Quick-cooking orzo is a must-have staple for busy families. Here's how to cook it in side dishes, soups, salads, and more.
Orzo is the Italian word for barley. However, it's not made from barley at all, but rather from semolina, a course-ground flour made from durum wheat. With its shape reminiscent of slivered almonds, orzo cooks up in about half the time of rice, making it a speedy standby to have on hand to add heartiness to meals. We'll show you how to cook orzo for side dishes and in salads and soups. Then we'll point the way to other recipes that call on orzo, including main dishes.
Tip: In some markets, you might see orzo sold as rosamarina.
Most packages of orzo come with instructions for cooking it. These directions will suggest cooking times specifically for that manufacturer's product; most brands cook in about 10 minutes. Here are general cooking instructions for four servings of orzo.
Tip: Rinse the orzo only if it will be baked or served cool in a salad. Otherwise, do not rinse -- rinsing removesa light coating of starch that helps sauces and seasonings cling to the pasta.
Tip: For the best flavor and texture, serve the orzo immediately after cooking. However, if your orzo gets done before the rest of the meal, you can keep it warm by returning the drained cooked past to the warm cooking pan. Stir in a little butter or olive oil to prevent it from sticking together. Cover the pasta and let it stand no more than 15 minutes.
After cooking, orzo may be served "naked," like any pasta. Simply season it to taste with salt and pepper and serve. This simple presentation works best when serving orzo alongside a main dish with sauce and other ingredients.
If your main dish is more simple, you might want to doctor up the orzo a bit. Start by stirring in some butter or olive oil, then stir in one or more of the following.
To transform orzo into a tasty and hearty base for a salad, follow these steps.
1. Cook, Rinse, and Drain the Orzo
2. Add Salad Ingredients
Here are a few ideas for fresh, colorful ingredients to add to the bowl.
3. Add the Dressing
Gently toss the orzo and salad ingredients with your favorite purchased vinaigrette (or make your own vinaigrette dressing).
4. Chill and Serve
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator. Chill for 4 to 24 hours. Stir gently before serving.
Like rice and other pastas, orzo makes a hearty addition to soups and works especially well in broth-base (as opposed to cream-base) soups. Add about 1/2 cup dried orzo for each 6 cups broth or other liquid in the soup. Add the orzo 10 minutes before the end of cooking time, and cook until the orzo is tender.