This one pan zucchini pasta bake is the perfect easy weeknight meal! Chicken, orzo and zucchini simmered in a creamy lemon sauce and topped with melted cheese. It doesn't get better than this!
It's August which means zucchini season is in full effect and my garden is currently exploding with fresh zucchini (otherwise known as courgette)! I love zucchini because it is such a versatile vegetable. You can turn it into noodles to help bulk up your pasta dishes, can add it to recipes like these quinoa cups for added veggies, you can air fry it , add it to muffins or even sneak it into your favourite pasta, smoothies or oats!
At the beginning of every season I always start a list of recipes I want to try to make over the next few months. As the season goes on, inevitably that list continues to grow and grow as I get inspiration from so many sources! However one recipe that's been on my 'need to make' list for MONTHS has been this easy zucchini pasta bake.
Why This Dietitian Loves This Recipe
- One pan meal- As someone who loves a good easy meal I always love the idea of minimal dishes. This zucchini pasta bake is made in one single pan. You will use this pan to saute your zucchini, sear your chicken and cook your orzo. This means that you are not only saving yourself from doing 100 dishes, you are also going to feel so much more in control in the kitchen knowing you don't need to run around finding more bowls, pots and pans!
- Balanced meal- As a dietitian I LOVE a single dish that has all the nutrients needed for a balanced meals. This pasta bake has lots of veggies, carbohydrates and protein for a great full meal!
- Zucchini- I personally like to use a mix of both green zucchini and yellow summer squash to help add more colour to this zucchini pasta bake. However you can choose to just use one!
- Orzo- short-cut pasta similar to a grain of rice (I like to say it's a cross between pasta and rice). You can find it in the pasta aisle at most grocery stores.
- Spices/ Herbs- garlic, thyme, Italian seasoning, chili flakes salt and pepper are the only spices you are going to need for this pasta bake! Feel free to add in some fresh basil if you have it available to you as well!
- Lemon- I recommend using a fresh lemon rather than the pre-squeezed lemon juice you can buy at the store as it tastes fresher. The lemon adds such a nice, refreshing summer flavour to this one pan meal!
- Chicken Broth- To add additional flavour to this meal you will be cooking your orzo in chicken broth rather than just plain water. As a Dietitian I am always watching for added sodium so try to purchase a low sodium chicken broth!
- Chicken thighs- I use skinless and boneless chicken thighs in this pasta bake as I love how tender and juicy they are.
- Kale- To add some leafy greens into this chicken zucchini pasta bake I used chopped kale!
Substitutions and Variations
To make gluten-free: Use a gluten free small pasta or orzo of choice.
To make dairy-free: Use a dairy free cheese of choice.
To make nut-free: This recipe is naturally nut-free.
- Orzo: If you cannot find orzo (or would rather use what you have on hand) you can substiute any small pasta (such as macaroni noodles etc.)!
- Kale: Can easily be substituted with spinach (or you can do a mix of both)
- Chicken thighs: Substitute with chicken breast if you are looking for a slightly lower fat option. I recommend slicing your chicken breasts into smaller pieces prior to help them evenly cook through.
This zucchini pasta bake is so simple, it proves that you don't need to be a chef to make meals that impress everyone you know.
Cook your zucchini- To start, choose a large pan (as I mentioned before if you have one that is oven safe use that! If not any large pan will work). Slice your zucchini into thin slices, then add it to your preheated pan with some olive oil, salt and pepper and cover. Allow this to saute for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once your zucchini is cooked, set it aside (I add it to a plate).
Cook your chicken- In the same pan, add more olive oil, garlic and your onions. Cook until you can smart smelling your garlic and your onions are beginning to become translucent. At this point you can add your chicken thighs. Arrange them in a single layer on your pan ( you will need to move around your onions a little to make room)! Sear each side of your chicken thighs (about 3 minutes per side).
Cook your orzo- Add your spices, orzo, lemon juice, zucchini and chicken broth into the same pan (keep the chicken there as well!). Bring the liquid to a boil and then cover with a lid. Allow this to simmer for about 15-20 minutes.
The final step- If you are not using an oven safe pan, pour everything into a large casserole dish. Stir in your kale and half of the cheese and top of the remaining other half. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 10 minutes, then broil for 5 minutes to brown your cheese!
Top with additional chili flakes and enjoy!
- oven safe pan (ie. cast iron pan)
I do need to note that although this recipe is technically a one pan meal- your pan must be oven safe for this to be true. I personally love using my Always Pan (because who doesn't love a good non stick pan) which unfortunately is not oven safe so *TECHNICALLY* I used two pans- one for the stovetop and one for the oven. However if you use a cast iron pan or any other oven safe pan you can just pop it right into the oven after doing the stove top portion of the recipe.
More easy weeknight dinner inspiration
Looking for more quick, easy and nutritious dinner ideas? I've got you covered:
PS. I love seeing my recipes in action! If you decide to make this creamy chicken orzo bake tag me on Instagram - @nourishedbynic or leave a comment below how it turned out!
Creamy Lemon Chicken Pasta Bake
- 2 zucchini or summer squash thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoon olive oil divided
- 4 cloves garlic sliced
- 1 medium yellow onion chopped
- 8 chicken thighs boneless and skinless
- ½ tablespoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- salt and pepper to taste
- red chili flakes to taste
- 1 medium lemon just the juice
- 1 cup dry orzo pasta
- 1 cup low sodium chicken broth
- 2 cups chopped kale
- 1 cup marble cheese shredded
- parmesan cheese for sprinkling
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- In a large pan, add one tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add your zucchini, season with salt and pepper and saute with the lid on for about 5 minutes stirring occasionally. Once zucchini is cooked, add it to a plate.
- In the same pan add the rest of the olive oil ( 2 tbsp), your garlic and onions. Cook until fragrant (about 3 minutes). Arrange your chicken thighs the pan in a single layer (you will need to move your onions around). Sear each side of the chicken for about 3 minutes.
- Add your orzo, spices, lemon juice, zucchini and chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, add your lid and simmer on low-medium for about 15-20 minutes.
- If your pan is oven safe, mix in the kale, and half of the cheese. Top with the remaining half of the cheese (sprinkle with parmesan cheese if using).If your pan is not oven safe- pour your orzo, chicken, zucchini mixture into a casserole dish before adding your cheese and kale.Bake for 10 minutes and then turn the oven to broil and broil for 5 minutes to get the cheese nice and brown.
- Top with additional red chili flakes and enjoy!