Thursday, 18 October 2012

Orzo risotto with porcini

Orzo is a kind of pasta that looks like tiny grains of rice - it's often used to bulk out soups (it works well in minestrone, for example) or make the base of a salad. It's rare to see it in supermarkets, but if you find a bag somewhere grab it as it's a versatile store-cupboard staple and a 500g pack will last for ages. I found my most recent bag in a discount supermarket some months ago and paid about £1.20.

Because orzo looks like rice, it's a good substitute for it in some dishes and it makes a great "risotto". It takes about half the time to cook, so you don't want the pasta in the pan for more than about 10 minutes.

What you need:
Orzo, about half a mug full
Small handful of dried porcini
4-5 sundried tomatoes
1/2 litre of stock
1 small onion, finely chopped
Olive oil
Parmesan cheese

What to do: 
Using separate bowls, soak the porcini and tomatoes by covering with boiling water and leaving for 15-20 minutes (or according to packet instructions). Drain, reserving the liquid. Make up the liquid to the right amount by topping up with boiling water and adding in a little stock powder if you wish. Chop the sundried tomatoes into small pieces.

Sauté the onion in the olive oil until it's soft and translucent, using a heavy-based sauteuse over a medium heat. Toss in the orzo, stir through until it's coated in oil (as you would for a rice risotto), then pour in about half the liquid. Bring the pan almost to the boil then turn the heat right down so everything's on a gentle simmer.

Stir the risotto and add the tomatoes and porcini after 5 minutes. Stir again and add more liquid if it starts to dry out. The orzo should cook within 10 minutes but check it - it needs to be al dente, not mushy. Stir in some grated parmesan, season to taste and dish up.

Cook's tips:
Be really careful with the cooking time. Risotto rice needs 20-25 minutes, orzo much less, so get all your ingredients ready before you switch the hob on. Orzo also needs a lot less liquid than rice as it is much less absorbent, so you need to watch how much you add and only top up it little by little.