This winning take on Rice-A-Roni is infinitely more flavorful than the box, and it takes about the same amount of time. Orzo is a rice-shaped pasta that takes the place of the broken spaghetti strands found in Rice-A-Roni. The result is creamy with Parmesan cheese and flecked with morsels of tomato and broccoli. (I could easily eat the entire potful — it’s that addictive!) Read through the method, and you’ll see how you can easily modify the recipe to suit the tastes of your family. Orzo Rice Pilaf is sure to become a favorite. Check out my Notes at the bottom before you begin.
Orzo Rice Pilaf Recipe
1 Tablespoon butter
1/2 cup minced sweet onion
1/2 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup orzo pasta
1 clove garlic, pressed
1-3/4 cups strong chicken broth (see Notes)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup heavy cream, milk, or half-and-half
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 medium fresh tomato, diced
1 cup chopped fresh broccoli (may substitute frozen, but do not thaw)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (not the shelf-stable stuff)
2 Tablespoons fresh basil, chiffonade cut, optional (see Notes)
In a 3-quart saucepan, saute the minced sweet onion in the butter until softened and translucent, but do not brown it. Add arborio rice, orzo pasta, and pressed garlic. Stir to coat with the butter.
Carefully stir in the chicken broth and salt. Bring to a low boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes.
Uncover and stir. Add the heavy cream, lemon juice, tomato, broccoli, and Parmesan cheese. Stir gently to combine. Cover and continue to simmer on low heat an additional 5 minutes, until orzo and rice are cooked al dente. Stir in basil and serve.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
• Long-grain white rice or basmati rice may be substituted for the arborio.
• Vegetable broth may be substituted for chicken broth.
• How do you make strong chicken broth? I use either powdered bouillon (Maggi® brand recommended) or bouillon paste (Better Than Bouillon® brand recommended). I use 1-1/2 times the amount recommended in the mixing directions. Canned/boxed broth is a bit too mild for my tastes, but it will still work.
• Some people prefer to seed their tomatoes, but I don’t. The juice sacs surrounding the seeds hold the full flavor of the tomato. You may substitute cherry or grape tomatoes cut in halves or quarters. I do not recommend using canned diced tomatoes in this recipe. They are too mushy and have too much liquid.
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• The basil is cut into chiffonades, which looks like tiny ribbons. Stack the leaves on top of one another. I used about 4 to 5 medium leaves. Roll the stack from the long side into a slender cigar shape. Slice into ribbons. Oregano is an equally tasty substitute.
• Feel free to substitute your favorite green veggie for the broccoli. Sweet peas and green beans work well.