Cooking with Orzo
I love pasta – all shapes and sizes of pasta, especially orzo. Orzo in Italian literally translates to barley, which is what it was originally made from. In the US, orzo is known as rice shaped pasta – which is exactly what it is. It is a pasta that is made from hard wheat semolina that looks like a piece of rice. Its unique size and shape make it so versatile. It makes excellent warm and cold salads; add a protein and it would make a satisfying main; add it to soups to make them a bit heartier. It is a great partner with several different flavors and ingredients.
When it is cooked properly I like to describe it as having a “creamy bite” – a creamy texture with a nice bite. Like all pasta, cook it al dente. Use a large pot; just like you would cook any other pasta, you want to give the orzo space to move around in the liquid.
I usually cook my orzo in a mixture of equal parts water and chicken stock. It adds extra flavor to the orzo. You could certainly try other stocks to achieve different results…orzo is a blank canvas.
Once the orzo is cooked, it is time to give it a quick rinse and then drain thoroughly. There is nothing worse than a “wet” orzo salad. If it is warm and wet, it is sure to end up a gummy mess.
Draining can be tricky. The best method I have found is to drain it in a wire strainer or sieve, shaking it around well. I’ve gone as far as to pour the cooked, pre-drained orzo out onto a large tea towel to remove extra moisture. It’s a pretty good method actually – make sure your tea towel is large, spread the orzo out onto the towel and gently pat the grains down with a paper towel. Fold up the edges of the tea towel to make for easy transport.
Having tried many prepared orzo salads from specialty markets and grocery stores, I am convinced the best tasting are the ones you make at home. Usually the store bought orzo salads tend to be gummy or contain way too much oil.
This orzo salad recipe was adapted from a friend’s recipe. Thanks Cindi – love this orzo salad!
Orzo Salad with Radicchio
What You’ll Need:
- 1 1/2 cups uncooked orzo
- 1/3 cup oil packed sun dried tomatoes, chopped
- 4 tablespoons olive oil (or less, depending on how much oil the sun dried tomatoes added)
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1/8 cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
- 1 1/2 cups radicchio, finely chopped (about 1 small head)
- 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
- 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
- 1/2 cup Romano cheese, freshly grated
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
1.) Cook orzo until firm to bite, but tender.
2.) Rinse and drain orzo well.
3.) Transfer the orzo to a large bowl. Add sun dried tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, balsamic vinegar, and kalamata olives. Mix and let stand until cool.
4.) Add the radicchio, pine nuts, Romano cheese and fresh basil. Taste, and then season with salt and pepper.