Although orzo looks like a grain of rice, it is actually made from durum semolina wheat. Tastessence describes 10 awesome ways to spice up this pasta.
Did You Know?
Traditionally, orzo is made from wheat and it contains gluten. However, orzo made from lentil flour, pure quinoa flour, etc., can be gluten-free.
Orzo is the Italian word for barley, however, the pasta is made from semolina, coarsely ground durum wheat flour. Orzo is also known as risoni (meaning, “big rice”). This short-cut pasta is often served alone or is simmered in soups. The pasta looks like a large grain of rice and can be present in a chilled salad or pilaf. As it is made from wheat, it contains gluten. So, those diagnosed with celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, or wheat allergy should avoid eating orzo.
This off-white colored pasta, made from durum wheat, can retain its shape and ‘al dente’ quality even after cooking. However, orzo made from softer wheat flour may dissolve, and may thicken the dish to which it is added. So, you should read the label properly and select a reliable brand as per your requirement. These days, orzo is often colored with vegetable extracts. So, it is possible to get green, black, yellow, or red orzo, colored with spinach, carrot, beets, black beans, corn, red chili, etc. The pasta is so versatile that you can cook it in innumerable ways.
How to Cook Orzo Pasta
Add a little bit of salt to 500 ml (2 cups) of water and bring it to a boil. Add in 1 cup of orzo, simmer for 10 minutes. As the pasta becomes tender, drain. Serve this pasta warm, with some butter and Parmesan on it. You can garnish the dish with fresh thyme, sliced olives, dried cherries, or crumbled feta. You can use this cooked pasta for salad or any other dish.
You may proceed with the recipe/seasoning, once the pasta is drained. It should be kept in mind that the pasta absorbs liquid easily and swells up to about 4 times its size when cooked.
How Long to Cook Orzo
It takes only 10-15 minutes to cook orzo. The time required to cook orzo is lesser than that required to cook rice. So, you can keep it handy and use it for speedy cooking, as per the requirement.
10 Easy Ways to Cook Orzo
Orzo in Chicken Stock
Take a heavy skillet. Melt butter in it over medium heat. Add some orzo, stir, and saute until lightly browned. Pour some chicken stock and bring to boil. Cover the skillet partially. Reduce heat, and simmer until the pasta is tender. The liquid is absorbed in about 15-20 minutes. Add some Parmesan cheese, basil, salt, and pepper. Serve hot.
Orzo in Chicken Broth
Heat 2 tbsp. of extra-virgin olive oil in a skillet. Add ½ tsp of chopped garlic, 2 chopped shallots, 1 chopped zucchini, and 1 cup of chopped carrots to the oil, and stir well. Add 1 tsp. of curry powder to it. Stir well. Then add 3 cups of chicken broth. Let the mixture boil. Add 1 cup of raw orzo and let it cook for 10 minutes. When the pasta is tender, remove the skillet from the heat. Add ½ cup of grated Parmesan, 3 tbsp. of finely chopped parsley, and 1 cup of cooked peas. With some salt and pepper, serve it immediately.
Orzo in Soups
Orzo can be boiled in minestrone soup or in creamy, chowder-like soups. As the pasta swells up during cooking, you may take about 50 g ( ¼ cup) of dry orzo per 2 liters (2 quarts / 8 cups) of soup. The pasta easily acquires the flavor of vegetables and meats that it boils with. So the raw pasta is often cooked with other ingredients.
Orzo in Creamy Dishes
Boiled and lightly fried orzo is used in creamy risotto-like dishes, baked casseroles, and pilaf-like dishes.
Orzo as a Stuffing
This small-sized pasta can be used as a stuffing for baked peppers and baked tomatoes. You can even serve fresh avocado halves stuffed with orzo.
Orzo in Chilled Salads
For a tastier and satiating salad, cook orzo pasta, and add it to a chilled salad.
Orzo with Spinach
Take some water in a saucepan and boil it. Add ¾ cup orzo to the boiling water. Within 10 minutes, the pasta will be tender. Before the pasta is cooked, heat 1 ½ tbsp. olive oil in a skillet, reduce the heat, and add 1 ½ tsp. minced garlic cloves, ¼ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, and 3 green chopped onions to the oil. Stir well for two minutes. Add 10 ounces of thawed frozen chopped spinach and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add drained orzo to the mixture. Remove from heat and add 1 tbsp. lemon juice, ½ cup crumbled feta cheese, and ½ tsp. salt. Mix well and serve it as a side dish. If you want, you may add some parsley instead of spinach.
Orzo with Roasted Vegetables and Chicken Stock
Place slices of one courgette and one yellow summer squash in a large bowl. Add chunks of one red onion, small pieces of asparagus (about 450 g) and portabello mushrooms (about 450 g) to it. Add in ½ tsp. of chopped garlic, 1 pinch of caster sugar, and 2 tbsp. olive oil. Stir gently. Preheat oven to 445 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread the vegetables in a single layer on a baking tray. Dust the layer with salt and pepper. Roast vegetables until tender, (for about 20-25 minutes). Cook 450 g of orzo pasta in lightly salted boiling water for 8-10 minutes. Add 4 cubes of chicken stock and 4 tbsp. dry white wine to the boiling water. Drain and add roasted vegetables. Garnish the dish with 2 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese and serve warm.
Take ¼ cup butter in a skillet. Let it melt over heat. Add 7-8 pearl onions and stir until golden brown. Then add one cup raw orzo pasta, half cup sliced fresh mushrooms, and ¼ cup butter. Stir well. Cook until the mushrooms are tender. Pour one cup water and half cup white wine. Add some garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Within 8-10 minutes, pasta will be cooked. Serve with some Parmesan cheese and parsley.
Cook Orzo in Rice Cooker
Place 1 cup orzo, 1 cup chicken stock, half cup fresh chopped spinach, and 2 tbsp sun-dried tomato pesto (Italian sauce ) in a rice cooker. Mix well. Switch on, and enjoy the pasta after 15-17 minutes.
If you want, you can cook the chicken in a slow cooker, then add orzo, and cook for another 15 minutes until it is tender. Thus, it is very easy to cook orzo. You can combine it with various vegetables, lamb, chicken, shrimp, etc. You can enjoy it in soups and salads, or you can consume it as a side dish. Orzo pilaf and orzo casserole are also quite popular, wherein orzo is prepared on its own. These are served as main dishes. Whatever be the way, orzo is always tasty and satiating.