How to cook with orzo

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Orzo is a grain-shaped pasta – it is one of the most comforting foods to eat and can be boiled like other pastas, or cooked like a risotto.

To boil orzo
Use 100g of orzo per person for a main course or half that for a starter or antipasti dish. Bring lots of salted water to the boil, add the orzo and cook for 8-9 minutes, checking a grain a minute before the end of cooking. It should be easy to eat but not soft. Drain and add the orzo, along with a spoon or two of the cooking water, to the sauce and toss over heat for a few minutes until the orzo has finished cooking and the sauce and pasta are combined.

To cook orzo like a risotto
Fry the flavouring ingredients (onions, herbs, tomatoes and pork mince for example), add the orzo grains, toss and add enough cold water to cover the orzo by two inches. Bring to the boil and cook for 6-7 minutes, adding more water if you need to. You’ll need to keep stirring the orzo every few minutes because it tends to stick when you cook it with this method. The water will reduce and you will end up with pasta in a sauce ready to eat.

Chorizo, Tomato and Basil Orzo
Fry finely chopped chorizo in a saucepan with a little olive oil. When the oil has rendered from the chorizo, add a few spoons of tomato sauce or passata, some chopped ripe fresh tomatoes and some chopped basil. Stir. Add the orzo grains, toss in the chorizo mixture, season with salt and black pepper and add enough water to cover the pasta by two inches. Bring to the boil and cook over a high heat until the orzo is cooked (7-8 minutes) and the liquid has reduced. If you find you haven’t enough water during cooking, add more boiling water – it will depend on how large a pan you use. At the end of cooking, you should have a cooked dish ready to serve. Stir in more freshly chopped basil and grated Parmesan or Gruyere cheese (or whatever you have in the fridge).  You can easily use pancetta, chopped bacon or even sliced Italian sausage instead of chorizo.

Orzo is particularly good for an older person to eat who may find other pasta types harder to eat – the grains are really digestible and quite soft. Add them to soup or stock to make a quick soup if someone has lost their appetite.

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