Cheesy Chicken and Cauliflower Orzo Bake

A delicious casserole filled with meat, pasta, veggies, and creamy white cheese sauce. Special enough for company and holiday dinners too!

Um, so cauliflower seems to be whispering to me from the supermarket seven blocks down the road in the produce aisle.

It somehow manages to taunt me through the double sliding glass doors – the same ones I happened to knock off the tracks with the giant race car shopping cart my daughter was riding in the other day.

And, well, this cheese sauce seems to be trailing me too.

And I keep seeing cauliflower everywhere – like here, and here.

I can’t help it. I just kind of want it all the time.

It’s good though, that it’s this stubborn white vegetable that has me in its clutches this week, because come Sunday, it will relinquish its control to jellybeans.

And they will


So here I am, in this moment, making nice with as many vegetables as I possibly can.

But not that nice – because there is some serious cheese sauce involved in this casserole. . . . and pasta, and, well, chicken too.

There is always tomorrow for salad, Folks.

Believe me, it’s true.

A delicious casserole filled with meat, pasta, veggies, and creamy white cheese sauce. Special enough for company and holiday dinners too!


OK, I’m sorry. I’m double-tasking here. Or triple-tasking if you count the glass of wine I’m sipping, but I’m watching Mob Wives as I write this.

Why is it that these women insist on insisting that they will beat each other to a pulp?

“If someone ever picked up a butter knife to me they would leave here stabbed at least twelve times.”


Really, Love? Really? And your name is, “LOVE”?


Maybe she should try lovin’ her some Cheesy Chicken and Cauliflower Orzo Bake, hmmmmm?

Seems like it would be MUCH more productive.

And way the heck more ethical than trying to pulverize last week’s BFF with tableware.


Cheese. Chicken. Orzo. Cauliflower. Sweet corn. Topped with more cheese and baked to bubbly golden perfection.

If you feel you need some greenery on your casserole, chiffonade some baby spinach, or chop some watercress or arugula to sprinkle over the top after it’s out of the oven.

Then, for good measure, why not sprinkle some fresh, diced tomatoes over the top?

Or – if you’re like me – and you don’t want to risk wilting your veggies in the steam of that piping hot casserole – then just serve the salad on the side.

It’s all good.

Color is color, no matter where it’s placed.

I don’t want to call this light, but it might be.

There are only two cups of shredded cheese in the whole dish, and we’re using 2% milk, and only a quarter cup of butter – which really sounds like a ton, but let’s remember this dish serves 8-10 people at least.

And we’re groovy with the food groups:

Meats: chickenA delicious casserole filled with meat, pasta, veggies, and creamy white cheese sauce. Special enough for company and holiday dinners too.

Dairy: milk and cheese

Veggies: Cauliflower and corn

Grains: Orzo

See? Perfect.

Now if I could just figure out how NOT to use sixteen dishes in the prep.

That would be cool.

Cheesy Chicken and Cauliflower Orzo Bake

Prep Time: 40 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: 8-12

This dish is delicious enough for company or a holiday buffet, but made earlier in the day, it can be a convenient weeknight meal too. It feeds a large crowd - at least 8 large servings, but it could provide up to 12 smaller servings with a side salad too.


  • 1 rotisserie chicken, meat removed from bones and coarsely shredded (skin removed too)
  • 1 medium head of cauliflower, stem removed, rinsed, and cut into florets
  • 2 ears of fresh corn, washed and kernels cut from cobs
  • 1 lb. dry orzo
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups 2% milk
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded, extra sharp white cheddar, divided (1 cup for the sauce, 1/2 cup for topping)
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed and skins removed
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper


In a medium sauce pan, add milk, smashed garlic, thyme, bay leaf, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Heat until hot, but not boiling. Let it heat while preparing the rest of the dish (at least 15 minutes).

Heat a large pot of water to boiling.

Once water is boiling, add cauliflower. Cook for about 5 minutes, until crisp-tender. Remove with a slotted spoon, reserving water. Set Cauliflower aside (in your 9x13" casserole dish, if you like - to save dishes).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Meanwhile, prepare sauce.

Melt butter in a medium sauce pan over medium-low heat. Sprinkle in flower a little bit at a time, whisking constantly. Whisk over heat a few minutes, until smooth and golden.

With a slotted spoon, remove bay leaf, thyme, and smashed garlic from the hot milk mixture.

In four parts, slowly add milk mixture to butter and flour. Whisking well after each addition, each time until the mixture is even and smooth.

Once all the milk has been completely added, add in 1 cup of the shredded cheddar. Whisk until melted and even. Add in Parmesan and whisk again until smooth. Taste for seasoning and add salt and/or pepper if needed.

Set sauce to low to keep warm.

Bring the pot of reserved cauliflower water back to a boil.

Add orzo and cook until al dente.


In pasta cooking pot, combine pasta, cauliflower, corn, chicken, and cheese sauce. Fold together with a rubber spatula until evenly mixed. Taste and add salt and pepper if necessary.

Transfer mixture to a 9x13" casserole dish and top with remaining half cup of cheese. (If making ahead, this is the point where you can cover and refrigerate for later).

Bake until cheese is melted (about 15 minutes), then switch the oven to "broil", and cook until cheese is golden brown (about 5 minutes).

Serve hot.



12 thoughts on “Cheesy Chicken and Cauliflower Orzo Bake

  1. Mmmmmmmm, cheese, corn, and chicken in one dish? Sounds awesome. I’ve never heard the siren call of cauliflower, but this one might have me try.

    Do you realize the amount of alliteration in your recipe? Chicken, corn, cheese, and cauliflower casserole.

  2. But how do I cut the cauliflower? Casually?!? Finely!? Precisely?… I’m so confused but this looks delicious! Please be a little more specific…

    • Well my dear, put on your best evening gown, pour a glass of champagne and hold it in your left hand, tune in some classical music, then, with your right hand, whack at the rinsed head of cauliflower (stem and leaves removed, of course) somewhat haphazardly and with a modicum of pent up frustration until you have florets (or random chunks) about 1.5″ in size. So I gues that would be “formally chaotic”? Let me know if you need more specifics…. ;P

      • Cool, that’s what I assumed but I wanted to double-check to be sure. I’ll try this soon! I’ve always got a little spare pent-up frustration handy.

  3. We just tried this last night for dinner (after I found it last night trying to get caught up on your blog posts ;)). Loved it! And even the boyfriend who hates anything cheese or vegetable related liked it! Win!!! Annddd…I’ve just finished baking an “Ugly Cake”. I could eat the caramel sauce by itself :).

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