Thursday, September 18, 2008

an orzo revelation

Orzo has never been one of my favorite pastas. Maybe because the few times I have had it, either it has been cooked incorrectly (leaving it sticky and clumpy), paired with the wrong kind of sauce (it really didn't do much for me mixed with pesto and served as a side like rotini or fettucini), or left me feeling less than wowed as an ingredient in a salad.

You would think I'd avoid eating it, but for some reason, I keep trying to find a way that works for me.

This week, I think I figured a way out - add it to a stew or soup. Okay, so maybe for most people this is an obvious option, but for me it was a revelation. I've never been big on eating either, but they are easy to prepare, and nutritious (and that's always a consideration with kids!). I am slowly finding recipes that I really like. So that's why it took me so long to come around to this discovery. I only made my first beef and barley soup last winter, too...

I threw the orzo into a Tuscan Bean Stew with Sausage (courtesy of the Yummy Mummy Cooks Gourmet) as it was simmering. It served a few purposes*: one, it balanced out the food groups in this meal and replaced the missing bread that I forgot to buy AGAIN. Two, it gave me a chance to use up an ingredient that I have in my cupboard. (Reason number three, it gives me a pasta dish I can submit to Presto Pasta Nights, started by Ruth of Once Upon a Feast. She's hosting this week, too. Check out the roundup of pasta dishes when it appears on Friday.)

It turned out really well. Adding it to the stew gave the orzo just the right amount of liquid (no clumping!). Since the pasta has no real taste of its own, the spices from the sausage and other ingredients continued to shine.

And the whole dinner provided a substantial amount of substinence for two little boys who wanted to run around the playground until it got too dark.

Tuscan Bean Stew with Sausage and Cabbage (and Orzo!)

Serves 8

The pictures above show a rotini as well as the orzo - I suppose you could use any pasta, but I think orzo really is the best choice. I sourced the recipe from The Yummy Mummy Cooks Gourmet. Kim writes captivating posts that make her life with two toddlers seem like a wonderful adventure every day. The original recipe is from Cooks Illustrated.

Table salt
2 large tins of good quality cannelini beans - I use Eden's Organic 14 fl oz or 398 mL size
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (plus extra for drizzling)
1 1/2 pounds sweet Italian sausage
1 dash of fresh or dried oregano to taste
1 large onion, chopped medium (1 1/2 cups)
2 medium celery ribs, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (3/4 cup) - I didn't have celery this time so I added extra carrots
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces (1 cup)
8 medium garlic cloves peeled and crushed
4 cups chicken broth (low-sodium if you like)
3 cups water
2 bay leaves
2 cups orzo, uncooked
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes drained and rinsed
1/2 medium head Savoy cabbage, cut into 1-inch pieces
Ground black pepper

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cut up sausage into small pieces and place in an oven safe pot. Cook in olive oil until it nearly loses its raw color, about 8 minutes. Transfer sausage to paper towel-lined plate.
3. Add onion, celery, and carrots to pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and lightly browned, 10 to 16 minutes.
4. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
5. Stir in broth, water, bay leaves and beans. Increase heat to high and bring to simmer.
6. Add sausage and the orzo.
7.Transfer pot to oven, and cook about 30 minutes, until bubbling hot.
8. Remove pot from oven and stir in cabbage, oregano and tomatoes.
9. Discard bay leaves and season stew with salt and pepper to taste. If desired, use back of spoon to press some beans against side of pot to thicken stew.

1 comment:

Ruth Daniels said...

The Tuscan Stew looks like a perfect place for orzo. Like you, it's not my favorite kind of pasta...but in a hearty soup..excellent.

Thanks for sharing with Presto Pasta Nights.