Orzo, Risotto Style

MAKES: 4 servings

TIME: 25 minutes

Even though orzo is rice shaped, this is quite different from true risotto. But as with risotto, it’s important not to skimp on the fat, or the dish runs the risk of seizing up and becoming gummy. You can use any dried small pasta here (like orecchiette or shells) or break long strands into 1-inch pieces. The cooking time and absorption rate might vary a bit, so be sure to add the stock a little at a time and check frequently for doneness.

4 to 5 cups vegetable stock or water

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 large shallot, minced

2 cups orzo

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup dry white wine or water

2 tablespoons butter, softened

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

Put the stock in a medium saucepan over low heat. Put the olive oil in a large, deep nonstick skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the shallot and cook, stirring occasionally, until it softens, 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the orzo and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is glossy and coated with oil, 2 to 3 minutes. Add a little salt and pepper, then the wine. Stir and let the liquid bubble away.

Use a ladle to begin to add the warmed stock, 1/2 cup or so at a time, stirring after each addition and every minute or so. When the stock is just about evaporated, add more. The mixture should be neither soupy nor dry. Keep the heat medium to medium-high and stir frequently.

Begin tasting the orzo 10 minutes after you add it; you want it to be tender but with still a tiny bit of crunch; it could take as long as 20 minutes to reach this stage. When it does, stir in the softened butter and at least 1/2 cup of Parmesan. Taste, adjust the seasoning, and serve immediately, passing additional Parmesan at the table.

Variations

Lemon Orzo, Risotto Style. Tart and creamy: Grate the zest from 2 lemons and squeeze their juice. In Step 2, when you add the orzo, add the zest. Add the lemon juice along with the wine.

Creamy Orzo with Almond Butter. Vegan, but still creamy: Use a combination of almond milk and vegetable stock; instead of the butter, use almond butter. Omit the cheese. Proceed with the recipe, sprinkling with toasted almond slivers for garnish if you like.