Monday, June 7, 2021

Recipe of the month: Orzo Risotto with Roasted Garlic, Asparagus & Spinach

Lately, I find myself obsessed with orzo pasta. So much so that I think it may just be my current favourite pasta 😊

In our kitchen, we tend to use different types of pasta for specific pasta dishes based on our liking. For example, we use fusilli for our signature Cajun and vegetable stir-fried pasta, rigatoni or macaroni for baked cheese dishes, spaghetti for aglio olio, fettuccine or linguine for mushroom-cream sauce, penne or farfalle for pesto sauce and ravioli for butter or oil based sauces. Although this is not set in stone (sometimes we do switch up the type of pasta), this is generally the trend we have been following for many years. 

Orzo is a type of pasta that is shaped like a large grain of rice. Orzo is easy to cook and works well in soups, stews, salads, sides and even as an entrĂ©e paired with simple pasta sauces. We started using orzo only since last year. The first dish we made was orzo in pesto sauce which went down very well, especially with the kids. Then my husband used orzo in a baked cheesy casserole dish which turned out so great that it has made an appearance on our dinner table a few times since then. 

Recently, while browsing Instagram, I saw a delightful spring recipe using orzo, asparagus, rocket, sun-dried tomatoes and roasted garlic on one of the feeds I follow. In the recipe, the orzo is toasted in butter to give off a nutty and buttery aroma and then cooked in a watery broth. Then fresh greens, asparagus and sun-dried tomatoes are added in, Italian cheese is added for creaminess, black pepper for heat and roasted garlic for that amazing flavour. I thought it looked really good so I saved the recipe immediately and tried it within the next few days. 

I made the orzo in the style of a risotto (with the consistency of thick porridge) and it was a super hit at home! I made a few substitutions - I used baby spinach instead of arugula/rocket since my kids are not too gung-ho about the latter and parmesan instead of pecorino romano cheese because that was what I had. I also scaled-up the recipe since I needed it to serve 5 people. Since I had deviated a little from the original recipe, I felt I needed to make it one more time to get the recipe proportions right. I made it again this weekend and the recipe turned out perfect!

This recipe doesn't have a whole lot of ingredients and comes together fairly easily. It is ideal for busy weeknight dinners and elegant enough for entertaining. You don't have any of that tedious stirring that comes with a risotto! The orzo risotto with roasted garlic, asparagus & spinach both looks and tastes wonderful. And the best part is that unlike leftover risotto that thickens and isn't very nice to eat the next day, this orzo still tastes nice after a night in the fridge (it tastes more like a pasta dish rather than risotto though). Refer the notes at the end of the recipe for tips, substitutions and suggestions. 

I hope you try this recipe and love it as much as we did!

Orzo Risotto with Roasted Garlic, Asparagus & Spinach 

Preparation time: 10 mins
Cooking time: 45 min 
Total time: ~60 min
Serves: 4-5 as a main, 8 as a side
Recipe category: Italian/Main Course
Recipe level: Easy
Recipe source: Adapted from here


2 unpeeled whole heads of garlic
500gm orzo pasta
3 cups stock of your choice 
3 cups water 
300gm (~2 heaped cups) asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces 
100gm baby spinach
A handful of fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced 
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced 
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper 
3 tbsp butter
A splash of olive oil 

For garnish:
A sprinkling of parmesan cheese
Red chilli flakes
A few leaves of fresh basil


1. Use a sharp knife to cut off the top 1/4 inch of the head, leaving the tops of the garlic cloves exposed. Then drizzle olive oil over it, seal it in aluminum foil to form a pouch and roast in the center of the oven at 210 deg C (410 deg F) for 45 min. Leave the roasted garlic heads in the pouch until sufficiently cool. Squeeze out the roasted garlic flesh into a bowl and mash thoroughly with a fork. 

2. While the garlic is roasting in the oven, get the rest of the ingredients ready. Heat butter and a splash of oil in a deep skillet. Toast orzo for 8 minutes on medium-low heat stirring occasionally until golden brown. 

3. Add the stock and water and cook on medium-low heat covered for 20 minutes. Do not open or stir the pot during this time. When 15 minutes are up, add in the thin asparagus spears (for thick asparagus spears, add when 12 minutes are up), give it a mix and cover the lid again. 

4. Once the 20 minutes are up, open the lid, add in the washed and rinsed baby spinach, sliced basil leaves and sliced sun-dried tomatoes and give everything a mix.

5. Add the mashed garlic, parmesan cheese, a pinch of salt to taste (if required only) and crushed black pepper. 

6. Simmer until most of the moisture is absorbed and the consistency is creamy similar to risotto. 

7. Serve immediately garnished with more parmesan cheese and red chilli flakes (if desired). 

  • If you don't have an oven, you can still make roasted garlic on the stove-top. 
  • The roasted garlic can be made in advance, and will stay fresh in a covered container in the fridge for up to 3 days
  • You could use thin or thick asparagus in this recipe based on preference or availability
  • You could use regular spinach instead of baby spinach. Just roughly chop the spinach before adding
  • You can use either vegetable or chicken stock in this recipe. Homemade or store-bought would do. You could also use bouillon cubes dissolved in water to make the stock
  • Keep in mind that store-bought stock and parmesan cheese already are salty. Season the orzo with caution
  • You can increase the quantity of parmesan cheese if you want to make this orzo risotto more creamy
  • Use vegetable stock and vegan versions of butter and cheese to make this recipe vegan
  • If you feel like you need some crunch, you could garnish the orzo risotto with toasted pine nuts or walnuts 
  • Store any leftover orzo in an airtight box in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Just reheat and eat!


1 comment:

  1. Good. My friend in NY just asked me what she she should do with the excess Asparagus she got from her garden. I will pass on this link to her.


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