Orzo is my new best friend. Good thing, too, because suddenly it is everywhere – on every menu, at every picnic or buffet or wedding reception. I book a lot of food for events through work, so when I tell you that orzo is everywhere, I’m not kidding around.
For some time now, since before orzo’s sudden explosion in popularity, I’ve been meaning to try a particular recipe from the Cooking Light Collection #6. It is innocuously named “Creamy Parmesan Orzo” or "Orzo with Parmesan and Basil" or somesuch, in the side dish section of the recipe break-down.
The recipe is easy to make, fast, and shockingly good. The formula runs something like this:
1 cup orzo, uncooked
1 tablespoon butter
2.5 cups liquid (half chicken stock, half water in the original)
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, minced, torn or chiffonade
fresh ground black pepper
Melt the butter over medium heat in a medium sized saucepan. Add the raw orzo, and stir around for a couple of minutes to get it well coated. Add the liquid, bring to the boil, reduce the heat and allow to simmer for about 10 – 15 minutes (depending on what “medium” is on your stovetop), stirring frequently. When the liquid is mostly absorbed, and the orzo starts to “catch” on the bottom of the pot, turn the heat off and add the parmesan, basil, salt and pepper.
Serves 4 as a side dish. Or, two greedy people who like starch. *ahem*
The original recipe also included toasted pine nuts, which I omitted simply because I didn’t have them, but I also think that the dish did not suffer for their absence. Not only were we exclaiming over the deliciousness of the dish constantly throughout dinner (sorry, apricot chicken, tasty as you were, you paled in comparison to the orzo), we were also dreaming up ways to vary the dish quite endlessly. These were some of the speculated changes:
- Broccoli florets (small) added five minutes to the end of cooking
- 1 cup of sliced fresh spinach, exchange parmesan for blue cheese, and toasted walnuts
- Sundried tomatoes and kalamata olives with basil and parsley
- Medley of finely diced peppers and feta
- Exchange the water for milk for an extra creamy dish and add sauteed mushrooms
This is the dish that those packaged “Lipton Sidekicks” aspire to be, but fall short in sodium-frenzied starchy mediocrity.