks faster). Dice onion (use food processor for quicker prep). Prepare sausage (Note 1).
  • ONION AND SAUSAGE: Heat 1-1/2 tbsp oil in a large nonstick pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, and sauté 3 minutes. Add prepared coined sausages and cook, stirring/flipping only occasionally until golden and nicely browned on the outside. (Don't constantly stir; we want to get a nice char!) While browning, season the sausage to taste (I add 3/4 tsp salt & 1/4 tsp pepper). Once sausage is cooked through, add in frozen peas and 1 tbsp garlic. Sauté for 2 minutes. Empty all of the mixture into a large bowl; cover with foil and set aside for now. Don't wipe out the pot.
  • CREAM SAUCE: Return the pot to the burner, set to medium heat. Melt 2 tbsp butter, whisk in 2 tbsp flour. Cook and stir for 1 minute. Gradually, while whisking constantly, add in 2 cups stock. Add in 2-1/4 cup milk, uncooked 1-1/2 cups orzo, 1 tbsp Italian seasoning, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, and 1/2 tsp onion powder. Stir.
  • FINISH COOKING: Raise heat to bring mixture to a simmer, then lower the heat until it's gently bubbling. Cook for 7 minutes, without a lid, stirring occasionally and making sure to scrape the bottom so the orzo does not stick. After 7 minutes the pasta should be almost tender (mixture will still be soupy). Add the bowl of sausage to the pot and stir through gently. Sprinkle on 3/4 cup Parmesan and stir to melt. Season again to taste -- the salt and pepper really pull all the flavors together.
  • SERVE: Consistency should be similar to risotto and very creamy. (Add a splash of milk if needed to thin consistency a bit.) Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan over individual plates. If desired, add some freshly chopped parsley and a squeeze of lemon to individual plates. Enjoy while hot.

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Italian sausage: Depending on personal preference, use mild or spicy sausage — either works. (When making for my kids, we use mild.) Make sure to get Italian sausages with casings (as opposed to bulk ground Italian sausage) so the sausages can be cut into the mini "meatballs." Before cutting the sausage, remove the casings. Once casings are removed, use a sharp knife to cut the sausages into small 1/2-inch-thick rounds. No need to shape them into perfectly round balls-- they'll work great this way! 
If you end up with a package of bulk ground sausage, just turn it out onto a cutting board in one large piece and cut into a grid to make squares. That works too!
Note 2: Whole milk: This is meant to be a creamy recipe, so stick to whole milk for best results. 2% and 1% will work, but less creamy. Unfortunately, skim milk or a dairy milk alternative doesn't work the same way in this recipe.
Note 3: Orzo: Although orzo looks a bit like rice, it’s not a grain. (It's a common misconception that rice and orzo can be interchanged, but they won't cook the same in this recipe.) You can find orzo in the pasta aisle of most grocery stores. Don't add the entire box; only use 1-1/2 cups. I would not recommend any substitutes for orzo pasta -- it takes on a risotto-type creamy consistency that is not well duplicated with different (larger) pasta.
Note 4: Parmesan cheese: Use a block of Parmesan and grate it on the small holes of a grater. Alternatively, use finely grated Parmesan cheese. Parmesan from the can will be too salty and won't melt into the sauce nicely.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 616kcal | Carbohydrates: 35.9g | Protein: 28.6g | Fat: 39.6g | Cholesterol: 92mg | Sodium: 1082.8mg | Fiber: 3.8g | Sugar: 10.1g

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.

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2 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Made this the other night and it was delicious! Sauce had a great consistency (I used 2% milk since that’s what I had). I think we will choose a different sausage next time or even sub with chicken!

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