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Shrimp and asparagus orzo “risotto” recipe

Shrimp and asparagus orzo “risotto” recipeI love pasta and rice dishes. But they are often calorically dense due to their high carbohydrate content. While preparing to the run the half marathon, I wanted to lighten up a traditional risotto (typically made with heavy cream and lots of cheese) — and I didn’t want it to take forever to cook. Traditional risotto is made with rice and stirred constantly while adding small amounts of liquid over about 40 minutes. By contrast, this dish came together in about 20 minutes and contained less fat and extra protein, thanks to the shrimp.

I like to serve it over a bed of spinach for some extra veggies. Although I used plain orzo, whole-grain orzo would make this dish even more nutritious. Recipe adapted from


  • ½ bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces, about 1 cup
  • 12 oz. orzo pasta
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • ⅓ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese


  1. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add the asparagus; cook 4-5 minutes, until tender. With a slotted spoon, transfer the asparagus to the serving bowl. Add the orzo to the boiling water. Cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, or 1-2 minutes less than package recommends (usually 8-10 minutes).
  2. In a medium skillet, cook butter over medium heat just until it begins to brown. Add the shrimp, season with salt and pepper as desired, and cook about 1 minute per side until golden brown and pink all the way through. With a slotted spoon, add the shrimp (and any extra butter or brown bits from the pan) to the asparagus.
  3. Drain the orzo, and save ¼ cup of the cooking water. Pour the broth and the reserved cooking water into the orzo. Cook over moderate heat, stirring, until creamy — about 3-5 minutes. Stir in the asparagus and shrimp and cook until heated through. Remove from the heat and stir in parmesan. Serve immediately.


Approximate nutrition information, per serving: 360 calories, 11 grams fat, 49 grams carbohydrate, 16 grams protein. Makes 4 large servings.