Fact Checked

How Do I Choose the Best Orzo Pasta?

H. Bliss
H. Bliss

Orzo pasta does not come in many varieties, but some variations in orzo make certain types a better choice than others in some situations. Some restaurants use freshly made orzo pasta in their dishes, but it is fairly rare to find orzo this way. People who are sensitive to gluten can eat gluten-free pasta. Dried orzo comes in rainbow colors for visual appeal in soups and salads, and some is made with organic wheat. Orzo pasta is made from the same wheat semolina as other types of pasta, so choosing a preferred brand of dried pasta for orzo can help a cook select the best tasting kind.

Types of orzo that differ from standard store-bought pasta include organic orzo and gluten-free orzo. Gluten-free orzo pasta is usually made from lentils. For diners who are sensitive to wheat gluten, this type of orzo pasta is the best choice, although the flavor and texture differ from wheat semolina orzo pasta. This type of pasta is usually readily available in grocery stores. Special types of orzo, like organic or gluten-free orzo, may be more difficult to find and may require a trip to a specialty food store or custom pasta maker.

Pile of uncooked orzo pasta.
Pile of uncooked orzo pasta.

Orzo pasta, also known as risoni, is a wheat-based with pieces that resemble barley. Since it resembles large rice, orzo is often used to create a faux risotto often known as a pasta risotto. It is generally made with wheat semolina, but can be made with other flours, including pastry flour, whole wheat flour, or all-purpose flour, or a mixture of several flours. Different flour mixtures create different orzo textures. The size of orzo can also be slightly different, though the varying density of different orzo pastas means they expand differently, growing to different sizes after cooking.

Orzo with mushrooms.
Orzo with mushrooms.

These tiny pasta pieces can also be made at home by cutting pasta dough into small, barley-shaped dough balls. Standard ingredients for pasta dough include wheat semolina with salt, eggs, and water. Some cooks use all egg yolks, rather than including the egg whites, for a richer pasta that is more yellow in color than whole-egg pasta. Yolk-only recipes require the use of more eggs to make up for the whites that are not included in the dish. For the competent cook who needs gluten free pasta, forming orzo from store-bought gluten-free pasta dough can be easier than trying to locate or order pre-made orzo pasta.

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Discussion Comments


Orzo does come in different sizes. I have recently found sizes of Barilla Orzo of 26, 47, and 74, with 74 being the largest. This is not specified on the Barilla website, and I have been unable to find more information.

The size 26 is about the size of long-grain white rice. The size 74 is closer to what I have come to expect when purchasing Orzo, regardless of the brand.


What kind of pasta sauces go well with orzo? It is such an oddly shaped noodle. I would like to use it more but I have no idea how to sauce it.


I have never seen orzo pasta in the stores. Do I have to go to a specialty store to buy orzo pasta?

I am wondering because I just found this awesome looking recipe for lemon orzo pasta and I want to make it sometime this week. If someone can tell me where to buy orzo pasta then i will be set. Thanks guys!


I have a great recipe for shrimp orzo pasta. It has fresh shrimp, a white wine and lemon sauce and tasty orzo pasta. It can be made in less than 20 minutes and it is a delicious light dish. I love to make this on summer evenings when I can eat outside.

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    • Pile of uncooked orzo pasta.
      Pile of uncooked orzo pasta.
    • Orzo with mushrooms.
      Orzo with mushrooms.
    • Orzo salad including tomatoes, yellow peppers and onions.
      Orzo salad including tomatoes, yellow peppers and onions.