Orzo: All you need to know about it

Orzo: All you need to know about it

What is orzo and how to use it?

Orzo is a versatile Italian pasta, shaped like grains of rice but with a slightly wider diameter. It’s made from durum wheat semolina and is a great substitute for rice. It is a popular and versatile ingredient, perfect for stirring into soups, salads and casseroles, as well as being a great side dish.

Cooking with orzo is easy. It can be boiled in the same way as other types of pasta. Start by bringing a large saucepan of salted water to the boil, add the orzo and stir. Cook for 8 to10 minutes until tender and drain. 

Since it can also be used as a perfect rice substitute -cooked in a similar way by simmering in water or vegetable stock for some minutes- many people use to call it orzo rice.

A tiny but versatile pasta

Adding flavor to orzo is easy and makes for a tasty side dish. It takes on the flavor of whatever ingredients you add to it. Try adding some garlic, herbs, spices, vegetables, cheese, or nuts. Orzo can also be used cold in salads or as part of a pasta salad.

Orzo is a great way to add texture and flavor to your cooking. It’s versatile enough to use in a variety of dishes and can be cooked in minutes. With a little creativity, you can create a delicious, nutritious meal with orzo.

Needless to say, this grain-shaped pasta has become one of the favorite staple foods of vegetarians and vegans all over the world during the past few decades thanks to its nutritional characteristics.

A short history of orzo rice

Orzo is an ancient Italian dish, dating back to the 13th century and It is believed to have originated in the Middle East, where it was known as ruzz. Later orzo made its way through North Africa to Italy in the early 1300s, where it became a popular dish. 

Over the centuries, it has been used as a substitute for rice in many dishes, such as soups and salads

In short, this tiny-shaped pasta has become a quick and easy way to add texture and flavor to meals. So it’s no surprise many orzo-based dishes have spread throughout Europe and even crossed the Atlantic and are now pretty much sought-after in America.

How this staple became so popular

Orzo is a great ingredient to keep on hand as it can be used in so many dishes. It’s a great substitute for rice, as it cooks quickly and has a great texture. It is also a great way to make tasty and add texture to soups and salads. Orzo is also a great addition to casseroles, as it can absorb the flavors of the other ingredients. This makes it a great way to add a bit of variety to your meals.

Moreover, in terms of nutrition, it is also a great way to get a bit of extra protein and carbs into your meals. It is high in protein and has a nutty flavor that pairs very well with other ingredients. 

Orzo can also be used as a side dish or as a base for a salad. With its versatility and delicious flavor, it’s no wonder why orzo has become such a popular ingredient.

Mediterranean orzo salad recipe

Today, there’s a large variety of Mediterranean salads, from French- to Greek-style, and of course Italian, that use orzo as one of the main ingredients. Let’s try one of them.

What you’ll need

  • 250 g of orzo.
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil.
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.
  • 1 garlic clove, minced.
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 1 red pepper, diced.
  • 1 green pepper, diced.
  • 1/2 cup of pitted olives, sliced.
  • 1/2 cup of feta cheese, crumbled.
  • 1/4 cup of chopped fresh parsley.
  • Salt and pepper, to taste.

How to prepare it

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the orzo and cook until al dente, (this will take about 8-10 minutes). Drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper.
  3. Add the orzo, red pepper, olives, feta and parsley to the bowl. Toss to combine very well.
  4. Serve at room temperature, or if you prefer, you may put it in the fridge for 10 minutes or so before serving.

Helpful tips

  • Apart from the typical salads, orzo can be used instead of rice in almost any recipe, for instance in stir-fries. 
  • Be careful not to overcook the orzo, as the grains could become soft and lose all their texture. 
  • To make a quick and easy side dish, try cooking orzo in vegetable or chicken stock for a delicious, flavorful ingredient. 
  • Once cooked, orzo can be kept in the fridge for about 5 days and in the freezer for up to 2 months. It’s highly recommended to use an airtight container or freezer plastic bags.

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