Orzo is a pasta (yes, a pasta!) that I love, but rarely use – mostly because I forget about it. When I want a rice-like ingredient, my mind goes to…rice.
Orzo has the same chew as white rice, and is only slightly bigger. The benefit is it cooks much faster – about 9 minutes. So if you want to make a risotto – which takes a lot of time and attention – consider using orzo. It will be found in the pasta section of the market, of course.
ORZO ASPARAGUS AMANDINE, like many dishes, can be tweaked to your desires and what you have in the house. Switch the asparagus for red pepper, peas, or mushrooms. Cashews can be exchanged for the almonds. And the orzo can be traded for barley, sorghum, or…rice. The possibilities are endless.
NOTE: If you decide to use mushrooms, cook them until most of the liquid evaporates. This will be longer than the 3 minutes for asparagus.
ORZO ASPARAGUS AMANDINE – makes about 2½ cups
- 3/4 cup uncooked orzo
- 1 T butter
- 6 stalks asparagus, sliced into 1/2″ pieces
- 1 clove garlic, pressed
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp black pepper
- 3/4 cup evaporated milk (see NOTE below)
- 1/2 cup fontina cheese, shredded
- 1/4 cup slivered almonds, lightly toasted
NOTE: 3/4 cup evaporated milk is half of a 12 oz can. You can freeze the unused half, double the recipe and use the whole can, OR use a 5 oz can and add 3 oz of milk to it (even nonfat).
Boil about 2½ water (it doesn’t need to be exact) and pour in the orzo. Cook until it’s slightly underdone (check after 7 minutes) – it will continue to absorb liquid when mixed with the evaporated milk, so it doesn’t need to be completely cooked. Strain out the excess water using a colander or hand strainer.
While the orzo is cooking, wash and slice the asparagus. Melt butter in a skillet and sauté asparagus for about 3 minutes over medium flame. Add in garlic and cook another 30 seconds. Remove from heat to prevent scorching the garlic.
Add the cornstarch, salt, and pepper to the asparagus, blending well. Pour in the evaporated milk and return to medium flame. Stir until thickened – about 3 minutes. Add in cheese.
When cheese is melted, stir in the cooked orzo. Taste for seasoning, correcting, as needed.
When ready to serve, mix in the almonds. Don’t do this ahead of time or they won’t be as crispy.