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Creamy Lemon Chicken Orzo Casserole

Creamy Lemon Chicken Orzo Casserole: A Comforting One-Pot Meal

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Lemon Chicken Orzo Casserole is a comforting and satisfying dish perfect for cozy family dinners or gatherings with friends. This recipe combines tender chicken, fragrant herbs, creamy sauce, and zesty lemon flavors, all baked together with orzo pasta to create a hearty one-pot meal. Whether you’re looking for a comforting weeknight dinner or a crowd-pleasing dish for a special occasion, this Lemon Chicken Orzo Casserole is sure to impress.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound chicken breast, diced into bite-sized pieces
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked orzo
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, for garnish

Instructions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C). Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish with cooking spray or butter.
  2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Season the diced chicken breast with salt and pepper, then add it to the skillet. Cook until browned and cooked through, about 5-6 minutes. Remove the cooked chicken from the skillet and set it aside.
  3. In the same skillet, add the chopped onion and minced garlic. Cook until softened and fragrant, about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Stir in the dried thyme and all-purpose flour, and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes to create a roux.
  5. Gradually pour in the chicken broth, stirring constantly to prevent lumps from forming. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, about 3-4 minutes.
  6. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the heavy cream, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Add the uncooked orzo and frozen peas to the skillet, stirring until well combined.
  8. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish, spreading it out evenly.
  9. Sprinkle the shredded mozzarella and grated Parmesan cheese over the top of the orzo mixture.
  10. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.
  11. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is golden and bubbly.
  12. Once done, remove from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes before serving.
  13. Garnish with chopped parsley before serving.

Cook Notes and Variations:

  • For added flavor, you can use chicken thighs instead of chicken breast. Simply cook the thighs in the same manner as the breast, adjusting the cooking time as needed.
  • Feel free to add extra vegetables such as diced carrots, bell peppers, or spinach to the orzo mixture for added nutrition and color.
  • If you prefer a lighter version, you can substitute half-and-half or whole milk for the heavy cream.
  • To make this dish gluten-free, you can use a gluten-free all-purpose flour blend or cornstarch as a thickener instead of regular flour.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions):

Q: Can I make this Lemon Chicken Orzo Casserole ahead of time?

A: Yes, you can prepare the casserole ahead of time and refrigerate it until ready to bake. Simply assemble the casserole according to the instructions up to the point of baking, cover it tightly with plastic wrap or aluminum foil, and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. When ready to bake, remove it from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature before baking as directed.

Q: Can I freeze this Lemon Chicken Orzo Casserole?

A: Yes, this casserole freezes well. Once baked, allow it to cool completely, then tightly wrap the dish with plastic wrap and aluminum foil or transfer it to an airtight freezer-safe container. It can be frozen for up to 3 months. To reheat, thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bake in a preheated oven until heated through.

Q: Can I make a keto-friendly version of this Lemon Chicken Orzo Casserole?

A: While orzo pasta is not keto-friendly due to its high carb content, you can make a keto-friendly version of this dish by substituting the orzo with cauliflower rice or shirataki rice. Additionally, you can use a combination of almond flour and coconut flour as a thickener instead of all-purpose flour, and use a keto-friendly milk alternative instead of heavy cream.

Q: How can I make a low-carb version of this Lemon Chicken Orzo Casserole?

A: To make a low-carb version of this casserole, you can replace the orzo with spiralized zucchini or spaghetti squash. These low-carb alternatives will still provide a satisfying texture and absorb the flavors of the sauce beautifully.

Lemon Chicken Orzo Casserole is a versatile and delicious dish that’s perfect for any occasion. Whether you’re serving it for a family dinner or bringing it to a potluck, its creamy texture, zesty lemon flavor, and hearty ingredients are sure to be a hit with everyone. With easy-to-find ingredients and simple preparation, this one-pot meal is a great addition to your recipe collection. Give it a try and enjoy the comforting flavors of this Lemon Chicken Orzo Casserole today!

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