Orzo is such a great host for so many flavors. It is a cross between rice and pasta and I love it as a side dish for a buffet. If you have made orzo before, I think the best way to make it is to toast it before adding the liquid. This helps maintain the integrity of its shape and prevents it from getting too mushy during the cooking process. The red peppers add a natural sweetness to the dish that is a perfect complement and add beautiful color along with the greens.
serves 6-8 as side dish
- 1 1/2 cups orzo
- 1 large red pepper, roasted skin peeled
- 2 pints cherry tomatoes
- 12 shallots, peeled and halved
- 8 oz baby spinach
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 8 oz container pearl mozzarella
- 1 cup pitted castelvetrano olives
- 1 bunch basil, chiffonade plus whole leaves for garnish
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons butter
- about 4 -6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 teaspoons oregano
for roasted vegetabes:
Preheat your oven to 400. On a large rimmed baking sheet, lightly coat the tomatoes with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, oregano and salt and pepper. On a separate parchment lined baking sheet, cut the red pepper lengthwise in half and seed. Place the pepper, cut side down on the baking sheet. Place both in the oven and roast the tomatoes for about 20 minutes, removing once tomatoes begin to burst. Set aside. Allow the peppers to roast for another 10-15 minutes until skins are deep amber and charred. Remove from oven and wrap peppers in a paper bag and allow to sweat and cool. Once cooled, remove skin from peppers, discard skins and roughly chop flesh of peppers. Set aside. Reduce oven temp to 350 and toss shallots with 1 or 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper and spread on a parchment lined baking sheet. Roast in oven for about 30 minutes, tossing once until edges of shallots are golden and caramelizing. Remove from oven and when cool enough to handle, give them a rough chop and set aside with peppers and tomatoes,
In a heavy bottom pan, heat butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil to medium heat. Add minced onion, garlic and tomato paste and sauté until translucent and fragrant (a few minutes). Add orzo to pan and coat with onion mixture allowing the orzo to toast and turn a bit golden on edges. Add the stock and bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat to low, and cover and simmer for about 15 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed.
Remove orzo from heat, mix in spinach to wilt. Next fold in the shallots, roasted tomatoes, red pepper, olives, basil chiffonnade and pearl mozzarella (they will melt a bit in the hot orzo mixture). Transfer to a serving platter and garnish with additional basil leaves as desired. Orzo can be served warm or at room temperature.
- kosher salt and pepper