$8 and $20 recipe: Chicken in One Bowl, Zucchini and Orzo with Semolina

Eight ingredients, plus essential nutrients. That’s all it takes to prepare a complete meal from scratch. Add a good bottle of wine for under $20, and you’ve got a feast for family or friends.

Simplicity is key when it comes to summertime recipes. This simple, delicious, and filling dish will hit the spot on a weekday with less time spent in the kitchen.

Start by searing the chicken until you have valuable fat left over to cook the ingredients in later steps. All layers of flavor are built on each other in one Dutch oven or pot, imparting delicious chicken flavor to the vegetables and orzo. Use homemade broth if you can, to pack as much flavor as possible into this short list of ingredients. On that note, be sure to season it generously, especially with salt.

To counter the flesh and give a distinct seasonal feel is the addition of fresh herbs. I love the combination of parsley for a green taste, a slightly bitter tone and sweet basil as the perfect summer herb. Along with chopped and toasted pistachios, herbs add to pizza’s taste as well as visual appeal, but some or all of the toppings can be omitted to keep this dinner super simple.

Even if you’re blessed with a dishwasher in your home (unlike I), there’s no doubt that a one-pot dish takes the stress out of the evening. Not only does it not clean the cookware, but it also keeps the mess contained while you’re on the go. And when you’re done, you get a meal full of protein, starch, and vegetables.

This recipe can easily be modified into a vegetarian appetizer or side dish. Simply skip the chicken and replace the broth with the vegetables. For a boost of protein (and tang), adding crumbled feta cheese is also really tasty—and if you’re going that route, try adding fresh mint to your garnish.

For wine, I looked for a selection that would turn on the brighter ingredients in a dish. However, I still want the wine to have some substance and body rather than very light or mineral deflectors.

It was L’Ecole No. 41 Sémillon Columbia Valley 2020 from Washington is a solid choice, with some lightness to make this more than appetizing and fresh to go with the lightest, freshest ingredients. It’s also a great deal, scoring 91 points for just $16.

Chicken Bowl, Zucchini And Orzo

Pair it with a white wine that balances richness and fresh acidity, like L’Ecole No. 41 Sémillon Columbia Valley 2020 (91 points, $16).

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour
total time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Approximate food costs: $40


  • 6 chicken thighs
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil and more
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 small yellow onion, cut into cubes
  • 2 zucchini, cut into cubes
  • splash of white wine
  • 1/2 cup orzo tongue
  • 1/2 cup unsalted chicken broth, preferably homemade, divided
  • Lemon juice from 1 lemon, to taste
  • Optional garnishes: toasted and chopped pistachios, chopped parsley, chopped basil


1. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven or large saucepan. Add chicken and cook, without stirring, until browned, 5 to 7 minutes, then flip and cook for another 5 to 7 minutes on the other side. The chicken will not be fully cooked at this point. Transfer it to a plate and set aside.

2. Add garlic, onion, and zucchini, season with salt and pepper and saute, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Remove with a splash of white wine, then transfer the vegetables to a bowl and set aside.

3. Add a little oil if the pot looks dry. Add the orzo tongue with a large pinch of salt and roast for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add half of the stock, reduce the heat and cover. Leave to cook for 10 minutes.

4. Return the vegetables to the pot with the rest of the stock, place the chicken on top, cover and simmer over medium-low heat for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, until the orzo is tender and the chicken is cooked through.

5. Remove from heat, season to taste with salt and lemon juice and add to it any or all of the optional garnishes: parsley, basil, pistachios. Serves 3 to 4.

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