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Spinach Orzo with Parmesan & Pignoli

Warm or cold, this side dish is versatile and delicious.


Orzo is pasta shaped like rice, but it cooks in half the time and has an entirely different mouthfeel. It's the perfect foil for sopping up sauces and can be paired with virtually anything. You can use fresh spinach, but the pre-chopped frozen variety is preferable because all the work is done for you without sacrificing at all on taste or texture.. Toasted pine nuts are a welcome textural contrast to the tender orzo coated in Parmesan cheese, providing a buttery bite. Serve this as a side dish with Lemon Chicken to soak up all that scrumptious lemon sauce, or stuff the mixture in scooped and seeded tomato halves for pretty, individually portioned servings.


Equipment: cutting board; chef’s knife; large saucepan; mesh strainer; large mixing bowl; rubber spatula or wooden spoon


Ingredients:

1 pound orzo

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, finely minced/crushed

1, 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well drained

½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

¼ cup pignoli nuts, toasted

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

¼ cup basil, chiffonade (optional)

zest of half a lemon (optional)


1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add orzo and stir gently. Cook 4-7 minutes, checking occasionally. The pasta should be firm but cooked through. Strain the orzo through a large mesh strainer shaking off as much excess water as possible.


ILOC tip: toasting nuts brings out the essential oils and therefore all the flavors. Add nuts to a dry and cold sauté pan over medium heat, shaking the pan every 30 seconds or so to move the nuts, and cook until fragrant and golden brown. Pignolis are best toasted in a sauté pan because the moment they turn golden brown, if they are not removed from both the heat source and the pan, they burn.

2. Combine the olive oil and garlic in a large mixing bowl. Toss the orzo with the garlic oil and then add the drained chopped spinach, grated cheese, toasted pignoli nuts, and optional basil chiffonade and lemon zest. Season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir well to coat. Serve immediately for a warm side dish, or refrigerate in a sealed container to serve within a few days.


Makes 8-10 servings.



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