The first time my rather large family had Orzo, a friend had purchased 20 pounds of it in bulk from a local food co-op. She gave us a couple pounds of it, and I had no idea what to do with it. It came with no instructions, and I had never seen anything like this. It looked like flattened rice, but it didn’t seem to be rice. This was in the days before the internet, so through trial, error, and the help of a number of cookbooks I learned that orzo is just another form of pasta, and thus, can be cooked and used much as pasta can (and as a substitute in some rice recipes as well).

It is bigger than a grain of rice, but, as Wikepedia points out, smaller than a pine nut. My offfspring decided they liked it better than any other form of pasta. Here are two common ways we have it:

Ground Turkey “Sausage” Skillet over Orzo

This deliciously savory and spicy dish hits the spot on a cold day, and the sausage is made with a healthier, lower fat ground turkey and spices.

Bring 1 1/2 cups of chicken broth to boil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in 1/2 pound of orzo and simmer uncovered about 8 minutes, or until still ‘al dente,’ slightly firm to the bite.

Meanwhile, work on the turkey ‘sausage’ and other ingredients:

two cooked sweet potatoes, diced into bite sized pieces and set aside
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced celery
3 medium apples, a crisp, tart cooking apple such as granny smith, peeled and diced
1 cup orange juice
3 T. brown sugar
1 T. soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

‘Turkey sausage’

To make the turkey ‘sausage’ combine the following ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly:
1 pound ground turkey
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional, this is to make your sausage nice and spicy)
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon of thyme
3/4 teaspoon of onion powder
3/4 teaspoon of salt
3/4 teaspoon of pepper
1 teaspoon sage

Put this in a large saucepan with:

1/2 cup onion, diced
1/2 cup celery, diced

and stir this over medium heat until only slightly pink. Add the remaining ingredients, including orzo, stirring while it all heats through.

Serves 5- if you need it to serve more, increase the vegetables, cook more orzo, or make it more like a stew.

For stew: Add about 1/2 a cup or more of water or broth to the pan. In a separate bowl mix 1/2 cup of water with 3 tablespoons of cornstarch. When the cornstarch is mixed well, add the water and cornstarch mixture to the saucepan of sausage and sweet potatoes and cook over medium heat until it’s thick and bubbly and the cornstarch has cleared.

We also like Orzo in this healthy Orzo and vegetable side dish:

Bring three cups of water and 1 Tablespoon chicken bouillion to a boil
add 2 grated carrot and about 1/2 an onion,grated or minced.
Add, a splash of Worcester sauce, and a smaller splash of soy sauce.
Pour in 3 cups of orzo and cook on medium low until most of the liquid is gone and the pasta is al dente.

Serve immediately with any meal you would accompany with a pilaf.


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