Spicy Cheddar and Pumpkin Orzo with Arugula


Orzo plays a very comforting role in this dish, soaking up a savory pumpkin and spicy cheddar cheese sauce. Tossing in fresh peppery greens to this just before serving adds a pop of color and great texture to this warm pasta salad. Slideshow: More Pumpkin Recipes 

Spicy Cheddar and Pumpkin Orzo with Arugula
Photo: © Sarah Bolla
Total Time:
25 mins


  • 1 1/2 cups dry orzo

  • 1 cup pasta water

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for coating pasta

  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced

  • 3/4 cup pumpkin purée

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chili garlic sauce

  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

  • 4 ounces grated Cheddar cheese

  • 4 cups arugula leaves

  • 2 tablespoons pepita seeds

  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling


  1. In a large saucepot of salted boiling water, cook the orzo until al dente. Drain and reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking liquid. Transfer the orzo to a large bowl, coat lightly with olive oil and set aside.

  2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, until softened and lightly browned.

  3. Add the pumpkin puree, chili garlic sauce, mustard, nutmeg, and salt and stir to combine. Pour in the reserved pasta water and simmer on medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add the grated cheddar to the sauce, stirring until evenly incorporated and melted, about 3 minutes.

  4. Pour the pumpkin-cheddar sauce over the bowl of orzo and fold it in gently to combine. Toss in the arugula leaves and pepita seeds. Transfer the pasta to plates, drizzle lightly with olive oil, and serve warm.

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