Let me remind you of a known fact.
There is nothing better at a dinner table spread than a ginormous bowl of hot cheesy pasta packed with green veggies.
Especially when you’re trying to carbo-load the night before you’re about to complete a triathlon.
Pardon me for the lack of photos of this dish, because my fellow triathletes and I smashed our faces into it before I was able to properly document its amazingness.
I learned this technique of cooking orzo from Kelsey’s Essentials, my all-time favorite show on television.
If you’re familiar with making risotto, this is basically the same process, substituting pasta for rice.
The first time I made this dish, I used the same amount of chicken broth as called for in the recipe and it turned out too wet and soggy, especially when combined with the added milk, cheese, and lemon juice.
But when I reduced the cooking liquid by half, the texture came out perfectly fluffy.
So voila, here you go!
peaches and cake
Lemon Basil Orzotto with Asparagus
Adapted from Kelsey Nixon
Yield: 8 servings
Time: 30 min
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- ¾ cup diced yellow onion
- 3 cups whole-wheat orzo pasta
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 3 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth, hot
- ½ cup whole milk, microwaved for 30 seconds
- 1 cup grated good-quality Parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup chopped fresh basil, plus extra for garnish
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- Juice of 2 small lemons
- 1 bunch asparagus, tough ends removed then chopped into ½-inch pieces
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a heavy-bottomed large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, some salt and pepper, and sauté about 7-10 minutes until fragrant and translucent. Add the orzo to the pot and stir it briskly with a wooden spoon so that the pasta is coated with the oil. Sauté for another two minutes, until there is a slightly nutty aroma. Don’t let the pasta burn. Add the wine and cook while stirring, pulling up the brown bits, and cook until liquid is fully absorbed. Meanwhile, warm the chicken stock until hot in a separate saucepan or in the microwave.
Gradually add the hot chicken stock to the orzo mixture in increments, stirring frequently until liquid is fully absorbed. Bring to a simmer, lower the heat, and cover. Cook for about 10-12 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed and orzo is tender. Remove from the heat. (This time may vary depending on how hot your stove is. Just remove from heat once the pasta is fully cooked.)
In another pot, cook the chopped asparagus in a steamer basket for about 10 minutes or until tender. Remove from heat.
Stir in warmed milk, grated Parmesan, lemon zest, lemon juice, chopped basil, and steamed asparagus. Season the orzo with salt and pepper to taste, transfer to a serving bowl. Garnish with extra chopped basil, if desired. Serve with a large spoon.
Cover and refrigerate leftovers. Reheat in the microwave, moistening with extra milk or chicken stock as necessary.
Flavor Variations: Substitute asparagus for 1 ½ cups frozen petite green peas blanched in hot water, 1 ½ cups sautéed mushrooms, or 1 ½ cups sweet corn plus bacon bits.