prawn orzo risotto

Tomato Prawn Orzo Risotto

This tomato prawn orzo risotto recipe is really simple yet has so much flavour. It’s creamy, full of prawn flavour and really delicious. Instead of arborio rice I use Orzo pasta and cook it exactly like a risotto. The key to making this dish is to use the prawns shells and heads to make an incredibly flavourful broth to use as the base of this ‘risotto’.

It’s really summer on a plate and always takes me back to the Italian Riviera! It’s a dish that you can make ahead and can be ready in under 30 minutes.

What it an Orzo Risotto?

You may have seen the term ‘orzo risotto’ before and it’s quite simply Orzo pasta cooked exactly like a risotto. Orzo pasta is a small, rice shaped dry pasta that’s easily found in supermarkets or specialised Italian delis. Just like Arborio rice, it’s cooked in stock and releases its starch creating a beautiful creamy sauce!

Just like in a good risotto, the key is a really good stock to cook the pasta in. Instead of having to simmer bones or vegetables for hours, this recipe uses the prawn heads and shells to create a really quick, 20 minute stock.

Instead of cooking pasta in water and adding it to a sauce, you cook the pasta in stock. This cooks the pasta and makes a sauce.

It’s the same principle as a risotto – the stock reduces, gets absorbed into the pasta and the starch thickens the ‘sauce’. You’re left with a beautiful creamy pasta dish that’s just like a risotto!

I like cook my prawn tails separately in a pan with lots of butter and optional garlic and chilli. This means the pasta can be made ahead without overcooking the prawns.

What You’ll Need

In this section I’ll talk about what you’ll need to make Prawn Tomato Orzo Risotto, substitutes and more.

Frozen, Whole Prawns

It might be appear contrary to intuition but frozen prawns are always better than fresh. They’re frozen directly afte they’re caught which helps to preserve the quality of prawns.

Fresh prawns (unfrozen), especially whole, tend to degrade quickly after they’re killed. As soon as they die, an enzyme (that’s used to process their food) quickly travels down to the tail causing the meat to become mushy. Whole prawns that are quickly frozen after they’re killed remain as fresh as they were when they were caught.

Buying them whole (heads, entrails and all!) is also the best way to get the maximum from these relatively expensive morsels of seafood. They can be defrosted in warm water in a matter of minutes. Once defrosted, simply twist off the heads and peel off the shells. But don’t throw them away, as we’re going to use them for an incredible prawn stock.

Prawn stock

Making a prawn stock is really easy and only takes 20 minutes to cook. It’s also the base of the dish and ensures you get an amazing prawn flavour throughout the ‘risotto’.

Simply take the the prawn heads, shells and sauté in olive oil for a few minutes, add a sliced garlic clove and some tomato paste. Water is added along with:

  • Fennel
  • Fresh tomatoes
  • Carrot
  • Basil

You can of course vary this to your tastes but I find this combination gives a sweet, aromatic and slightly aniseed flavour. It’s incredible.

Orzo Risotto

For the actual Orzo risotto you’ll need Orzo pasta along with some base flavourings. I like to use:

  • Garlic
  • Shallots
  • Fennel

You can use courgette instead of fennel if you don’t like the aniseed flavour. To finish the Orzo risotto I use baby cherry tomatoes and garnish with fresh basil and fennel frond.



2 servings

Prep time

45 minutes

Cooking time

30 minutes


620 kcal

For the prawn stock:

  • 8 large frozen prawns, defrosted, heads and shells removed, tails reserved
  • 1 tsp tomato purée
  • 2 large ripe tomatoes
  • 1/2 fennel, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely sliced
  • 1 small carrot, roughly chopped
  • 1 handful of basil

For the Orzo risotto:

  • 150g orzo pasta
  • 1 shallot, finely minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/4 fennel, finely minced
  • 8 prawn tails
  • 4 cherry tomatoes
  • 50ml White wine
  • Lemon
  • Basil leaves, as required
  • Fennel frond, as required

How to Make Prawn Orzo Risotto

  1. Firstly start with the prawn stock. Take a sauté pan or medium pot with a lid and heat 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil. Add the prawn heads and shells and sauté for 1 minute. Crush the heads to extract the maximum amount of flavour.

  2. Add sliced garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Add the tomato paste and sauté for another 30 seconds. Add the rest of the ingredients and cover with water (at least 500ml).

  3. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered for 20 minutes. Pass through a fine sieve and reserve.

  4. For the Orzo risotto, put a sauté pan on a medium heat and add the garlic, fennel and shallot. Sauté for 5 minutes or until soft.

  5. Add the pasta and deglaze with a splash of white wine. Reduce the wine whilst stirring constantly.

  6. Add a ladle full of stock and cook until reduced. Keep on adding the stock whilst stirring. Repeat until their pasta is cooked and the sauce is creamy and thick.

  7. Season to taste and add lemon juice and zest. You can either reserve for later use or keep warm with a lid on.

  8. When read to eat, place a frying pan on a high heat and add olive oil. Add your prawn tails and optionally garlic and chilli. Fry on each side for 1 minute max. Let them rest for another minute.

  9. Place the prawn tails on the orzo risotto along with sliced cherry tomatoes, basil leaves and a glug of extra virgin olive oil.

Want more easy Italian 🇮🇹 recipes? Check them out here!

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