Orzo with Tomato Basil Sauce, Zucchini, and Grilled Shrimp

July 14, 2020 | | |
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5 from 4 votes

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Horizontal platter of orzo with tomato sauce topped with four skewers of grilled shrimp alongside a jar of Rao's Homemade Tomato Basil Sauce.IT’S GRILLING SEASON, FRIENDS!!!!!

Sorry for yelling, but the aggressive use of caps and exclamation points feels necessary given that this is the very first grilling season that I have access to a real, live grill.

After so many years wed to my trusty grill pan in NYC—aka The Land of Very Few Grills—using an outdoor grill feels truly thrilling. THRILLING, I say!! Not to mention luxurious. Honestly, it’s been the highlight of my 2020, so I shall be grilling everything. You’ve been warned.

(Don’t worry, I promise to make sure every recipe is still doable with a grill pan. I shall never forget my roots!)

So, without further ado, I proudly present one of my finest grilled masterpieces to date: Orzo with Tomato Basil Sauce, Zucchini, and Grilled Shrimp.

If you’re not familiar with orzo (also known as risoni), it’s a delightfully versatile, rice-shaped pasta for which I’ve developed a particular soft spot over the years. It’s fantastic in soups, casseroles, and even salads, but I’m partial to it in a great pesto or tomato sauce with a vegetable or two.

In this summer-y iteration of my preferred orzo format, the pasta is tossed with thick slices of tender grilled zucchini and my beloved Rao’s Homemade® Tomato Basil Sauce that’s made with hand-selected ingredients, including whole leaf basil, sweet Italian tomatoes, and fresh garlic. The resulting dish is simple yet comforting with surprising depth of flavor—it’s one of those fabulous recipes were the result is somehow so much more than the sum of its parts.

You can (and should) eat this orzo independently as a plant-based meal, but if you’re looking to up your culinary game, I beg you to try it topped with balsamic marinated grilled shrimp. The delicate shrimp play beautifully with the flavors in the orzo, highlighting the sweetness of the Rao’s Homemade® Tomato Basil Sauce and balancing the heartiness of the orzo to create a special summer meal. Perhaps serve it with a bottle of chilled rosé and have yourself a little celebration!

As always, I’ve got a couple quick recipe notes for you. First, if you’re using bamboo skewers to grill your shrimp, do NOT forget to soak them in water for at least 30 minutes. (This will prevent them from catching fire on the grill, which is rather important.) Second, when it comes to marinating your shrimp, please don’t leave the shrimp in the marinade for more than 30 minutes. The marinade is acidic, and it will start to “cook” the shrimp and make them mushy if they’re left for too long.

And now for some you do you options! Not a shellfish fan? Grilled salmon, steak, and chicken paillard (all can be marinated like the shrimp) are awesome protein options. If you don’t have orzo on hand, try this recipe with your favorite short pasta—casarecce, campanelle, and rotini are personal favorites. On the sauce front, I love the bright, fresh flavors of Rao’s Homemade® Tomato Basil Sauce, but the Arrabbiata, Marinara, or Roasted Garlic Sauce would be equally delicious. (Honestly, you can never go wrong with any of the Rao’s Homemade sauces.) And if you’re moved to add some cheese into the mix, I support you!

Now go forth and fire up the grill!

Platter of orzo in tomato basil sauce with grilled zucchini topped with skewers of grilled balsamic-marinated shrimp.

Orzo with Tomato Basil Sauce, Zucchini, and Grilled Shrimp

Author – Serena Wolf
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Yields: 4 servings


  • 4-8 metal or bamboo skewers
  • 5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 garlic cloves grated or finely minced
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt plus extra to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper plus extra to taste
  • 1 pound large shrimp about 24-28 shrimp, peeled and deveined with the tail shells still on
  • 8 ounces orzo pasta
  • 2 medium zucchini roughly 8 inches long, sliced lengthwise into ½-inch planks
  • One 24-ounce jar Rao’s Homemade® Tomato Basil Sauce
  • 8-10 fresh basil leaves thinly sliced
  • Crushed red pepper flakes optional


  • If you’re using bamboo skewers, make sure to soak them in a shallow baking dish filled with water for at least 30 minutes. (This will prevent them from catching fire on the grill.)
  • Make the marinade. In a medium bowl, whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, garlic, salt, and black pepper. Transfer 3 tablespoons of the marinade to a separate small bowl and set aside (this will be used for this zucchini).
  • Add the shrimp to the medium bowl with the marinade and toss to coat. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  • Pre-heat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat.
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the orzo al dente according to the package directions. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta water to be used later (if needed). Drizzle the orzo with a little bit of olive oil, tossing to coat, to prevent the pasta from sticking together while you prep the zucchini and shrimp.
  • Remove the shrimp from the marinade, and thread 6 to 7 shrimps onto each skewer. (If your skewers are small, thread fewer shrimp per skewer.) You want the skewer to pierce each shrimp twice, once just above the tail shell and once near the head, to form a tight c-shape.
  • Pat the zucchini planks dry and brush on both sides with the reserved marinade. Season with extra black pepper and a pinch of salt. (Be very careful with the salt! The zucchini will be added to the orzo and Tomato Basil Sauce, which have plenty of salt.)
  • Grilling time. Grill the zucchini for 3 to 4 minutes per side until just tender (you want to keep it relatively firm). Grill the shrimp skewers for about 2 minutes per side, until the shrimp are opaque throughout.
  • Cover the shrimp with aluminum foil to keep them warm while you finish preparing the orzo. Slice the zucchini crosswise at a slight angle into ¾-inch pieces.
  • In a medium sauté pan or Dutch oven, warm the Tomato Basil Sauce over medium-low heat. When the sauce is warm, stir in the orzo and zucchini. If needed, add a little bit of the reserved pasta water to loosen the sauce slightly.
  • Transfer the orzo to a serving platter or individual plates/bowls. Top with the shrimp and garnish with fresh basil and crushed red pepper (if using). Serve warm.

This post is sponsored by my longtime friends at Rao’s Homemade. Thank you for supporting the brands that help keep Domesticate Me alive and kicking. 

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  1. Claire on March 22, 2021 at 5:58 pm

    5 stars
    I can never resist loading up on Rao’s sauce when it’s on sale at the store…love this recipe as a yummy new way to use up my surplus of Rao’s!

  2. Jessica M on October 1, 2020 at 6:20 pm

    I’m considering making this for an upcoming dinner party (small group). What would be good to make with this? Salad? Veggies?

    • Serena Wolf on October 6, 2020 at 3:41 pm

      A simple arugula or mixed green salad would be great. But you could also go with a grilled broccolini or some extra grilled vegetables!

  3. Kate Nicholson on July 14, 2020 at 1:01 pm

    Can’t wait to try this! We bought a grill last year, but it didn’t get serious use until about two weeks or so ago when our HVAC system completely failed us and our kitchen became a hell-scape to cook in. Now that the HVAC has been replaced (oh sweet compressed air), the grill is still getting a lot of use.

5 from 4 votes (3 ratings without comment)

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