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 orzo recipes, including main dishes.
Note: In some markets, you might see orzo sold as rosamarina.
Get the recipe: Orzo with Butternut Squash, Sage, and Bacon
Most packages will come with instructions for how to cook orzo pasta. These directions will suggest cooking times specifically for that manufacturer's product; however, 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 removes a light coating of starch that helps sauces and seasonings cling to the pasta.
Get the recipe: Carrot Orzotto
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 your orzo pasta a bit. Start by stirring in some butter or olive oil, then stir in one or more of the following.
Get the recipe: Herbed Chicken, Orzo, and Zucchini
Orzo salad can be hearty enough to be a meal all on its own, or you can serve it alongside another main dish. 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.
Get the recipe: Grilled Vegetable and Orzo Salad
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. Stir in 1/2 cup dried orzo for every 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.
Get the recipe: Summer Squash Soup with Whole Wheat Orzo