Colorful Shrimp Orzo


When my husband and I first married in 2005, Abba was working in public health and I worked in communications at a private school. We lived in a teeny, tiny one-bedroom basement apartment in Atlanta – in the hippest, most-walkable and cool little in-town neighborhood. Such happy memories! Parks, grocery stores, amazing restaurants and shops, fantastic neighbors were a stone-throw away.


When we both came home from work, the ingredients were already purchased, prepared and ready to come together in a scrumptious dish.These were the days before kids – somehow, life seemed so busy then – now, life is really hectic.


There were a few recipes that Abba really adored. I put these recipes in our weekly “rotation.” One recipe we did not tire of was a shrimp orzo dish with basil and tomatoes from Cooking Light. I haven’t made this exact version in years, but it inspired an entire reign of orzo pasta recipes at Curls and Carrots.


Recently, I came across a succulent and salubrious Chicken Orzo Salad recipe developed by Liz at My Favourite Pastime. This dish reminded me of Abba’s beloved shrimp orzo and inspired me to bring it back into “the rotation.”


This meal was delicious with a large, fresh, crisp green salad and a savory, bright, crisp bruschetta of sweet fresh basil, pungent goat gouda and velvety, soft chèvre.


Needless to say, Abba adores pasta with vigor – and was elated to see a mound of colorful, nutritious and tasty orzo on his plate once again. So, let’s get cooking!

First, roast the shrimp and reserve, keeping warm.


Then, prepare the orzo to al dente.


Now, toss the orzo with olive oil and reserve. Keep warm.


Sauté the onion, peppers, mushrooms and parsley stems.


Add the garlic and cook just until fragrant. Taste and season the dish accordingly.


Add the cherry tomatoes and parsley leaves…


… And incorporate the lemon juice, pasta water and oregano.


Next, put the shrimp in the pan…


… Along with the cooked orzo.


Stir all ingredients well and cook just until warmed through.


Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, if necessary.


Place the orzo on warm plates. Sprinkle with desired toppings, such as grated parmigiano reggiano, sliced castelvetrano olives and red chile flakes.


Run the plates briefly under a preheated broiler to melt the cheese to unctuous, oozing perfection…


… Or enjoy the orzo unadulterated, untouched and as it is.

It is a flavorful, satisfying and positively toothsome either way.


Littlest Guy and Snu Mago also relish in a piping hot bowl for dinner!

Abba never fails to take leftovers for a healthy lunch at the hospital… Provided the meal is packed ahead of time and a reminder note is placed on his briefcase.

    I hope that you enjoy this dish as much as our family does!


Colorful Shrimp Orzo

Very loosely “adapted” from a Cooking Light recipe of many years past.


12 ounces small shrimp, halved

8 ounces baby portabella mushrooms, sliced

1 large yellow, sweet onion, such as Vidalia, roughly chopped

1 each: yellow and orange bell pepper, seeded and diced small

1/2 cup parsley stems, finely chopped

4 cloves of garlic, finely minced

2 cups parsley leaves, from one bunch of parsley, chopped

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 cup of cherry tomatoes, cut into fourths (measure after cutting)

8 ounces Italian semolina orzo

1/2 cup of pasta water, reserved from orzo after it cooks

Tbsp. fresh-squeezed lemon juice

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil, to toss with orzo

2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil, to toss with shrimp

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, to sauté vegetables

Optional Toppings: grated parmigiano reggiano, sliced castelvetrano olives, red chile flakes


  • Season shrimp with salt and pepper, to taste. Toss with two teaspoons olive oil. Roast in a 450°F or 232°C oven for 3 minutes, just until pink and cooked. Reserve in a bowl. Cover to keep warm.
  • Prepare orzo to “al dente,” according to package directions. Make sure to salt the water well. Drain and reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water. Toss orzo in a bowl with 1 tsp. of olive oil and reserve. Cover to keep warm.
  • Over medium heat, heat one tablespoon of olive oil. Sauté the onion, peppers, mushrooms and parsley stems until the onion is translucent and the peppers and mushrooms have nice color, about ten minutes.
  • Add minced garlic and cook over medium-low heat for one minute, stirring, just until fragrant. Season dish with salt and pepper, to taste.
  • Stir-in the pasta water, lemon juice, cherry tomatoes, parsley leaves, oregano and orzo. Cook over medium-low heat for about five minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is mostly absorbed by the orzo and the dish is warm. Taste and season with salt or pepper, if necessary.
  • Serve and enjoy on warm plates. Sprinkle with parmigiano reggiano cheese, sliced castelvetrano olives and red chile flakes, if desired.
  • Run plates briefly under the broiler to melt the cheese, if you wish.
  • Salud!


©Shanna Koenigsdorf Ward, (2013), unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author, Shanna Koenigsdorf Ward, and/or owner is strictly and completely prohibited.


29 thoughts on “Colorful Shrimp Orzo

    1. Hi, Lar’n. Feel free to make the recipe your own – the beauty of cooking is creativity in the kitchen and having a great time. 🙂 Orzo is a small Italian pasta that looks like rice. It is made of semolina flour and cooks in about nine minutes. Just a delicious like morsel of heaven. 🙂 Happy cooking! – Shanna

  1. First of all thanks for mentioning and promoting my Orzo Salad here. I really appreciate the kind gesture. The shrimp orzo is indeed colourful and very unique and I really love it because it’s warm. Great for the weather we are having right now, alternating flurries and drizzle. Thanks for sharing a warm version of Orzo. Have a lovely week!

    1. Hi, Liz… I am happy to hear from you and smiling at all of your warm words! Thank you! Your post really inspired me to make this orzo flavorful and colorful. I hope that you whip up a version of it soon for the cold, Fall days up North. Have a great day. Lovely that you visited. 🙂 – Shanna

  2. Hey we live now still in a teeny apartment in a cool traditional area of Barcelona, its like being in a village. I can walk everywhere and greet all the shop owners. And making food like this is great!

    1. Sofia – YES. YES. That is the way to live. You go, girl! What fortune – what fun – what a great life. You are really living the way one should for maximum fulfillment and enjoyment. 🙂 I loved reading about the pasta shop in your barrio – maybe more posts on the way of artisan shops and vendors? Your area sounds so cool. Be well! -Shanna

      1. What. What. WHAT?!?! That is so awesome. I have been thinking about making fresh pasta ALL week but am feeling intimidated. Oh, Sofia, I can’t wait to read all about this! How lovely! PS Davide seems like quite the amazing chef!

      2. Yes, I can’t wait!!! And he is such a lovely interesting person to chat to 🙂 Go ahead make fresh pasta (I still don’t know how at the moment haha).

      3. Oh no, we both left late from meetings so the fresh pasta class has been postponed for the next couple of weeks! No problem though, here this is less than 50m away from where I live…

  3. Such beautiful flavors, Shanna…this is exactly the type of dish I’d be cooking in my kitchen on a weeknight too! I had to giggle when you talked about life pre-children. I never thought I had any time to get things done. Ha! Boy, was I in for a surprise after we brought our boys home. Living in an area where you could walk to restaurants sounds just amazing.

    Enjoy your day!

    1. Yes, Allison… Oh, the glory days! I am glad that you can relate! Let me know if you try this dish.. and how you make it your own. I know you are so talented in the kitchen. I appreciate your wonderful and generous comments. Best wishes, Shanna

  4. Oh, that looks delicious. Have you tried whole wheat orzo? It’s one of the few pastas that taste just as good to me whole wheat rather than white…

    1. Hi, Alison. I love Whole Wheat orzo. I believe that WF was out the time I made this. I usually buy a big tub of it. The flavor of the wheat is very mild. We love certain whole wheat pastas, usually the organic, Italian varieties. Thanks for your warm words! Best, Shanna

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