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Ground Chicken and Parmesan Roasted Zucchini Bowls with Orzo

I’m a huge fan of rice bowls, particularly high protein rice bowls and power bowls. So when I decided to make an Italian style ground chicken and zucchini combo, I figured I should use the rice-shaped pasta known as orzo. It’s the best of both worlds!

These orzo bowls are made with garlic parmesan roasted zucchini and a shortcut Sunday sauce made with ground chicken, onion, and a jar of your favorite pasta sauce.

grating parmigiano reggiano over Italian ground chicken and zucchini orzo bowls

Shortcut Italian Ground Chicken

If you’ve tried my high protein spaghetti and meatballs or lazy turkey lasagna, you know I’m a big fan of Rao’s sauces. And for this ground chicken, I used a jar of Rao’s vodka sauce. Don’t worry if you have trouble finding Rao’s in stores, any pasta sauce works fine for this recipe.

I like to add diced sweet onion to the ground chicken and sauce for a little something extra, but it’s totally optional. Since this is a quick cooking sauce that won’t simmer any longer than it takes to prepare the orzo and roasted zucchini, other vegetables like carrots may not have time to fully cook down.

Though if you have some time and want to make a sauce from scratch, my turkey bolognese recipe would work well with ground chicken and the other components in this recipe.

browning ground chicken in a cast iron braising pan with diced sweet onion
Color = flavor. Be sure to give your ground chicken time in the pan to develop a golden brown crust on one side via the Maillard reaction.

And if you want to go in a different direction flavor wise, you might try something like the honey harissa sauce in my Mediterranean ground chicken or the lemon pepper and dijon flavors from my creamy turkey orzo.

Making the Parmesan Roasted Zucchini

Four zucchini, cut into half moons (pictured below), tossed in olive oil, and seasoned with grated parmesan and a little granulated garlic and black pepper. The zucchini is split between two half sheet pans and baked for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.

zucchini half moons on a sheet pan tossed in olive oil, grated parmesan, and garlic powder

This is a great opportunity to point out this recipe is geared towards meal prep with a yield of eight bowls. If you’re cooking for one and don’t love freezing leftovers, I would recommend cutting everything in half. But even if you go that route and really love zucchini, you might keep this portion of the recipe the same.

Personally, I can’t get enough of this stuff!

two half sheet pans with roasted zucchini squash

Garlic parmesan is a cheat code for crispy, flavorful roasted vegetables. It turns radishes into a passable keto potato substitute, and carrots into a bonafide sweet potato fries alternative.

I typically use the cheap pre-grated parmesan for roasted vegetables and save the finer parmigiano reggiano to grate over finished dishes. But if you’d rather use freshly grated for roasting, it works okay. Just be sure to grate it as finely as possible to mimic the stuff out of the shaker bottle.

close up photo of garlic parmesan baked zucchini squash

And by the way, if you’re not a fan of zucchini and summer squash, you could swap it for another vegetable like broccoli. The baking time should be pretty similar, but I’d keep a closer eye on the broccoli around the 15-minute mark since it’s not as forgiving as zucchini.

Orzo vs Rice Bowls

I’m one of the biggest rice bowl enthusiasts you’ll come across. But with an Italian style ground chicken, orzo is a no brainer. If you’re unfamiliar with orzo, it’s made just like any other wheat pasta and you prepare it the same way. Bring a pot of water to a boil before salting and cooking for 12-14 minutes.

cooked orzo in a mesh strainer over a stainless steel pot

The nutrition facts are very similar between a cup of cooked orzo and rice, so don’t worry about that.

If you wanted to cut the carbs, you could try using rice alternatives like cauliflower or hearts of palm rice. You could also use other protein pastas or veggie noodles. Though I’d skip the zoodles since this dish has roasted zucchini!

On the flip side, if you have some calories to spare you could toss the cooked orzo with a bit of unsalted butter or olive oil, lemon zest, and fresh herbs before assembling your zucchini and chicken bowls.

Assembling, Storing, and Reheating

As-written, the recipe makes eight bowls with a cup of cooked orzo, seven ounces of ground chicken, and just shy of three ounces of zucchini each. If you want to stretch this to make even more bowls or just have smaller portion sizes, you can multiply the nutrition facts and amounts of each ingredient per serving to get the totals. Then divide the totals by the number of servings you want. Easy peasy!

I suggest serving with a bit of freshly grated cheese, basil or parsley, and Calabrian chiles for some brightness and a little heat. The nutrition facts don’t account for any of these extras, so be sure to include them if you’re a macro tracker.

two Italian chicken and orzo bowls on a wooden serving board

As for storing leftovers, I package everything together in airtight containers. But if you wanted to store the zucchini separately and try to bring it back to life a bit in the oven or air fryer, that’s not a bad idea. Just be sure to store the chicken and orzo together, as the moisture in the chicken will help the orzo reheat without turning into one giant blob of pasta.

Now, that covers everything I can think of when it comes to making and modifying these ground chicken bowls. The comments section below is open for any questions you might have. Otherwise, you can save or print the recipe card below.

I hope you enjoy this recipe. If you do, I always appreciate recipe reviews!

two ground chicken and zucchini orzo bowls with calabrian chiles, lemon wedges, grated parmigiano reggiano, and basil

Ground Chicken and Parmesan Roasted Zucchini Bowls

Yield: 8 Bowls
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

High protein meal prep bowls with Italian style ground chicken and garlic parmesan roasted zucchini served over orzo.


For the Chicken

  • 1 Tablespoon (16g) Olive Oil
  • 2 pounds Ground Chicken Breast
  • 1 large Sweet Onion, finely diced
  • 24 oz jar Pasta Sauce (I used Rao's Vodka Sauce)
  • 1 cup Chicken Bone Broth or Water

For the Zucchini

  • 4 medium Zucchini Squash, cut into half moons
  • 3 Tablespoons (48g) Olive Oil
  • 1/2 cup (60g) Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • Sprinkle of Garlic Powder and Black Pepper

For the Orzo

  • 2 cups (16 oz dry weight) Orzo*
  • Salted Boiling Water

For Garnishing

  • Fresh Basil or Parsley
  • Parmigiano Reggiano or Parmesan
  • Calabrian Chiles
  • Lemon Wedges


  1. Preheat your oven to 450ºF and bring a pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. Heat a Dutch oven or large braising pan over medium-high heat with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the ground chicken and brown one side for 3-4 minutes until golden brown before breaking apart and adding the diced onion. Cook for another 5-6 minutes until the onions have softened and the chicken is fully cooked.
  3. Add the pasta sauce and chicken broth to the pan and stir everything together. Bring to a simmer until ready to serve.
  4. Toss the zucchini with the olive oil, grated parmesan, garlic powder, and black pepper. Transfer to two half sheet pans in an even layer. Bake for 15 minutes with one sheet pan on the top rack, and one sheet pan on the middle rack before swapping and baking an additional 10-15 minutes until golden brown.
  5. Add the orzo to the boiling water and cook for 12-14 minutes until just tender. Drain and serve while warm.
  6. To assemble each bowl, add 1 cup of cooked orzo, about 7 ounces of chicken, and about 75 grams of roasted zucchini.
  7. Garnish with freshly grated parmigiano reggiano or a dollop of ricotta cheese, fresh basil or herbs, Calabrian chiles, and a squeeze of fresh lemon, if desired.


*Feel free to use another pasta, rice, or grain if you prefer.

This recipe is geared towards meal prep. If you're cooking for one or two people and/or prefer smaller servings, you can easily half the recipe.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1 bowl (1 cup cooked orzo with 7 oz chicken and 75g roasted zucchini)
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 505Total Fat: 17gCarbohydrates: 51gFiber: 4gProtein: 38g

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Sunday 14th of July 2024

Long time fan, first time commenting. Making this right now! I've made quite a few of your recipes, you are my go-to!


Tuesday 18th of June 2024

This looks so good. I just found your site and have been emailing myself your recipes to try for later. I love Orzo and zucchini and parm so this is perfect.

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