Orzo, a rice-shaped pasta, is often referred to as Italian rice. It is made from wheat semolina. Its name means "barley." From use in a pasta salad, in a soup, in a casserole or even dessert, the rice-shaped pasta has many uses. It is a great substitute for rice, potatoes and regular pasta.
The first thing to know about orzo is how to cook it. First, fill a large stockpot with water until it is ¾ of the way full. Cover with a lid and place on the stove. Set the temperature to high. Once the water is at a rolling boil, add a little salt. Add the pasta to the water and give it a stir. Lower the temperature to medium-high so that the water is still boiling, but will not overflow. Just 8 to 9 minutes and the orzo will be al-dente. Drain the water from the pasta and it is ready for a sauce, herbs or olive oil.
The other method for preparing orzo is to cook it as if it is rice. That means, add orzo to a large saucepan and double the amount of water. Cover with a lid and bring the mixture to a boil, then lower to a simmer for the next 8 to 9 minutes. Check the pasta often. It will burn easily once the pasta has absorbed the water. Add sauce once the pasta has finished cooking.
Another idea is to sauté the dried orzo in butter on medium-high heat until it is light brown. This works like many of those popular boxed rice dishes. Stir in water or chicken stock. Once it has reached boiling stage, cover and reduce the heat to a simmer. In about 15 to 20 minutes, the orzo will have absorbed the liquid. Then add herbs and spices for flavor.
If soup is on the menu, orzo is a wonderful substitution for other pasta. For al-dente orzo, add it at the end of cooking. It is delicious in chicken noodle soup, replace the egg noodles with orzo. Another use for orzo is adding it to a cold salad. A great combination is to try is to use spinach leaves, crumbled feta cheese, and pine nuts. Another option for using orzo is to use it as a dessert. Substitute it for rice in rice pudding.
Orzo is quite versatile. Meals look elegant without being complicated. Guests will want to find uses for orzo in their recipes.