I was immediately inspired by this recipe from Tasty Kitchen. I’d only had orzo once before in my life, and it was in a very fancy dining room at Indiana University called the Tudor Room. I associate orzo with elegance, and the thought of making such an mahvellous little dish in only 20 minutes was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. Add to that my love of asparagus and garlic, and you understand that it was quite simply meant to be!
1/2 lb orzo pasta
1 bunch asparagus
Zest from 1 lemon
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup pasta water
2 cloves garlic
4 TBS olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper, to taste
Boil up some salted water, and cook the orzo until it’s al dente.
My package said it would take 9 minutes for al dente pasta, and it was right. Before draining it, measure out some pasta water . . .
. . . and set it aside.
In the meantime, snap the tough ends off the asparagus, and chop it up into 2 inch lengths.
Heat up 2 TBS of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. When hot, add the asparagus . . .
. . . and cook for about 8 minutes, until crisp tender.
For some reason I always want to punch myself in the face after using the descriptor ‘crisp tender,’ but I can think of no other phrase that sums up that ideal quality of the perfectly cooked vegetable so precisely. At least no concise phrase–we could always go with ‘not mushy/schmooshy but not undercooked either, slightly bitey but not tough, with a soft crunch, but by ‘soft’ I don’t mean ‘soggy’ and by ‘crunch’ I don’t mean like a potato chip.’
Anyway, make sure to season the asparagus with salt and pepper as it cooks.
Set the cooked asparagus aside.
At this point, I used the same skillet to cook up a couple steaks.
A little more prep, and we’re ready to get this served up. Locate the nearest pair of man-hands, and kindly request that they grate up mountains of Parmesan.
More! More! I said ‘mountains,’ not ‘one lonely hillside’!
That’s better. Thank you, man-hands.
Zest the lemon:
Pause to inhale the wonderful tangy smell of that golden pile. Mmmm.
Finally, put the garlic through a garlic press or mince it up really, really finely.
Now it’s just a matter of throwing everything together. Return the cooked orzo to the pot. Stir in the Parmesan, garlic, lemon zest, 2 remaining tablespoons of olive oil, asparagus, and pasta water.
Add plenty of salt and pepper, to taste. Et voilà, mon petit chou-chou!
You don’t mind if I call you my ‘little chou-chou’, do you?
Great. I didn’t think so.
Serve with fish, steak, chicken . . .
. . . or alone!
Some shrimp stirred in wouldn’t be bad either, now that I think about it.
Load on the extra Parmesan, if you so desire.
Woohoo! The Tudor Room no longer has a monopoly on my orzo experience.
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