Smoky charred zucchini and sweet corn add a perfect summery touch to this pesto zucchini orzo that’s easy to prepare and goes well with any grilled meat!
Cheers to sweet summertime and all the amazing veggie-filled side dishes that come with it!
We’re stuffing this herby orzo with all the best parts of summer including smoky corn, zucchini, and naturally lots of pesto because we prefer to do summer dining the right way around here.
This is one of those pasta side dishes that comes together almost entirely in one pan, helps you use up lots of that good summer produce, AND goes well with pretty much any protein!
And leftovers unsurprisingly make the most bomb lunch ever with no shortage of summer vibes so the verdict is in: you need this in your life.
This Pesto Orzo features…
- Smoky charred zucchini and sweet corn
- Tender orzo pasta in a creamy pesto sauce
- Ready in only 40 minutes and the perfect summer meal
Making the Pesto Orzo
(scroll down to the bottom of the post for the full recipe)
Ingredients You Will Need
- Sweet corn
- Olive oil
- Unsalted butter
- Chicken broth
- Heavy cream
- Basil pesto
- Parmesan cheese
- Fresh basil
How To Char Corn and Zucchini
There are several ways you can char the vegetables for this orzo, but we typically prefer throwing them directly on the grill and turning occasionally until the vegetables are slightly charred.
You can also stick the vegetables under the broiler or sear them in a greased cast iron pan and turn occasionally until vegetables are charred.
Tips for Perfect Orzo
- Brown orzo with shallot and garlic – this gets a good toast on the orzo that builds flavor before cooking.
- Simmer orzo in chicken broth – simmer the orzo until most of the liquid is absorbed and orzo is tender.
- Add pesto at end of cooking – this helps keep the pesto bright and fresh so it keeps a lot of that herby flavor.
- Top orzo with fresh basil and Parmesan – adds a little touch of saltiness and a pop of herbiness that adds one last little punch of flavor.
Try these ideas for a different twist on this orzo!
- Make it vegetarian – replace the chicken broth with vegetable broth for a vegetarian-friendly orzo.
- Try a different vegetable – try sweet pepper, summer squash, or asparagus for an extra veggie kick.
- Use a different cheese – try fresh mozzarella, goat cheese, or feta in place of the Parmesan.
Make Ahead Instructions
Follow these instructions for time-saving make ahead tips.
- Char vegetables – the vegetables may be cooked and stored in refrigerator up to 3 days.
- Cut vegetables – the corn, zucchini, shallot, and garlic may be cut and stored in refrigerator up to 3 days.
- Make pesto – if you’re making the pesto from scratch, this can be made up and stored in refrigerator up to 6 days.
- Store leftovers – once the orzo is assembled, leftovers can be stored in refrigerator up to 6 days.
The smoky sweet corn and tender zucchini are what absolutely MAKES this dish and meanwhile, the touch of creaminess and all that incredible herby pesto just wrap everything up perfectly.
Soon to be your go-to pasta dish of the summer and I promise no one will mind one bit.
Save this recipe using the ‘save to recipe box’ button below. If you make it, please let us know! Leave a comment + star rating below, or take a photo and tag it on Instagram with #wholeandheavenlyoven.
More orzo favorites to try next!
Pesto Zucchini Orzo with Charred Sweet Corn
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- 3 medium ears sweet corn, husk and silk removed
- 2 medium zucchinis, ends trimmed and halved width-wise
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 medium shallot, minced
- 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
- 1 lb uncooked orzo pasta
- 4-1/2 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 cup basil pesto (homemade or jarred)
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh basil, plus more for serving
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Rub corn and zucchini lightly all over with oil. Grill over medium-high heat (or pan sear in cast iron pan) turning occasionally until zucchini and corn is lightly charred all over.
- Transfer zucchini and corn to a cutting board and when cool enough to handle, cut kernels off of cobs and cut zucchini into 1/2-in cubes.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add butter and swirl to coat pan. Add shallot and saute several minutes until softened. Add garlic and orzo and cook 1-2 minutes until orzo is lightly toasted.
- Add broth to skillet and stir until evenly combined. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then reduce heat to medium-low and allow to simmer 10-15 minutes until most of the liquid is reduced and orzo is tender, stirring occasionally.
- Remove orzo from heat and stir in charred corn, zucchini, heavy cream, pesto, Parmesan, and basil until evenly combined.
- Season orzo with salt and pepper to taste and serve warm with additional Parmesan and basil sprinkled on top. Enjoy!