Imitating Risotto

I've been known to devote an impressive amount of time to making creamy, dreamy risotto. However, if you're like me, you just don't have time for that this time of the year. Rather than forgo such creamy deliciousness until after the New Year, I like to go with my favorite risotto imitator: orzo. This super short pasta cooks in a flavorful broth alongside mushrooms and aromatics and makes just the right kind of silky texture needed to melt a combination of cheeses and barely wilt fresh spinach.

A couple of notes about substitutions and tweaks with this recipe: feel free to do so … after you've tried it this way first. Having a bit of experience with the base recipe means you'll be more confident about the changes you're making. Sure, you can use different stuff in this … but it will make it - get read for it - different. So try it as described here — after all, this is a tested recipe — and then think about where you'd like to make changes. This is a vegetarian version, but chicken or beef broth would also work in the recipe. You can add chopped chicken, crisp bacon, skip the greens, add different greens, mix up the cheeses … you get the idea.

I like making this creamy pasta the star of the show, but it makes a great foundation for some garlic shrimp (as shown above) or blackened chicken. You could also throw a little more cheese on top and have it alongside a green salad and a chilled glass of wine. You know, if you're into that kind of thing!

Mushroom-Brie Creamy Orzo

  • 8 oz. baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 T. butter
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 4 c. hot vegetable stock
  • 10 oz. dried orzo pasta
  • 3 oz. mature cheddar, grated
  • 2 oz. brie, roughly chopped
  • 1 c. fresh spinach, roughly chopped
  • Black pepper, to taste

In a large skillet, heat two tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat until hot and melted. Add all the mushrooms and stir well. Cook and brown for about 10 minutes until they are softened and slightly crisp at the edges. Add the remaining tablespoon of butter to the skillet. When hot, add the onion and garlic. Cover with a lid and reduce to a medium heat. Sweat the onion until soft, about 3 – 4 minutes.

Add the stock to the skillet and bring to the boil. Add the orzo and cook stirring occasionally until silky but still with a little bite, about 8 – 10 minutes. Before the orzo is completely cooked, add the cheeses and stir well. Add the spinach and season with pepper as needed before serving.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 25 minutes

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