My Brazilian nature often predisposes me towards rice, but the more I cook orzo, the more I like it.   It might be more versatile than rice,  it cooks faster, and it’s  absolutely fool proof, all of which adds to its charm. The inspiration for this recipe came from an old Fine Cooking magazine, but I simplified it quite a bit  because the original seemed a tad too busy:  too many flavors fighting for attention.   This pared-down version was a winner!

(very loosely adapted from Fine Cooking magazine)

1 cup orzo
2 Tbs olive oil
1 shallot, finely diced
8 oz spinach leaves, stemmed, and coarsely chopped
4 oz fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced (or dried, reconstituted with hot water)
1/2 lemon, juice and zest
salt and pepper
parmiggiano-reggiano (optional)

Start cooking the orzo on a large pot with salted water (it should take around 9 minutes).
Heat the olive oil on a large skillet and saute the shallots, lightly seasoned with salt and pepper.  Add the sliced shiitake mushrooms, saute until they start to get golden brown.   Add the chopped spinach, cook until it begins to wilt.  At this point, if the orzo is not cooked yet, turn the heat off and reserve.

When the orzo is almost cooked, remove 1/4 cup of the cooking water and reserve it.   Turn the heat back to medium on the skillet with the spinach mix, squirt lemon juice and zest, season with salt and pepper.  Drain the orzo and add it to the skillet, mixing well.  Add some of the pasta water if necessary.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.  If desired, sprinkle parmiggiano-reggiano on top.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: For years I’ve made quick pan sauces for pasta with  the cooking water and some sauteed veggies.  Spinach is a constant player in such dishes, but this was the first time I chopped the leaves before sauteeing.   Voila‘:  it was much better!  Somehow, even with baby spinach, the whole leaves had a tendency to clump instead of reaching a nice distribution.   Live and learn.   😉

This was a quick dish to put together! It will drop into my regular rotation of meals for busy weeknights, keeping the orzo/spinach/lemon foundation and playing with other options: black olives, sundried tomatoes, roasted red bell pepper, artichoke hearts….

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receita em portugues na proxima pagina….



1 xícara de risoni
2 colheres de sopa de azeite
1 chalota picada
2 copos de folhas de espinafre, cortadas nao muito fino
1/2 copo de cogumelos shiitake fresco fatiado (ou secos, reconstituídos com água quente)
1 / 2 limão, suco e raspas
sal e pimenta
queijo parmiggiano ralado (opcional)

Cozinhe o risoni em uma panela grande com água levemente salgada (normalmente risoni fica pronto em cerca de 9 minutos).

Aqueça o azeite numa frigideira grande e refogue a chalota temperando levemente com sal e pimenta. Adicione os cogumelos shiitake em fatias, refogue até começar a ficar dourado. Acrescente o espinafre picado, cozinhe até que comece a murchar. Neste ponto, se o risoni não estiver cozido ainda, desligue o fogo e reserve.

Quando o risoni estiver quase cozido, retire 1 / 4 xícara de água de cozimento e reserve. Aumente o fogo para médio na frigideira com a mistura de espinafre, adicione o suco e as raspas de limão, tempere com sal e pimenta. Escorra o risoni e adicione na frigideira, misturando bem. Acrescente um pouco da água de cozimento da massa, se necessario. Ajuste o tempero com sal e pimenta. Se desejar, polvilhe parmiggiano reggiano por cima.

19 thoughts on “FLIRTING WITH ORZO

  1. Love orzo, so versatile! I also cook it like a risotto, just saute some veggies then toss in the orzo so it gets toasted add broth cook until almost gone add cheese etc. Yummy. I use a lot of orzo for clients. Even simple boiled in water w/saffron threads. Brightens up the plate! Also very good as a salad!


  2. Hello, Jim! Nice to “see” you here…

    Orzo-risotto is definitely a great idea! Once I made it as “absorption pasta”, which worked quite well too, I guess the end result would be similar to risotto, depending on how much liquid is allowed to stay in the end. I love how it never gets mushy, much less temperamental than rice.


  3. Ah, chama Risoni em portugues! Joia, vou mudar a traducao imediatamente, eu achei melhor colocar um link para a imagem, mas prefiro usar o termo correto



    • I will use swiss chard next time – I am looking forward to getting it in our farmer’s market, but so far, it’s not available…. too early in the season, I guess


  4. I’ll have to look out for orzo, but this should work with any small pasta, right? A good idea for using the sorrel of which there’s lots in my garden at the moment, and it already has that lemony taste.


    • It certainly will work with any small pasta – I confess to making a similar dish using spaghetti and not even feeling guilty about it… 😉

      (it is much better with a small shaped pasta, though)


  5. Looks great Sally. I often make your Shrimp,feta orzo recipe…Your blog is the first one I look at every day..and am always sad when there is no new recipe! Guess you have to have a life eh?? Barb


  6. Ei Té! Nunca ouvi falar do tal de Risoni… mas vou procurar por aqui pra fazer a receita! De dar água na boca…




    • Oi, Kalu!

      que surpresa te-la nos meus comentarios! Qualquer pasta pequenininha vai servir, eu nao sabia que chamava risoni em portugues, mas e’ uma pasta com formato de grao de arroz, um pouco maior que arroz. Delicia pura!


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