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Orzo, and other small pasta (Recipe: cold curried orzo) {vegetarian}


Poor orzo.

Compared to the other small, stubby pastas, with lyrical names like ditalini (little thimbles), annelini (little rings), acini de pepe (little beads), tubettini (little tubes), tripolini (little bows) and stelline (little stars), orzo sounds so... well, so pedestrian.

It definitely needs another syllable or two to fit in with the other pastas, but in taste, texture, and versatility, orzo (which means "barley" in Italian) leads the pack.

Known collectively as "soup pasta", most small and stubby pastas are made from semolina (white or whole wheat), and do their best work in place of rice or noodles in soup, where they add bulk and texture, and absorb the flavors around them.

(Did you know that, in the United States, by law a noodle must contain 5.5 percent egg solids to be called a noodle? So without egg, a noodle really isn't a noodle. So don't call orzo a noodle; call it pasta.)


Orzo, unlike some of the tiniest of the soup pastas, also holds its own in chickpea salad or spinach salad, "risotto", and baked shrimp casserole. It cooks in 10 minutes, and swells up to the size and shape of a pine nut; 1/3 cup uncooked will make 1 cup of cooked orzo. It tastes great hot or cold.

Like all dried pastas, the small, stubby ones will keep in your cupboard for a year or more if stored in a sealed, dry package. Keep a few shapes on hand for soups, and maybe an arts-and-crafts project with your kids, but be sure to give orzo -- the pasta with the short and stubby name -- a special place in your pantry.


Cold curried orzo

Serves 4; can be doubled.


8 oz orzo
2 tsp sweet or hot curry powder
1/2 cup mayonnaise
Juice of half a lemon
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup diced cucumber
1/4 cup roughly chopped peanuts


Bring a pot of 2 quarts of water to the boil. Add the orzo. After the water returns to the boil, lower heat to simmer and cook 9-10 minutes or until the pasta is al dente (cooked, but not mushy). Drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking.

Place the curry powder, mayonnaise and lemon juice in a mixing bowl, and stir well to combine. Add orzo and remaining ingredients, and stir to coat the pasta and vegetables with the mayonnaise. Refrigerate until ready to serve (can be made up to one day in advance; it will improve with age).

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Curried green tomatoes
Curried orzo chicken salad
South End Deep Root Chili
Couscous with orange and dried fruit

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Actually, in Greek cooking, orzo is respectable basis for a meal... it's more common there.

Great post Lydia - serious amount of 'Orzo info'! I can't wait to have a bash at the cold curried recipe.

Orzo's also great in a hearty meatball soup. I received such a recipe recently - it's a monster but a great one to make double and freeze.

Hope it's of interest: http://www.pasta-recipes-made-easy.com/italian-meatball-soup.html

When I was young, I used to cook orzo all the time... you make me wonder why I stopped.

Interesting tidbit about the difference between noodles and pasta. And I agree with Pastastic Matt, Great Post!

hehehe for once I actually don't need to go out to buy the main ingredient. Many thanks...will give it a whirl this week.

isn't it funny to think about lawmakers sitting around debating that egg content of noodles v pasta!
Giada has a great recipe for stuffed peppers using orzo, veggies and parm! change the chix broth to veggie and you have a complete vegetarian meal!


What a nice recipe - wish I'd had this when I picked up some cucumbers from the CSA the other day. I've had a long love affair with orzo - I like to use it in pasta salads that I tote to the office for lunch.

I. Love. Orzo!


I always neglect the small pasta shapes but just hearing the lyrical names, I want to stock up on some!

I love the cold idea here and the raisin addition. The little bite of sweet goes a long way! Sounds simply delicious Lydia!

you've inspired me to cook today - thanks

Great recipe! I like how orzo can be used in both cold and hot applications. I like putting orzo in my chili!

It is a very versatile pasta. I've had this recently at an Italian restaurant with a caper cream sauce and it was perfect.

What a perfect summer lunch

Paul, this salad is good enough to make a meal -- and you can add cooked chicken or shrimp or beef to it.

Matt, Carol: thanks for sharing the recipes.

Julia, I definitely go through phases where I'm cooking a lot of orzo, then not much, then a lot again. I always forget how much I love it.

Milton, glad to hear you have such a well-stocked pantry!

TW, this salad really tasted better the second day, which makes it perfect for lunch toting.

Paz, me too.

Nupur, the little pastas are real gems. You'll find so many uses for them.

Noble Pig, I had a friend who couldn't stand cold pasta salads or iced coffee. I never understood that.

Satonahat, what will you make?

Hillary, I put orzo in my black bean chili too. I did it once to stretch the chili to serve more people, and I liked it so much that I add it all the time now.

Navita, you're welcome. Orzo is really delicious.

Veron, that pasta sounds delicious. Orzo can go in almost any direction!

EB, absolutely. I hope you'll try it.

This looks like it would make a great lunch for me to take to school!

I am learning to like curry. I know it should not really be like a lesson, but still if you did not eat something during your formative years, it really is a learning process! This does sound great, I will include it on Sunday, thanks.

It looks so pretty, too!

I just ran across a recipe last month for orzo and I've made it 3 times already. Cook the orzo, drain and add it hot to 1/2 c EVOO, the juice and zest of one lemon and 1/4 tsp salt. The orzo soaks it all up...total comfort food. I can eat it just like this, but the recipe adds 1/4 c toasted pine nuts, chopped green onions and feta. So good warm, room temp or cold! :)

I love to cook with orzo! Seems I always have it in my pantry; I just have to be careful to not over-cook it. Years ago when my two sons were small, I came up with a "side" dish to try to get more vegetables in them:

cook 2 cups orzo pasta, drain, and set aside
saute 1/3 cup chopped onion in olive oil
add and saute 2 diced zucchini squash (or yellow crookneck squash) with the onion
add to the saute pan 1 cup fresh corn kernels cut off the cob (or 1 cup frozen corn)
season with 1 TB fresh chopped basil, fresh minced parsley or dried herbs
dice 1 fresh tomato and add to the pan
stir in the cooked orzo and season with salt and pepper, serve hot

Pam, it's one of those dishes that improves with a little bit of sitting time, to allow the flavors to mellow together. It would be perfect to make at night and have for lunch the next day.

Melynda, I know what you mean -- I didn't grow up with these flavors, either, and it's a real evolution.

Bridget, I love the idea of the pine nuts (same shape as the orzo) and feta, together with lemon. Maybe some cooked broccoli, too....

Teresa, if you got your sons to eat vegetables, my hat's off to you! I would love this dish, though, especially with the corn and basil -- such great summer flavors.

Love orzo & use it very often, tho i was not aware of so much info. Love your use of curry in this, nice twist.

Oh, I love love love orzo! I always pair it with Mediterranean flavors though, never thought to try curry. Will have to give it a shot next time. Also, I buy whole wheat orzo whenever I can find it - I am not really a fan of whole wheat pasta in general, but since each piece of orzo is so small, I don't notice the difference as much. So I try to get the whole grains in when I can!

I'm so excited about this recipe! I really enjoy the texture and size of orzo and I adore curry flavors.

This is still one of the best recipes to make when company comes over.....just double check all are peanut safe!!

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