You are probably already a fan of international cuisine and you surely have tried delicious dishes that are exotic rarities for most of your friends and acquaintances. Anyway, if you are not a foodie, but you want to move abroad and live a new life in a country with a different culture and customs, you will have a chance and even need to try new foods.
Therefore, if you have not seen it yet, today we introduce orzo to you.
Another form of pasta
Orzo, despite its curious appearance of somewhat large and elongated grains, is not an exotic species of cereal brought from the other side of the globe, nor a rare variety of rice or barley. Believe it or not, orzo is technically a kind of pasta. It is made from semolina, like spaghetti, linguini, rigatoni, ravioli, and penne you already know and enjoy with several of your favorite Italian dishes.
Just as you should look for the best spaghetti or the best penne to prepare pasta alla Bolognese of the highest quality, you should also look for orzo made with the best durum wheat semolina, such as the one you can find at riceselect.com/product/orzo.
The best-known varieties of orzo in the western hemisphere are Italian. In fact, the name orzo is of Italian origin—meaning ‘barley’. Because of its grain-like appearance, in Italy orzo is also called risone—meaning ‘big rice’. However, orzo-like kinds of pasta are not exclusive to that country. In fact, it is a typical food throughout the central and eastern Mediterranean and is often consumed in Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, and North Africa.
Eat it like any other pasta
Since orzo is a kind of pasta, it is cooked like all pasta—with boiling water. The ratio between the amount of orzo and the amount of water varies according to the orzo brand, the recipe and the taste of the person who is going to eat it. Generally, half a cup of water to three-quarters is used for each cup of orzo.
Orzo can be prepared with any sauce you would use with your favorite pasta. Do you like spaghetti with Bolognese sauce? Then you can easily make a dish of orzo alla Bolognese. Do you like penne with carbonara sauce? Then you can have a plate of orzo alla carbonara. Did you like macaroni and cheese when you were a kid, and is it still one of your favorite pasta dishes? Then you can enjoy a plate of orzo and cheese.
You don’t have any Italian sauce on hand, but have some butter and milk? Do not worry. With so few and humble ingredients you can make an orzo al burro dish that is simply delicious.
Mix it with meat or vegetable stews
Perhaps you prefer to use orzo to give body to a meat stew. In that case, just prepare a stew with chunks of beef, pork, or chicken and mix it with a portion of orzo. In this way, you will not need a special garnish.
Are you a vegetarian? Do not worry. Orzo is just as good as mixed with a stew of your favorite vegetables. The secret to bringing out a good flavor is to use the right spices.
Orzo can also add a lot of body to a simple green salad. If this is your only dish at mealtime, you will be full.
Use it as a stuffing
Like rice and couscous, orzo can be used as a stuffing. Do you have some nice red tomatoes or red bell peppers available? Empty them, then take a portion of orzo already cooked and mixed with canned fish, pieces of hard-boiled egg and various spices, and you will get a delicious stuffing for your tomatoes or peppers. In addition, if you like, you can stuff eggplant or zucchini with seasoned orzo.
Orzo is perfect in salads
Orzo is such a versatile ingredient that it can be used in a wide range of different salads, including Mediterranean-style salads. Here are some ideas for using orzo in salads:
- Mediterranean Orzo Salad: Cook the orzo according to the package directions, then toss it with diced tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, and feta cheese. Dress with a simple vinaigrette made from olive oil, lemon juice, and dried oregano.
- Greek Orzo Salad: Cook the orzo and mix it with chopped kalamata olives, crumbled feta cheese, diced tomatoes, and chopped fresh parsley. Dress with a simple vinaigrette made from olive oil, lemon juice, and red wine vinegar.
- Orzo and Roasted Vegetable Salad: Roast a selection of vegetables such as bell peppers, eggplant, and zucchini. Cook the orzo and mix it with the roasted vegetables, then dress with a simple vinaigrette made from olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and honey.
- Orzo and Chickpea Salad: Cook the orzo and mix it with cooked chickpeas, diced red onion, chopped fresh parsley, and crumbled feta cheese. Dress with a simple vinaigrette made from olive oil, lemon juice, and Dijon mustard.
- Orzo and Tuna Salad: Cook the orzo and mix it with canned tuna, chopped celery, diced red onion, and chopped fresh dill. Dress with a simple vinaigrette made from olive oil, lemon juice, and capers.
These are just a few ideas for using orzo in salads. You can also experiment with different ingredients and dressings to create your own unique salad recipes.
A final piece of advice: Vegetarian, but not vegan
As you have read, you can use orzo in your meat or vegetable dishes according to your preference. However, you should know that orzo is not suitable for vegans. This is because orzo, like most other kinds of pasta, is made with egg yolk. Therefore, if you are a vegan and want to make a dish with semolina, you should resort to another option, such as couscous or pearl couscous.
Moreover, coeliacs should avoid eating orzo, since wheat semolina is its main ingredient. This means that orzo is also not suitable for those who suffer from coeliac disease.