Salisbury Meatball Orzo Skillet

Salisbury Meatball Orzo Skillet
Jump to Recipe

Spring may be on the horizon but it’s not quite on our doorstep. So I’m still in comfort mode. And today’s Salisbury Meatball Orzo Skillet is my current favorite cozy indulgence. This recipe borrows its flavors from the American diner and TV dinner classic- Salisbury Steak. A meal that has been beloved by many for over a hundred years. Today, we’re going to take the storied steak and turn it into meatballs, introduce it to orzo, and marry the two in the dish’s classic mushroom onion gravy. It may be a simple recipe but it is beyond satisfying, so let’s make it!

A yellow onion on a wooden cutting board.

Despite its storied history, Salisbury Steak wasn’t a dish I grew up on. I’m sure I saw it among the frozen dinners in the grocery store. But my mom never bought it or made it, so it escaped my notice. The first time I remember being aware of this dish was while watching Kramer vs. Kramer on TV at some point in the late nineties. I was a kid so I didn’t necessarily get the nuance of the film. Instead, a small moment that featured Billy refusing to eat Salisbury Steak became lodged in my brain. And ever since I cannot hear the words “Salisbury Steak” without thinking about that movie. 

Ingredients for meatballs in a large glass bowl.

So what is Salisbury Steak? Salisbury Steak is named after the American physician and chemist James H. Salisbury.  He was known for his championing of a meat-heavy diet for long-term health.  Salisbury steak belongs to a family of hamburger steaks, which are the forerunners to the classic hamburger. A ground beef patty is seared in a pan and topped with a Demi-glacé or gravy. In the case of Salisbury Steak, which dates back to 1897, the hamburger steak is smothered in a mushroom and onion gravy and usually served alongside mashed potatoes and peas. Today, we’re going to turn it into a Salisbury Meatball Orzo Skillet.

Forming meatballs over a large glass bowl.

We’re going to start by making simple meatballs. This recipe doesn’t need a lot of bells and whistles. We’re trying to evoke nostalgia not reinvent the wheel. Place ground beef and onion in a large bowl. I chose to grate my onion because I want the flavor and not necessarily the texture. Onion fans, don’t worry! We will be adding ribbons of buttery onions to the gravy. Next, add some panko breadcrumbs, salt, an egg, and a whole whack of fresh ground pepper. And that’s everything that is going into these meatballs. Feel free to add a few more herbs and spices to the meatballs. But bear in mind, the gravy is a meaty, umami bomb. If you do too much to the meatballs, you may detract from the rest of the dish. Sort of like an overbearing soprano in a choir. 

Meatballs on a large plate.

Mix the meatball ingredients with a pair of clean hands. You can use a spoon if handling raw meat wigs you out. Using a tablespoon measure as a guide, roll the mixture into meatballs. You should have about 18. Pop them into the fridge, so they have time to chill and solidify. They only need about 20 minutes. But this brief stint will help them hold their shape when it comes time to brown them. 

Sliced cremini mushrooms on a cutting board.

While the meatballs are cooling their heels, we’re going to move on to prepping the veg for our gravy. Start by slicing a few yellow onions into half moons and chop up some cremini mushrooms. You can keep your cuts a little meaty here, the veggies will have ample time to cook down. And while you still have your cutting board out, mince a few cloves of garlic. Make sure you have a few sprigs of fresh thyme handy and that’s your mise en place done. 

Golden sautéed onions in a large cast-iron skillet.

Now let’s get cooking. Heat a small amount of oil in a large cast iron skillet. Once the oil is shimmering, add the meatballs in a single layer. Brown the meatballs on all sides before transferring them to a plate. You don’t have to worry about cooking the meatballs all the way through at this point. They most likely will not cook through because we made them quite chonky. We will simmer them in the gravy a little later, ensuring they are evenly cooked. At this point, our only concerns are getting some nice color on those meatballs and building flavor for the gravy.

Whisking beef stock into a large cast iron skillet.

Add the onions to the skillet with a pinch of salt. Make sure you keep your heat at medium-low. We’re not necessarily looking to sweat or slow cook our onions but we also don’t want them to cook too quickly. We want to give them the time to express their flavor. Once the onions are lightly golden, stir in the garlic and sauté briefly.  Transfer the onions to a bowl and set them aside.  Pour the mushrooms into the skillet and add another pinch of salt. Sauté the mushrooms until browned and add them to the bowl with the onions. 

Salisbury Meatballs simmering in an onion and mushroom gravy.

Now it’s time to build a roux. Add butter to the skillet and let it melt. Whisk in flour to form a paste. Slowly whisk in beef stock, working out any lumps and bumps as you go. Simmer the sauce until slightly thickened. Stir in a heaping tablespoon of whole-grain mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Return the onions, mushrooms, and meatballs to the skillet and bring the sauce to a simmer. Cover and let simmer for 15 minutes.

Salisbury Meatball Orzo Skillet

While the meatballs are simmering, cook the orzo according to the package’s directions. Drain the orzo and, once the 15 minutes have passed, add the orzo to the skillet. Add some finely chopped parsley as well and stir to combine. Spoon the orzo and meatballs into bowls and garnish with additional parsley. 

And there you go, Salisbury Meatball Orzo Skillet! A simple, nostalgic, and over-the-top delicious meal design to see us through this last bit of winter. 


Salisbury Meatball Orzo Skillet

Salisbury Meatball Orzo Skillet

This Salisbury Meatball Orzo Skillet features chubby meatballs swimming in a sea of tender orzo and an umami-laden mushroom and onion gravy.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Chilling Time 20 minutes
Course Main Course
Servings 4


  • 1 Large pot
  • 1 Large Cast Iron Skillet


  • 454g (1lb) lean ground beef
  • 4 yellow onions divided
  • ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 large egg
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 227g (8oz) cremini mushrooms sliced
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • cup beef stock
  • 1 tbsp whole-grain mustard heaping
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 4-5 sprigs thyme
  • 250g (9oz) uncooked orzo
  • ¼ cup flat-leaf parsley finely chopped


  • Place the ground beef in a large bowl. Using a cheese grater, grate one of the onions and add it to the beef. Add the breadcrumbs, salt, eggs, and fresh ground pepper.
    454g (1lb) lean ground beef, 4 yellow onions, ½ cup panko breadcrumbs, 1 tsp salt, 1 large egg, Fresh ground pepper
  • Mix all the ingredients together to form a cohesive mixture. Using a tablespoon measure as a guide, from the meat mixture into meatballs. Transfer the meatballs to the fridge and chill for 20-30 minutes. While the meatballs are chilling, slice the remaining onions into half-moons and set them aside.
    4 yellow onions
  • Heat the oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Place the meatballs in the skillet and brown them on all sides. ** Transfer them to a plate and set them aside.
    2 tbsp olive oil
  • Reduce the heat slightly and add the onions and a pinch of salt. Sauté until the onions are golden, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and sauté for a minute more. Transfer the onions to a bowl and set them aside.
    2 cloves garlic
  • Add the mushrooms to the skillet and another sprinkle of salt. Sauté until the mushrooms are soften and well browned. Transfer them to the bowl with the onions and set aside.
    227g (8oz) cremini mushrooms
  • Melt the butter in the skillet and whisk in the flour to form a roux. Gradually whisk in the beef stock to form a loose sauce. Add the mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Bring the sauce up to a gentle simmer.
    2 tbsp unsalted butter, 2 tbsp all-purpose flour, 1½ cup beef stock, 1 tbsp whole-grain mustard, 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • Return the mushrooms, onions, and meatballs to the skillet. Add the thyme and cover and let simmer for 15 minutes, turning the meatballs once halfway through.
    4-5 sprigs thyme
  • While the meatballs are simmering, cook the orzo according to the package's directions.
    250g (9oz) uncooked orzo
  • Drain the pasta and add it and the parsley to skillet. Stir to combine. Divide the pasta across four bowls and serve immediately.
    ¼ cup flat-leaf parsley


** Don’t worry about cooking the meatballs all the way through at this point. They will finish cooking later on in the gravy. 
Keyword beef, cremini mushrooms, onions, orzo

You may also like


  1. 5 stars
    Since the weather can’t decide if it is still a cold winter, or trying to look like a warming spring, this is a recipe I’m looking forward to making. It meets all the filling comfort food requirements during this indecisive time of year. Thank you for sharing Susan!

    1. This time of year is always a roller coaster. It definitely pays to have some comfort food at the ready. I hope you enjoy it! Thank you for reading, Sherlyn!