Creamy Tuscan Chicken and Orzo Skillet
This creamy Tuscan chicken and orzo skillet is simple, cozy, and only uses one pan! It has creamy Parmesan orzo, kale, sun-dried tomatoes, and seasoned chicken thighs for a super flavorful, satisfying dinner. You definitely need to add this one to your dinner rotation!
January is cold and soggy and doesn’t have any of the sparkly joy of Christmas, blah, blah, blah we all know about it. So I won’t go on even though I’m pouting. But, if we all must do the January thing, we should at least get some cozy, one-skillet dinners about it. I’m talking carbs. I’m talking cheese! Let’s hear it for crispy chicken skin, one of life’s most decadent pleasures.
This is the kind of meal that sticks to your bones and gives you the warm-and-fuzzies. It’s an ‘eat on the couch, watch the snow out the window, chat with friends over wine’ kind of dinner. Make it for a simple weeknight dinner situation or a dinner party. This skillet dinner does it all.
Why you’ll love this creamy Tuscan chicken and orzo skillet
Here’s what’s up with this recipe. It has creamy Parmesan orzo, a good handful of kale, and a dose of sun-dried tomatoes. As far as the chicken goes, we’re giving it a nice amount of seasoning and searing it for that gorgeous, crispy skin. Then, you’ll pop everything in the oven to bake up and meld everything together, all in less than an hour. This recipe is also:
- One-pan – everything gets cooked up in a big skillet.
- Wholesome – with chicken, orzo, and veggies this is a well-rounded meal.
- Simple – this dinner comes together quickly and easily.
- Ridiculously flavorful – seriously, this meal is beyond delicious.
What makes this dinner ‘Tuscan’?
So, truth be told, there’s nothing in this meal that necessarily makes this dinner Tuscan. From my research, it seems that in the U.S., ‘Tuscan’ mainly refers to the combo of sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, Parmesan, lemon, and garlic. I have a feeling this has to do with the Olive Garden-ization of Italian food but who knows. Either way, this flavor combo is absolutely amazing and you should definitely try it!
The ingredient list
- Chicken thighs – bone-in and skin-on for the best flavor!
- Veggies – shallots and chopped kale.
- Orzo – for that creamy pasta!
- Dry white wine – just a splash. I like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio.
- Chicken broth – I use Better Than Bullion but any will work.
- Cream – heavy cream or half-and-half will both work.
- Parmesan – freshly-grated! Trust me.
- Sun-dried tomatoes – I prefer the kind that come in oil but any are great.
- Lemon – for a little acidity.
- Spices – onion powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika, sage, garlic, fresh thyme, and red pepper flakes.
- Kitchen basics – olive oil, Kosher salt, and black pepper.
How to make this recipe
- First, combine the onion powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika, and sage. Sprinkle the spice mix evenly over the chicken thighs along with some salt and pepper. Using clean hands, pat the rub into the chicken thighs.
- Next, sear the chicken thighs skin-side down until they’re crisp and golden-brown. Flip and sear for another 2-3 minutes. Set the chicken thighs on a plate.
- Add the shallots to the pan and cook until they’re soft and brown on the edges. Pour in the orzo and cook until it’s toasted. Then, add the garlic, thyme, and red pepper flakes and sauté until everything is fragrant.
- Pour the chicken broth over the orzo and boil until the pasta is cooked halfway. Next, stir in the cream, Parmesan, kale, and sun-dried tomatoes until the kale wilts.
- Nestle the chicken thighs skin-side up on top of the orzo. Then, pop the skillet in the oven and cook until the orzo is soft and the chicken is cooked through.
- Finish the dish with a sprinkle of Parmesan and a squeeze of lemon. Enjoy!
What is orzo?
If you’ve never had orzo before you’re going to love it! Orzo is a thin, oval, rice-shaped pasta that is oftentimes used in a similar way to rice. Even though it looks like a grain, it’s actually a pasta made out of durum wheat. It can be eaten hot in soups or pasta dishes, or cold in salads and the like. You can find it in the pasta aisle of the grocery store!
Can I use other cuts of chicken in this recipe?
Sure! If you still want to use dark meat, I would use drumsticks in place of the chicken thighs. If you like white meat, use chicken breasts instead. Depending on your tastes, you can use boneless, skinless or bone-in, skin-on breasts in this creamy Tuscan chicken and orzo skillet.
Just keep in mind that, depending on the size, drumsticks and breasts may cook quicker than thighs. Use a meat thermometer to keep from overcooking the chicken. It’s ready when the chicken reaches 165°F. If necessary, remove the chicken from the oven and let it rest while the orzo continues cooking.
This recipe is pretty versatile so you can always switch up ingredients if you need to! Here are a few ideas.
- Chicken – see above for other chicken cuts! This recipe would also be delicious with thick-cut pork chops.
- Spices – regular paprika can be used in place of smoked paprika. Use Italian seasoning in place of sage.
- Shallots – you can also use a small brown onion.
- Kale – if you don’t love kale, spinach is a great alternative!
- White wine – you can leave this out and add a little extra lemon juice for extra acidity!
Storing & reheating
To store the leftovers, pop them in an airtight container. Then, refrigerate for up for 3 days. To reheat the leftovers, they can be microwaved for 1-2 minutes until hot throughout. Keep in mind, the skin won’t be as crispy!
Personally, I like to reheat leftovers in the oven so the skin crisps up. Place the leftovers in a baking dish and add a splash of chicken broth to the orzo to keep it from drying out. Next, bake at 350°F for 10-15 minutes until warmed through.
While this creamy Tuscan chicken and orzo skillet is a meal in itself, sometimes I like to add a simple side dish to round out the meal. These are just some of my faves!
- Lemony green beans with pine nuts & garlic
- Charred broccoli with breadcrumbs & pecorino
- Kale salad with Greek yogurt “Caesar” dressing
- A simple green salad
- Garlic bread
Tips & tricks
- Use a cast iron skillet for the ultimate crispy skin. You can use a classic cast iron or an enamel cast iron. This one is my go-to!
- Let the skin really crisp up when you sear it. Don’t move the chicken at all for at least the first 3-4 minutes. (Then, if you’re worried about it burning, you can give it a little wiggle). The chicken is nice and crisp when it releases from the pan.
- Grate your own Parmesan cheese instead of using pre-grated. It’s meltier and tastes so much better!
- The chicken broth and cream might seem like a lot of liquid but don’t worry. The orzo will soak up the broth and turn into a creamy sauce as it bakes.
More one-pan dinners
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Creamy Tuscan Chicken and Orzo Skillet
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp sage
- 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 1 lb.)
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 1 large shallot, diced
- 1 1/4 c orzo pasta
- 4 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, minced
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (more or less, to taste)
- 1/4 c dry white wine
- 2 c low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 c heavy cream or half-and-half
- 1/2 c freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
- 2 c kale, julienned
- 1/3 c sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 1 lemon, halved
- Kosher salt & freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
- 12-inch cast-iron pan
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- In a small bowl, combine the onion powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika, and sage. Pat the chicken thighs dry and then sprinkle evenly with the spice mix, a generous amount of Kosher salt, and freshly-ground black pepper. Using clean hands, pat the rub into the chicken thighs.
- Next, heat the olive oil in a 12-inch, oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the chicken thighs skin-side down and cook 5-6 minutes, until the skin is crisp and golden brown. The skin is ready when it easily releases from the pan. Flip and cook another 2-3 minutes to sear the other side. Place the chicken thighs on a plate to rest while you make the orzo.
- Reduce the heat to medium. Add the shallot and cook until it’s soft, about 1 minute. Add the orzo and cook until it’s golden, another 2-3 minutes. Next, stir in the garlic, thyme, and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Deglaze the pan with the white wine and reduce by half. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Boil until the orzo is halfway cooked, about 4-5 minutes. Then, pour in the heavy cream, Parmesan, kale, and sun-dried tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and stir well until the kale starts to wilt.
- Nestle the chicken thighs skin-side up on top of the orzo. Pop the skillet in the oven and cook until the pasta is cooked through and the chicken reaches 165°F at the thickest part of the thigh, about 12-15 minutes.
- Garnish the chicken and orzo with extra Parmesan and a squeeze of lemon juice. Enjoy!
xo Sara Lynn
*Song of the day: Feel It All Around by Washed Out