Cacio e Pepe Orzo Risotto

Four ingredients and 20 minutes is all takes to prepare this twist on a classic dish. This Cacio e Pepe Orzo Risotto is a comforting, hearty meal that makes a perfect vegetarian main or dinner side. 

Cacio e Pepe Orzo Risotto |

Can you believe that there are only 6 weeks left in this year? I swear it has completely flown by and now we are in the midst of holiday craziness!  In between shopping for holiday gifts, festival meals, parties, travel and the general commotion of the season it’s easy to sort of just over look every day weeknight meals.  We do have to still feed ourselves some normal, comforting food even when the calendar keeps filling up day after day after day!

If your schedule is anything like mine right now, the days are long and full and when I get home the last thing I’m looking to do is cook an elaborate meal.  I look towards foods that make me feel happy, fill my hungry belly and cook up quickly! Nothing does that quite as much as pasta and cheese!   This cacio e pepe orzo risotto fills all of those needs – cacio e pepe literally breaks down to mean cheese and pepper.

This is a classic Italian dish, a stripped down mac and cheese if you will, that’s usually made with long pasta like spaghetti or bucatini.  In this case I’ve used orzo and cooked in a risotto style to make it extra creamy and rich.

Cacio e Pepe Orzo Risotto |

This may be a simple meal but that doesn’t mean I’m skimping on my ingredients, with only 4 ingredients -orzo, stock, cheese and pepper it’s important to go for the best of the best.  Which is why whenever you open up my refrigerator you’ll see a block of Pecorino Romano cheese hanging out on a shelf. Not all types are created equal of course, which is why I make sure to buy Pecorino Romano PDO – which is easy to tell by looking for the words “Pecorino Romano” printed right on the rind. Pecorino Romano is a aromatic, lightly spicy, salty, and tangy flavor in younger ages (5 months) and very spicy when more mature (8 months) cheese, it’s made from three ingredients sheep’s milk, salt and rennet.  I love it adding it to my cheese boards, adding as a final element to pasta dishes or pizza and of course  for melting.

This cheese melts so beautifully and is essential to getting the creamy final dish cacio e pepe.

Cacio e Pepe |

Why choose orzo instead of the classic spaghetti? I love using orzo for it’s versatility in so many dishes, as a short cut pasta it can be boiled and mixed with with herbs and vegetables for a pasta salad, added to soups or cooked like rice to produce a creamy, rich dish.

The bonus of orzo risotto is that it takes only 20 minutes to prepare and way less hands on time than traditional risotto!  Simply add the stock and orzo to a pot, bring to a simmer and stir occasionally until the stock is absorbed.  Mix in some butter, cheese and plenty of pepper and dinner is served!

This post is sponsored on behalf of Uncommon Flavors of Europe.  As always, all opinions are my own and thanks for supporting brands that I work with.

Cacio e Pepe Orzo Risotto
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  • 2 cups dry orzo
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese + extra for topping
  • 1 - 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated black pepper


  1. Add the orzo and chicken stock to a large stock pot and bring to a boil over medium heat.
  2. Once the stock comes to a boil, reduce the heat down to a simmer and cook for about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally until the orzo has absorbed the stock and is thick and creamy.
  3. Add in the butter and Pecorino Romano cheese and stir until completely melted.
  4. Add in the coarsely ground black pepper, adding more or less depending on your taste.
  5. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.
  6. Serve immediately


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