This delicious one-pan cheesy baked orzo with veggie meatballs is ready in under 30 minutes and insanely tasty. Hearty, wholesome, classic vegetarian comfort food at its finest – and with simple, basic ingredients.
Orzo is fast becoming one of my all-time favorite types of pasta. I made this incredible orzo mac and cheese last winter, and ever since then, I can’t get enough of easy cheesy baked orzo dishes – just like this baked orzo with veggie meatballs and gooey, golden mozzarella on top.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe:
- Comfort Food: This recipe is the epitome of winter comfort food, offering a warm, cozy embrace in every bite.
- Simplicity Meets Flavor: Simplicity and flavor unite effortlessly in this dish. With minimal ingredients and easy steps, it delivers maximum satisfaction.
- Cheesy Bliss: Indulge in the irresistible allure of melted cheddar and mozzarella cheeses, blanketing your meal in creamy, cheesy goodness.
- Hearty and Wholesome: Veggie meatballs provide a hearty, plant-based protein source for everyone. If you eat meat, you could use whatever type of meatball you want, though.
- One-Pot Wonder: Everything harmoniously combines in a single skillet, simplifying cleanup and allowing you to enjoy your meal with ease.
How to Make Baked Orzo with Veggie Meatballs
To start with, find yourself a skillet. I have a relatively small, cheap one that is perfect for two portions – but size up if you’re cooking for a family or plan to have leftovers. Bonus, this baked orzo actually requires just one pan!
Step 1: Sauté Garlic
Begin by heating butter in a skillet and sautéing minced garlic until it becomes fragrant.
Step 2: Add Tomatoes and Seasonings
Incorporate the chopped plum tomatoes, Italian seasoning, dried basil, salt, and black pepper. Cook for 2-3 minutes to infuse the flavors.
Step 3: Combine Passata and Orzo
Pour in the carton of passata and stir in the orzo, ensuring a thorough blend with the tomato mixture.
Step 4: Layer Cheeses and Meatballs
Evenly sprinkle grated cheddar cheese over the orzo. Then, add the veggie meatballs, spacing them uniformly. If the orzo isn’t entirely submerged, introduce a touch of veggie stock for moisture.
Step 5: Top with Mozzarella
Complete the preparation by topping the skillet with mozzarella cheese, creating an enticing layer of cheesy delight.
Step 6: Bake to Perfection
Transfer the skillet to a preheated oven set at 190°C (375°F) and bake for 20-25 minutes until the cheese turns beautifully melted and bubbly.
Step 7: Garnish and Serve
Finally, adorn your culinary masterpiece with fresh basil for an extra burst of aroma and flavor, making it ready to serve and savor.
Serve this Baked Orzo with Veggie Meatballs as a comforting, standalone dish. It pairs wonderfully with a side salad of mixed greens dressed in balsamic vinaigrette.
You can also add a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese for an extra layer of cheesy indulgence.
This recipe is made from pantry staples that most people will have at home already (my favorite kind of meal!). However, if you want to swap something out or adapt this recipe, here are a few suggestions:
- Add meat: If you eat meat, you could use beef, lamb, or pork meatballs instead of vegetarian ones.
- Add more veg: Adding in some red pepper, spinach, and/or courgette would all be great additions to this meal.
- Alternative meatballs: If you’d like to avoid the ‘fake meat’ meatballs, you could make your own tofu or lentil (I recommend puy lentils) meatballs for just as much protein but a more wholefoods-friendly option.
- Use gluten-free orzo: To make this baked orzo recipe gluten-free, you could swap out the orzo for a gluten-free option.
- Different pasta: Alternatively, you could use something other than orzo. Rice, quinoa, or similarly small pasta like Garofalo pasta would potentially work (although are not versions I’ve tried).
If you have leftovers, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days. Reheat gently in the microwave or on the stovetop, adding a splash of water or veggie stock to maintain the creamy consistency.
What vegetarian meatballs should you use?
For the specific meal photographed for this recipe, I used the Linda McCartney tomato and basil meatballs. However, other vegetarian meatballs frequently recommended by my followers on TikTok and Instagram include:
- Waitrose-own vegetarian meatballs
- Aldi own-brand veggie meatballs
- Quorn meatballs
- Birdseye vegetarian meatballs
- Richmond vegetarian meatballs
- Ikea veggie meatballs
Q1: Can I use homemade veggie meatballs instead of store-bought?
A1: Absolutely! Homemade veggie meatballs work wonderfully in this recipe. Feel free to use your favorite plant-based meatball recipe.
Q2: Can I make this dish vegan?
A2: Certainly! To make it vegan, substitute dairy butter and cheese with plant-based alternatives. You could also opt to omit the cheese entirely – adding a scoop of plant-based cream cheese to the tomato sauce to make it creamy. Make sure you check that your veggie meatballs are also vegan-friendly.
Q3: What can I serve with Baked Orzo with Veggie Meatballs?
A3: This dish is delightful on its own but pairs perfectly with a side salad, garlic bread, or steamed vegetables for a well-rounded meal.
Q4: Do I need to cook the orzo before it’s baked?
No – add the raw orzo to the skillet. The pasta cooks within the sauce while it’s baked in the oven.
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 garlic cloves
- 7-8 plum tomatoes, chopped
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1 carton passata (400g)
- 200g orzo
- 50g cheddar cheese
- 40g mozzarella
- 8-9 veggie meatballs
- some fresh basil to serve
- If needed: 60ml veggie stock for the orzo
- Preheat your oven to 180C.
- Heat your butter in your skillet over a medium heat, then add the minced garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes.
- Add in the plum tomatoes and seasonings, cooking for another minute or two.
- Add the tomato passata, orzo, and cheddar cheese (reserving a couple of tablespoons), and stir to combine.
- If needed, you can also add a little vegetable stock - you want the skillet to be quite high in liquid to ensure the orzo cooks properly in the oven.
- Add your vegetarian meatballs, dotting them evenly around the skillet.
- Top the skillet with sliced mozzarella and the remaining cheddar cheese.
- Bake in the oven for 20 - 25 minutes until the mozzarella is melted and golden on top.
- Top with the fresh basil and enjoy!
Best served fresh, but this recipe will keep in an airtight container for 3 - 5 days in the fridge.