Food

Molly Baz’s Orzo al Limone

Molly Baz orzo al limone recipe

There are only a few food personalities I can think of who are loved by both my grown-up friends and my teenage children…

And right at the top of that short list is Molly Baz, author of Cook This Book. Baz has won over fans with her bold cooking style and bold…just….style. She’s always clad in one of her primary-colored crossback aprons, abbreviating every other word (smoothies are “smoos”; Caesar salad, her signature, is “Cae Sal”); and her game-for-anything dachshund Tuna (“Toonz”) makes frequent, adorable appearances across all her platforms. Most important, as my 17-year-old said after watching a video of Molly making “adult Mac and Cheese” last year, “She knows everyone wants to eat food that’s like kids’ food times a thousand.”

I know exactly what she means. Molly’s book is filled with the kind of dishes that you’d be psyched to eat — simple and indulgent, elevated and unpretentious. Think about one of these set before you: Clams on Toast with Bacon and Old Bay Mayo, Overripe Tomato Soup with Bread Soup with Crispy Garlic, Saucy Eggs all’Amatriciana, or Blueberry Cornflake Crisp. You should’ve seen how hard it was to pick just one recipe as an example, but this simple, indulgent, flavor-forward Orzo al Limone tells the whole story.

Orzo al Limone
From Molly: Spaghetti al limone — a classic and supremely simple Italian pasta dish composed of lemon juice, butter, and Parmesan — gets a fresh take, featuring orzo instead of the spaghetti, which results in a dish that’s somewhere between risotto and macaroni and cheese, and I think it’s pretty special. The name of the game here is to avoid overcooking the orzo; leave it slightly al dente so that it doesn’t turn into a big pot of mush.
Serves 4

Produce
1 medium yellow onion
1 lemon

Dairy
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
2½ ounces grated Parmesan cheese (about ¾ cup), plus more for serving

Pantry
1 cup orzo
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Prep your aromatics: Finely chop 1 yellow onion. Using a vegetable peeler, peel 3 (3-inch-long) strips of lemon zest from 1 lemon; set the lemon aside.

Start the orzo: In a large Dutch oven or pot, heat 3 tablespoons butter over medium heat until melted and foamy. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until softened but not yet browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Add 1 cup orzo, the 3 strips of lemon zest, and 1 teaspoon black pepper and toast, stirring, for 2 minutes. Stir in 3 cups water and 1 teaspoon salt and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Once the water comes to a simmer, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally so the orzo doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot, until most of the water has been absorbed (there should still be some liquid at the bottom of the pot), 6 to 8 minutes. Taste the orzo; it should be al dente but not crunchy.

Finish the orzo: Remove the pot from the heat. Stir in 2 tablespoons butter and 2½ ounces grated Parmesan cheese (¾ cup). Finely grate the remaining zest of the lemon into the pot. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice of both halves into the orzo. Taste and add more salt as needed. Add a few more tablespoons of water, if needed, until it’s very creamy and loose.

Serve: Drizzle the orzo with olive oil and season with black pepper and more grated Parmesan

P.S. Malted “Forever” Brownies and a few more exciting cookbooks.

(Photos by PEDEN+MUNK.)

  1. AR says...

    Came back to say that I made this tonight. Served with crab cakes. Such a quick, fancy- feeling after-work (I don’t WFH) meal. Super satisfying for this tired, cranky, preggo.

  2. Natalie S. says...

    I really enjoyed this! Looks simple but such a great flavor :)

    I doubled this recipe and ended up with way too much liquid remaining when orzo had reached the al dente stage. So if doubling, maybe only use 1.5x for the water you add.

  3. Sondra says...

    Standard recipe. It’s good with artichoke hearts or lightly steamed asparagus.

  4. Jeannie says...

    Delicious!! It reminded me of a lemon risotto I make but was so much faster!! I’ll definitely be making this again!

  5. Kimberley D Askew says...

    Made this last night and it turned out perfectly! Thank you!

  6. Meg says...

    I just made this for my late breakfast. There was just a cup of orzo left in the pantry, so I thought about halving this recipe. So glad I didn’t! My mouth is freaking out – one of the best things I’ve eaten in awhile. I used a smaller pot so I didn’t need to add more water at the end. This will stay in my repertoire, and I will buy the book. Thank you – I hadn’t heard of Molly.

    For you Cook This Book owners out there, I just saw Molly will have a live cooking class for this recipe on May 1.

  7. Cate says...

    Pasta al Limone is often pretty cream heavy- love the addition of orzo. For lower dairy, I used steamed cauliflower blended into a cream.

  8. M.J. says...

    This looks and sounds delicious! It’s also such an accessible and versatile recipe in that it can easily be modified for certain dietary preferences with just a few substitutions (like vegan or gluten free). Even though we all have our own food and dietary preferences, I love that these recipes help me to better understand how different (and such simple/accessible!) flavors can go together to create a delicious dish. They help me to see how a single recipe or dish can bring so many people joy. There’s something very special about that. Learning about which recipes make others’ salivate is comparable to learning about their favorite songs, books, travel destinations, hobbies, etc. We’re teaching our young son to never make negative comments or remarks about other people’s meals or favorite foods, even if they’re very different from what he likes. We tell him that their meals and favorite foods are a part of their identity, and making a negative comment is like telling them their favorite song is terrible or their hobbies are silly. We always tell him, “Be curious rather than critical” when it comes to food and dietary differences.

    • Lesley S says...

      YES! We stress this to our daughter as well. I was recently dismayed to see her class doing a section on cultures who eat insects. It was presented with a worksheet that said YUCK! across the top. I like “be curious rather than critical.” That’s great advice for many, many things!

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      That’s such a good point MJ and I love the mantra “be curious rather than critical” beyond the dinner table…

    • Susanne says...

      I teach PreK and I really hate to hear students say “Yuck” about something that someone else is eating, though in all honesty, it is usually referencing something I pack for lunch – hahaha! However, I try to teach them to always say, “I don’t know if I care for that” if it is something they have never eaten.

    • Sarah says...

      This reminds me of a line we heard to use with our kids: Be curious, not furious! This has been good for me to think about, too. It’s so easy to get angry with only 50% of the story, and that is particularly true for my kids when they interact with each other. Curiosity combats judgment and division so well! Would love to be more curious.

    • Stacy says...

      I teach middle school in a diverse community so a packed-from-home may be different from what another student is accustomed to eating. We use “don’t yuck someone else’s yum” whenever the conversation warrants that reminder.

  9. J says...

    I made this tonight. So simple! So good! Thanks for sharing.

  10. Sam says...

    Does anyone have a recommendation for a gluten free orzo?

    • Em says...

      Banza and TJ’s make something similar, it’s called Risoni (chickpea rice) I would use that as a substitute.

    • Sara says...

      Banza’s “rice” is way more like GF orzo than rice to me! Was just thinking I would try using it to make this for lunch today.

    • sam says...

      Thanks!

  11. Joslyn says...

    From an exhausted mom on day infinity of covid: thank you, thank you for this recipe that my son ate three servings of. I can’t think of a more glowing review.

  12. Kate says...

    I am a huge Molly Baz fan and was jazzed to see her on the blog! Molly really impressed me last year when she vocally stood up for her BIPOC colleagues at Bon Appetite. It has been cool to watch her growth after leaving BA – her recipe club, all the instagram lives, this beautiful cookbook. I find her style authentic and fun while being *a superlative cook* and *highly skilled at making cooking approachable to for others*

    • E says...

      Yes! I’ve loved watching Molly, Priya, and Sohla post-BA. All great cooks and I’m so happy they’ve been successful

  13. Rae says...

    This recipe looks like a winner and that book design is GORGEOUS!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Agree about the design!

  14. Okay wait. Have I ALWAYS been cooking orzo incorrectly? I have always cooked it like pasta — thrown in boiling water and then drained when cooked. Am I to understand I should have been putting it in the pan BEFORE the water what how was I so wrong?? (I am so exited to try this!)

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      You can do it either way! She explains that here it’s cooked more like a risotto, which is the Molly spin.

  15. K says...

    this looks soooo good. I get so jazzed when a recipe has so few ingredients and almost all of them staples.

  16. Kelly says...

    Made this tonight and threw in a little minced chicken – my kids inhaled it! Perfect rainy day dinner!

  17. Meghan says...

    Weird thought alert.

    On the bottom of my page, one of the suggested articles is titled, “Not your mother’s shrimp salad”. I get that “not your mother’s” is a way of suggesting that something is an improvement on the original. But, it strikes me how inaccurate that statement is.

    Maybe it’s a generational thing, but my mother is a fantastic cook. I could only dream of being as competent in the kitchen as she is. She cooked every night, on a budget, while working and raising children. I, on the other hand, can barely manage to cook a couple times for myself a couple of times a week; I’ve even considered joining a meal prep service because it’s just too much work to meal plan, and shop, and prep, etc. My mother instinctively knows which store has the best price on canned corn, and doesn’t mind making a separate trip for it. I am willing to pay for someone to put ingredients in little baggies for me.

    For me, not-your-mother’s shrimp salad would be a warning to anyone wanting to eat. Yes, it’s edible. Yes, it will technically fill your stomach. Will you enjoy it? Not so much. Will you want to eat it again? Probably not. Is it a sad, ho-hum, more expensive version of what my mother would make? Heck yeah.

    Again, weird thoughts.

    • Allie says...

      I think the phrase “not your mother’s” has been adopted to mean “not traditional” or “not the way it used to be” and less of a literal connection to a mother’s way of doing something.

      In this example, shrimp salad is something that many people have negative associations with, since, traditionally, what was commonly available in grocery stores was pretty unappealing.

      The author reinforces that idea right at the beginning of the post: “I remember seeing large trays of it in the deli case sitting next to picnic food royalty (potato salad and macaroni salad, natch) and not being particularly impressed. It always seemed gloppy, tossed with too much mayo (sometimes even sour cream!) and large chunks of celery that seemed as if they’d overwhelm every bite. ”

      Your mother sounds amazing! Lucky you!

    • Annie M says...

      Love your comment, Meghan, especially “not-your-mother’s shrimp salad would be a warning to anyone wanting to eat.” :)

    • Meghan says...

      Silly update. My mum knows that I’m pulling long hours at work these days and asked if I wanted some left over lasagna for dinner. When I arrived to pick up my to go package, not only was there was a massive container of lasagna, but homemade caesar salad and freshly baked cookies. I rest my case.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      awww, meghan!

  18. Emily says...

    Yum orzo. Just put a hold on this book at my library! So excited to see what else is in there.

  19. Meghan says...

    Molly is charming, whip smart, and a wonderful cook. I have fond memories of making her mushroom carbonara during the darkest early day of the pandemic. So excited for her cookbook & great write up, Jenny!

    • Emily says...

      Ha, same! Wow, that seems like ages ago…

  20. Jessica Camerata says...

    This sounds so delicious and simple!

    xo Jessica

  21. Olivia says...

    Uhh, yum. Yay for this

  22. I LOVE her recipe for pasta with mushroom carbonara, and I live in Italy! It is AMAZING and SO easy! And the Italians love it too! I have already pre-ordered her book! Can’t wai
    t to see all her recipes!

  23. Kate says...

    I wish we would have gotten some more original content here, like a Beauty Uniform with Molly. The picture of the finished dish (while lovely) is straight out of her cookbook, and the posts reads like the author didn’t even try making the recipe herself.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      our food column often features recipes from new cookbooks — recipes that aren’t otherwise available online. i like being able to do this for readers, as a way to try a recipe they wouldn’t have been able to otherwise, or to try the recipe before buying the book. thank you for your feedback, always, and i hope this helps!

    • shannon says...

      Oh I feel the opposite! It’s such a treat to have access to a recipe otherwise not available online! Excited to try this one and to check out the cookbook at the library. I really love the way it’s formatted to be more user friendly than traditionally written recipes.

  24. Mel says...

    I know it’s probably just because I’m vegan, but Clams on Toast with Bacon and Old Bay Mayo sounds really gross and I kinda got stuck on that and couldn’t get any further. Lol! But for any other vegan readers, You can make an orzo dish that is kind of similar by cooking orzo and broccoli and covering with a dressing of olive oil, lemon and some chopped fresh basil. (And I sprinkle with nutritional yeast, because, always) She’s right that the al dente orzo is key!

    • Pnina says...

      I think it is sort of inconsiderate to say her recipe is disgusting even if you are vegan, how would you like someone to say your jackfuit tacos are gross?

    • Kirstin says...

      nutritional yeast ALWAYS! That stuff is amazing.

  25. Nicole A. says...

    Orzo is one of my absolute favs to order when out for Italian! Little bit rice-ish, little bit pasta-ish, just a perfectly unique food that can be cheesy, garlic-y, lemon-y, whatever you want! I’ve personally had a hard time finding it on my local grocery store shelves, so I’ve never made it for myself. But I may try to order some online to try out this recipe, because now I’m craving it BIG TIME!

  26. Kristen says...

    Just here to same SAME on all counts.

  27. ellen says...

    Pan Anderson’s “How to Cook Without a Book”2000,has this very risotto-like
    orzo recipe. My family loves this recipe

  28. FW says...

    put in the pepper and toast ……….?

    • Kate says...

      This means you would be toasting the orzo by cooking it in the pan “stirring, for 2 minutes” :)

    • Andrea says...

      I believe toast is being used as a verb here, toast the pepper :)

    • Nancy says...

      “Toast” is used as a verb in this case. I means to get a little color on the orzo before adding the liquid.

    • Z says...

      Toast the orzo, to deepen its flavor! Rather than toast as in what I ate for breakfast today :)

    • Neela says...

      Hahaha, totally went back to check the ingredients there, too 🤣

  29. katie says...

    I know I’ve written this on here before, but my easy, no fuss, I don’t want to think about it dinner is a box of Annie’s Mac & Cheese, a can of tuna and broccoli with a little bit of hot sauce. The hot sauce is key.

    I want to sub the mac & cheese for this orzo dish. And also maybe peas instead of broccoli. YUM!!

    Every single one of the listed ingredients I have in my kitchen at all times.

    • Elizabeth R. says...

      This sounds great. What hot sauce do you use most?

    • Kate says...

      Ooohhh, gonna have to do this. I’m a huge fan of adulting boxed mac n’ cheese. My go-to is Annie’s (it has to be the spirals with butter and parmesan) with roasted cauliflower. I make it for myself for dinner whenever my husband is out of town for work!

    • L says...

      Literally eating Annie’s with frozen peas and Sriracha as I type this! It’s the best!

  30. Eloise says...

    I DO NOT COOK but want this enough that I may have to try. (Not sure if this uber-novice could pull it off, though).

    • Tovah says...

      I think you can definitely make this, Eloise! The only place to be careful is when you cook the chopped onions in butter, keep a close eye and stir them a lot so they don’t burn (your nose will tell you!). Good luck!

  31. AP says...

    Drooling at my desk. Maybe we should all leave work early for a pot of orzo :):):)

  32. Kat v says...

    First of all, this is an adorable article about Molly. Second of all, can we just talk about how appreciated it is to have the ingredients divided by section of the grocery store!! UGH that would make life so much easier and better if all recipes were like that.

    • Anna says...

      YES!!! This!!!

    • Mallory says...

      Came here to say the same thing!! My spatially-organized brain cheered.

    • Tovah says...

      Me too, along with the “titles” of the cooking steps! There’s nothing so awful as being elbow-deep in a cooking event and not being able to quickly find your spot in the recipe.

      If this is the way the whole cookbook is written (and not a CoJ edit) I will buy it immediately.

    • Stella says...

      Tovah, this is the way the whole book is written!

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      I meant to highlight that — it’s so smart! I love it when cookbook authors figure out new very sensible ways to write recipes…it’s so rare. Remember that magazine Everyday Food (from Martha Stewart editors). I’ll never forget how they pictured the ingredients and the amounts in addition to listing them, so you could instantly gauge whether or not you had enough of everything, and made it easy to skip the exact measuring, and gain confidence. Long way of saying, I love this, too!

  33. Erin says...

    I want to buy her cookbook so badly because it’s so beautiful, but the way she abbreviates EVERYTHING drives me absolutely nuts.

    • Alden says...

      Hard agree

    • Samantha says...

      Me too. I like the recipes I’ve made of hers from Bon Appetit but the abbreviations are so irritating I can’t bring myself to buy her cookbook.

    • Kate says...

      Yeah, when I see her in BA videos she’s just as wonderful and charming as all the other hosts but there is something grating about her online cooler-than-you persona…I hate saying that because it feels anti-feminist. Maybe it is just the abbreviations lol.

    • Dana says...

      Women are constantly criticized and policed for the way we speak, how we sound, the words we use, and what we choose to talk about. It’s a shame to see this coming from other women. Let’s lift one another up.

    • Roxana says...

      Eh, you do you, though, right? Her food is always great, and she stood in solidarity with her BIPOC colleagues so well this past year. It’s also never a great idea to call out a woman’s personality, especially one in a male dominated industry. Women should empower women.

    • Adriana Gasteazoro says...

      This reaction to the way Molly speaks always saddens me. She is young and bubbly, smart, talented, and witty yet so many people decide to dismiss her for this one thing. It feels so similar to dismissing a woman simply because she uses vocal fry, upspeak, or the word “like” too often and not on the quality of her ideas.

    • Jax says...

      100% agree. I find it infantile.

    • Molly says...

      Interesting – I’d love to read a CofJ post on this. I too struggle with judging folks for certain speech patterns, including myself! I hate that I say “like” so much and censor my overuse of the word “sorry” in emails. I can’t stand when women say something perfectly articulate and then follow with the phrase “if that makes sense?” UGH! It’s a weird conflict inside of me because I want women to feel empowered and just speak however they damn well want to but I do think some of these speech patterns undermine one’s aura of confidence, power, and credibility. I feel bad even saying that; SORRY! :)

    • Erin says...

      It is a complete illusion of the common culture (and commodified,frankly) version of feminism to say that one can’t be irritated by another woman—yes, even her personality. Molly is by no means “dismissed” for the way she speaks. She has an enormous audience and huge cookbook! And good for her! My point being I am most certainly not “punching down” here. I personally just think that the abbreviations (which again are in literally every recipe) are irritating. Feminism does not oblige us to think every woman has an awesome personality or ignore their irritating qualities. That is absurd! And while I think the book is beautiful, her put-on vernacular will almost certainly spoil it for me.

  34. Nathalie says...

    I bought a package of orzo a while back on a whim but left it languishing in the pantry. So excited to make this for lunch tomorrow!

  35. Annie says...

    Omg yum cannot wait to make this! Thank you for sharing!

  36. meighan says...

    I have been waiting on this book since my boyfriend pre-ordered it for me as a Christmas gift. Since receiving it 4 days ago, I have bookmarked 34 recipes I love, and have already made 2!!! Molly is so thoughtful in how she laid everything out (there are amounts of each ingredient in the recipe body, such a seemingly simple addition but SO helpful) – I HIGHLY recommend to anyone looking for a cookbook they will actually cook from!

  37. Ruth says...

    Her cookbook is AWESOME! Already made 4 things from it and they’ve been BONKERS good, loved by both me and my husband and our (somewhat picky) little kiddos!!!

  38. Becka Freed says...

    This sounds sooooo good AND it’s one pot! #winning! Pretty much the last thing I need is another cookbook, but I love Molly and will probably end up purchasing the book.