For the week between holidays when you’ve run out of the fancy fare or anytime you want something easy, this orzotto is what to make.
It’s been a number of years since I’ve hosted Thanksgiving or Christmas. The batons have somehow been passed to other members of the family but this year, maybe brought on by the past two years of limited family gatherings, I realized that I’ve really missed the hustle and bustle of the days leading up to the big lunch and having 30 members of my family under our roof.
But in all honesty, it’s not only the family time here that needs to make a comeback–the mountains of leftovers (even after forcing takeaway boxes on my relatives at the door) are sadly a thing of the past, too, and for me it’s the best part of holiday eating. On the day of, after all the cooking and tasting, my appetite leaves me and doesn’t return until everything’s been cleaned up, put away and I’m looking back on the day with a glass of wine. Then it’s days of happily feasting, a little bit of everything on my plate, perfect because cooking is also low on my priority list during the in-between week.
Having been a guest again instead of a host this year, I’m down to a few slices of ham and it’s only mid-week. While I’ve baked bread and scones since Christmas (these qualify more as relaxing activities than a chore) I’ll need something that will pass for a healthy dinner.
Thankfully, this Broccoli-Lemon Orzotto fits the bill and it’s the easiest thing to put together. It’s been our top pairing for the Thai Green Curry Meatballs and my go-to for days when I want an easy side dish.
The preparation for this orzotto starts much like the process for risotto but the finish is much lower maintenance. For not much effort the result is a side dish that’s just the right amount of creamy and lemony but feel free to pile on the butter and cheese to make it richer. You can use the broccoli to claim this dish as still reasonably healthful. But wait–inspiration has just struck. What of those last few bits of Christmas ham? They could work here. Why not? They just might take this orzotto to another level.
For the week between holidays when you've run out of the fancy fare or anytime you want something easy, this orzotto is what to make.
- 1 1/2 cups orzo pasta (See Note)
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 cup water
- 1-2 tablespoons butter (or more to taste)
- 1/2 Fresh lemon (or more to taste)
- 1/2 – 3/4 crown broccoli, finely chopped
- Few tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (or more to taste)
- salt and pepper
In a medium high-sided pan, heat two to three tablespoons olive oil and the butter over medium heat. Add the dried orzo pasta and cook until toasted and lightly golden. Season with a pinch or two of kosher salt and ground pepper. Add the 1/4 cup of liquid (of the three cups total stock and water) and stir the orzo until the liquid has been mostlly absorbed. If you need to turn up the heat to medium high to get the liquid working you can do that. Add the liquid in 1/4 cup increments, waiting until the liquid has been mostly absorbed before adding more. Continue until you have only one cup left.
Stir in the lemon juice, add the remaining liquid (or you can hold back the last 1/8 cup if your orzo pasta is small) and the chopped broccoli. Bring to a boil then lower to simmer, cover and cook for six to ten minutes. The cook time will depend on the size of your orzo. To be safe, check for doneness at six minutes. The orzo should be al dente or just past this stage in order for it to be ready. If yours is under cooked and needs more liquid, add the remaining liquid if you held it back. If it's just slightly undercooked but has ample liquid, just cover and simmer for a few more minutes. Even when it's done the orzotto may look watery but this excess liquid will be absorbed eventually. Stir in the Parmigiano-Reggiano and if you'd like a creamier and more lemony dish, feel free to add more butter and lemon. Same for the cheese. Serve on its own or with your protein of choice.
Orzo pasta comes in different sizes so take this into account for the cook time here. For this recipe I use a specialty brand of orzo and the pieces are a little larger than the more popular De Cecco brand at most grocery stores. For the simmer time, check for doneness two to three minutes before the time here and/or reduce the liquid by 1/8 of a cup. You can add the remaining liquid if necessary.