Orzo with Spinach, Radicchio & Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Orzo is a small type of pasta shaped like rice. “Orzo” is an Italian word meaning “barley” because its size and shape resembles barley grain. Despite its name, orzo is made of durum semolina wheat.
I got inspired to cook this dish after eating a similar one at Romano’s Macaroni Grill. It was my first time I saw orzo. I first thought it was some fancy rice, that I had never seen before. But its texture was softer. So, I had to ask a waiter what it was. When I ended up cooking it from memory in my kitchen, the final result surpassed my expectations! It can be eaten hot and chilled. It can be stored in the fridge for a couple of days, and reheated if necessary. Treat it like pasta. What you would normally eat with pasta is what you can eat with orzo.
– 1 medium to large red onion, chopped.
– 1-2 cloves of garlic, chopped.
– 1 head of radicchio (should result in 2 cups of shredded radicchio). The most common size sold in stores is small. You can use it all.
– 1 cup of sun-dried tomatoes, chopped.
– 2-4 cups of spinach. It decreases in volume a lot when cooked, so choosing more is fine. If it is baby spinach, you may add it without chopping. If the leaves are large, crop stems and chop them.
– one scallion (green onion), chopped, with root part trimmed.
– Fresh herbs (basil), spices (ground black pepper, garlic powder), sea salt.
– Oil for cooking (grapeseed used for this recipe) and some unsalted butter at the end.
– 0.5 Jalapeno pepper (optional), chopped.
– Any Italian spices that you use for pasta can be used for orzo.
– Optional: pine nuts and Parmesan cheese may be sprinkled on top.
Note: radicchio may be confused with red cabbage. Red cabbage has ‘dark purple’ outer leaves while radicchio has some purple-red and white outer leaves. Radicchio is pronounced ⁄ ra-ˈdi-kē-ō ⁄ . Radicchio is normally smaller than red cabbage. Here is a photo of radicchio vs red cabbage sold at the Sweetbay supermarket. Radicchio is in the upper left part of a photo between two bright green herbs, and red cabbage is on the bottom right:
Start with boiling water for orzo. Ratio of orzo to water is 1:1.5. Put orzo in boiling water, add a little sea salt, stir it, and cook it uncovered for 10-12 minutes on a low heat. Drain the remaining water in a colander after orzo has cooked. Chop red onion and garlic and saute them in a large skillet (in grapeseed oil) on a medium heat. Chop radicchio and add it to the skillet, reducing the heat. Stir it often as radicchio may burn quickly and turn brown – avoid it! Once radicchio has softened, add chopped sun-dried tomatoes and chopped spinach at the end. Stir the mixture frequently and add some butter. When all spinach leaves are withered, you may add chopped green onion, herbs, sea salt and spices. Now add your cooked orzo straight to your large skillet. Mix it carefully with the cooked vegetables, spreading it evenly. When plating, you may decorate it with basil leaves and yellow cherry tomatoes as shown in my photo. You may also sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese on top, if desired. It may serve up to 6 people. Enjoy!
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