Fresh Zucchini Orzo Recipe With Basil Pesto: Low Sodium, High Flavor by Melissa Vickers

Fresh Zucchini Orzo Recipe With Basil Pesto: Low Sodium, High Flavor

Zucchini pesto orzo is another delicious dinner recipe to print for your weekly recipe rotation. This yummy low-sodium recipe makes use of the ubiquitous garden zucchini

You can cut the sodium in this garden-fresh zucchini and orzo recipe by making your own homemade vegetable stock and pesto sauce. The original recipe didn’t call for mushrooms, but I added them anyway. I cooked the mushrooms separately from the zucchini and onion so the additional water content of the mushrooms wouldn’t be too much.

All you need for this zucchini orzo recipe is zucchini, onion, olive oil, crushed red pepper flakes, vegetable or chicken broth, orzo, lemons (for zest and juice), cherry or grape tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, fresh mint and pesto. Serve this pesto orzo as a vegetarian main dish or as a side dish with your favorite protein.

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Cuisine: American 
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 4


  • 2 medium zucchini, diced (about 2 1/2 cups)
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt, or to taste (I left this out for a lower-sodium version)
  • 1 3/4 cups low-sodium broth (vegetable or chicken)
  • 1 cup orzo
  • 1 lemon, zested and halved
  • 1 cup halved cherry or grape tomatoes (or grate a fresh tomato)
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese  
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan (3 ounces), plus more for serving
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped mint, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 cup pesto

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Recipe Notes

  • Substitute cherry tomato halves and fresh mozzarella cheese, cubed, for the grated tomato and shredded cheese.
  • Store-bought pesto varies wildly in their salt content. I used Kroger's Private Selection Basil Pesto that has 190 mg per 1/4-cup serving, or about 8 percent of daily value. Some brands had two and three times that amount. Better yet, make your own homemade pesto.

Here’s how to make it:

  1. In large nonstick or well-seasoned cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, combine zucchini and onion with olive oil, red pepper flakes and 1 teaspoon salt (if used). Cook mixture, stirring once or twice, until zucchini and onion turn golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Don’t stir too often as it can impede browning. In a separate pan, sauté sliced mushrooms and add to zucchini mixture.
  2. Stir in stock and bring to a simmer. Stir in orzo, lemon zest and 1/2 teaspoon salt (if used). Cover and simmer over medium-low heat until orzo is nearly cooked through and most of the liquid is absorbed, 10 to 14 minutes, stirring once or twice.
  3. Meanwhile, in small bowl, toss together the tomatoes, mozzarella, a pinch of salt (if used), a pinch of red pepper flakes (if used) and a drizzle of olive oil. Let it marinate while the orzo cooks.
  4. Once orzo is ready, stir in juice of half a lemon, Parmesan, mint and pesto. Cover pan and cook for 1 minute. Taste for seasoning and add more lemon juice or pesto, if needed. To serve, top with tomato-mozzarella mixture and sprinkle with more cheese and mint.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving

Calories: 540

Total Fat: 31.9g

Saturated Fat: 7.8g

Cholesterol: 25mg

Sodium: 460mg

Total Carbohydrate: 46.8g

Dietary Fiber: 5.5g

Total Sugars: 9.4g

Protein: 19.7g

Vitamin D: 0mcg

Calcium: 331mg

Iron: 3mg

Potassium: 502mg

Recipe cooking times, nutritional information and servings are approximate and provided for your convenience. However, 30Seconds is not responsible for the outcome of any recipe, nor may you have the same results because of variations in ingredients, temperatures, altitude, errors, omissions or cooking/baking abilities. This recipe has been analyzed by VeryWellFit. However, any nutritional information is provided as a courtesy and it is up to the individual to ascertain accuracy. To ensure image quality, we may occasionally use stock photography.

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