Orzo That Will Kill You in the Face

If ever there was a side dish that typifies this whole “Deal With This” cooking methodology, it’s this one. Mainly because this dish was literally born out of what I was hungry for that instant. The next night I then adapted it for a different kind of pasta with some slight variations. What kind of response did I get? Man am I glad you asked. Complete face melting OhMyGodness.

Again – I’m not talking about some Iron Chef Beef Cheek with Stinging Nettles Laced with Saffron Foam on a Bed of Bone Marrow Harvested from Spotted Owls type thing. This is a simple recipe that yielded me a small-but-personal victory among family and friends. The type of victory where even the leftovers are likely better than the last 3 dishes you ate in a restaurant.

This is a great side dish for just about anything. It’s surprisingly creamy and rich considering the absence of cheese. You can, of course, add some fresh grated parmesan if you like. But if you really want to be a kitchen legend, find yourself some local earthy artisanal cheese to crumble in. My favorite is Pola’s Moonster. Pola is a Houston cheese artisan that sources milk from farms in Central Texas.

Orzo That Will Kill You in the Face

4-5 side dish servings

1 – 2 T of unsalted butter (follow your bliss)

1 – 2 glugs of olive oil

8 oz orzo pasta (usually half a bag or box)

1 medium shallot (chopped med-fine)

1 green onion (sliced fine including white parts)

2 small fresh garden variety chili peppers (sliced fine with most of the seeds removed)

2 small Roma tomatoes or a handful of red and yellow cherry tomatoes (whatever you have on hand) medium dice – seeds and goop removed

1/2 – 1 C dry white wine (good enough to drink = good enough to cook with. Nothing less)

1/2 C heavy cream

4 – 6 basil leaves (fine chiffonade)

Small handful fresh Italian parsley chopped

Kosher salt

Cracked black pepper

Start your pot of water boiling with a healthy pinch of kosher salt.

Meanwhile, in a large pan melt the butter and let it brown very slightly over med. heat. Add olive oil to stop browning. Add shallots, onion and chili pepper and suaté until shallots are slightly translucent (~3-5 minutes).

These chilies are from the ever-so pedestrian chili plants you can find at most garden stores. I planted one this year and came away with hundreds. These chilies are amazing to cook with, have some serious heat and plenty of flavor. They can also be dried and ground to make a fantastic chili powder.

Add a pinch of salt and white wine. Let simmer until liquid is reduced in half.

Add tomatoes, turn heat to low and let simmer until tomatoes break down slightly.

Meanwhile, make sure orzo is cooked according to package instructions. Remove from heat and strain when orzo is only slightly al dente (still has a slight firmness to the tooth). Transfer to a bowl.

If orzo is done before sauce is ready, add a few glugs of olive oil to keep from sticking.

Add heavy cream to sauce and simmer until slightly thickened. Add a healthy pinch of basil and parsley. Add salt and pepper to taste.

When all is good and heavenly, dump sauce over orzo and give a quick stir.

Garnish with a few strands of basil on top and serve immediately.

Variation: Substitute orzo with gamelli. If you kind find the hand-rolled variety, even better. With my recipes, you can rest assured that the variations are not second best. There is never a main recipe and then “variations in case you get bored.” These are meant to be super-flexible according to what you have on hand, find fresh at the market, or what you happen to be hungry for that night.

Do you have a dish that can be made fresh with just a few modifications? Tell us about it!


3 Responses to “Orzo That Will Kill You in the Face”

  1. I have to say, the title caught me. Our family loves orzo although mine is a bit simpler than yours and usually plays second to a tasty, main-dish fish. I can’t wait to try your idea. Nicely done, Rob! Thanks for sharing your love of food.

  2. Rebecca says:

    Teach me how to take foodie pics…. please (asuming you took them) 😀

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