This past week I clicked on my computer and culled my files for spring dishes. When I spotted a recipe that I created 15 years ago for Orzo with Fresh Peas, Mint, and Parmesan, I remembered how much I had liked this simple side and decided to try it again.
Orzo, the oval-shaped pasta which resembles large grains of rice, can be cooked for a few minutes in boiling salted water until tender, then drained, tossed in butter, and seasoned with grated cheese, such as Parmesan. It can also be prepared like a rice pilaf where the pasta grains are coated in melted butter, then simmered in stock, resulting, in my opinion, in a more flavorful dish. I used this latter technique for the following recipe.
The orzo was simmered a few minutes in stock until tender, but not mushy (a slight shade beyond al dente). Then I added peas and sliced green onions and cooked these vegetables only a couple of minutes more. I found fresh peas at my local Whole Foods, but good-quality frozen peas work well too. Fresh peas will need 3 to 4 minutes cooking time and frozen ones only a couple of minutes. As finishing touches, chopped mint and grated Parmigiano are stirred into the pasta. In about 20 minutes, you will have a delicious dish brimming with verdant shades of spring and bursting with flavor.
Pair the orzo with grilled salmon, roast chicken, or pan-seared scallops. Or rub rib lamb chops with herbes de Provence, salt, and pepper and quickly sauté them as I did. An arugula salad tossed in lemon juice and olive oil could round out this easy Spring menu.
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Orzo with Peas, Mint, and Parmesan
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups orzo (8 ounces)
2 1/2 cups reduced sodium chicken stock
1 1/4 cups fresh or frozen green peas (defrosted)
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions including 2 inches of the green stems
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese plus 2 to 3 tablespoons extra for garnish
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint plus several sprigs for garnish
1.Heat the butter in a heavy, medium saucepan (with a lid) set over medium heat. When hot, add orzo and cook, stirring, 1 minute to coat the pasta with butter. Add the stock and bring the mixture to a simmer. Reduce heat, cover, and cook at a good simmer until almost all liquid has been absorbed, about 8 minutes or more. Watch carefully as cooking time can vary depending on pot you use.
2.Remove lid from pot. If using fresh peas, add them to the orzo and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Then add green onions and cook and stir 2 minutes more. (If using frozen peas stir them and the green onions in at the same time and cook for 2 minutes, stirring.) Stir in the cheese and mint. Season mixture with 3/4 teaspoon or more kosher salt and a couple of grinds of black pepper.
3.Mound the orzo in a serving bowl and garish the center with a few mint springs. Sprinkle with extra Parmesan. Serves 4.
Note: You can find orzo in the pasta section of the supermarket.
Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2022