Orzo, the pasta, sounds a lot like ouzo, an anise-flavored liqueur that is often called the National drink of Greece. So, when I think orzo, I think Greek. Usually.
Orzo, a flat pasta that looks similar to very large grains of rice, is an Italian word that means "barley." And, oftentimes, it is used just like barley in soups, stews and side dishes.
It is commonly used in Greek and Mediterranean dishes, often tossed with feta, spinach, pine nuts and tomatoes.
I like orzo for its quick-cooking characteristic, and it’s broad adaptability to many ingredients and dishes.
In the Orzo Pilaf I concocted to go along with Zippy Garlic Shrimp, the orzo pasta offered something a little more interesting and unique than a pasta bowl filled with long thin threads of angel hair.
I love packing Orzo Pilaf into custard cups and unmolding them onto plates. Or, as you see it in these photos, I placed a round cookie cutter onto the plate, packed the Orzo Pilaf snugly into the cookie cutter, then gently lifted the cookie cutter up from the pilaf. It holds its shape beautifully.
Try this recipe and you’ll soon be developing your own special blend of ingredients to create Orzo Pilaf.
- 1 1/3 cups uncooked orzo
- 2 quarts water
- 1 teaspoon salt (optional)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 6 chubby cloves garlic, minced
- 1/3 cup minced sundried tomatoes in oil
- 5 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves, rinsed, drained
- 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Salt to taste
- 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
Bring water to a boil in a large pot. Stir in orzo. Add 1 teaspoon salt, if desired. Cook orzo for 8 to 10 minutes, until pasta is tender and a bit chewy, or al dente. Drain. Set aside.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add garlic and sundried tomato. Cook 1 minute. Add spinach and cooked orzo. Stir constantly until spinach is wilted and orzo is heated through. Stir in cheese, wine, pepper and salt. Cook until cheese is melted. Stir in pine nuts and serve.
Makes 4 servings.