Look, Ma! Veggies!
See way there in the back, where the chicken is all snuggled up under the orzo blanket? Yes, that's leftover makeover right there. But the chicken is really just an understudy in this case—the orzo is the star.
(Note to self: Begin manufacture of orzo blankets ASAP.)
I decided to cook the orzo risotto style, as opposed to in the traditional manner, because I hoped it would help the results be starchier and creamier—I wanted this to be a cheesy orzo but I didn't want to make a béchamel. (The only dairy in my refrigerator was buttermilk, and that seemed like a gamble.)
Spoiler alert: It works! I used the broth I had in the cabinet, which happened to be vegetable broth. Which for no particularly reason I'm going to disclose that I think vegetable broth tastes just dandy but smells really strange. I'll just leave that little fact here for you even though it's of no use to anyone at all.
I could have roasted the broccoli to give it a little oomph in the flavor department, but I rather liked the way this all came together as a one-pot wonder, and letting it cook slowly in the orzo meant that it kept its bright green color and still turned out tender but toothsome.
I think the red onion is a nice pop of color here, but any sort of onion will work just fine; it was just what I had on hand. I added dried crushed red pepper, but for kids or people who prefer a sort of unadulterated mac and cheese, you can leave it out altogether.
When I posted a shot of this on Instagram last night, the response was swift—I think orzo is just one of those universally beloved things. Who could believe it all came together in less than 20 minutes?
Twenty-two minutes if you stop to open a bottle of wine and pour yourself a glass or three. Which I recommend.
Cheesy Broccoli and Orzo "Risotto"
6 cups vegetable broth or chicken broth
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ large red onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups broccoli florets
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Dried crushed red pepper (optional)
1½ cups dried orzo
4 ounces shredded Cheddar cheese
¼ cup heavy cream
1. Bring broth to a simmer over medium heat; keep warm over low heat.
2. Heat olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat; add onions and cook, stirring, until onions are translucent. Stir in garlic; cook 1 minute. Stir in broccoli, and sprinkle with salt, black pepper, and red pepper, if desired. Cook 1 minute.
3. Stir orzo into broccoli, and cook 1 to 2 minutes or until lightly toasted. Ladle about ½ cup broth into pan; cook, stirring constantly, until liquid is absorbed. Repeat with remaining broth, and cook 8 to 10 minutes, adding broth ½ cup at a time as needed until orzo is al dente and broccoli is tender.
4. Reduce heat to low, and stir in cheese and cream. Makes 4 servings.