Orzo pasta, vegetables and some greek yogurt come together for a hearty traditional meal!
Have you ever heard of the Italian term “cucina povera”? Cucina means kitchen and povera means poor, so it’s a term used to describe a cooking philosophy that uses cheap, simple ingredients to create everyday meals. But don’t be fooled! Using cheap ingredients doesn’t mean that these recipes lack taste. On the contrary… Cucina povera features some of the most delicious dishes you’ll ever taste – try this mushroom risotto and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Another representative recipe of this genre is today’s mediterranean orzotto with vegetables. Orzo pasta is a type of pasta that resembles the seed of the wheat. My grandma and some other home cooks still use to make it by themselves. When I was a kid, I often watched her sitting on a chair inside her poor lighten kitchen due to a small window that faced north, making this orzo pasta. She would always put on her old, striped cotton apron and then, in a big metal bowl she would mix some flour, water and salt to make the dough. I never saw her using a scale or measuring cups or anything. She eyeballed everything and yet the outcome was the same every time! After letting the dough rest for a while – for the gluten to develop – she would take very small pieces, pinching it with her two fingers, and she would rub them against the table to form the wheat shaped pasta. After sprinkling them with flour to prevent them from sticking to each other she would place them on a big level sieve to dry. The image of these “seeds” of pasta, drying on the big sieve inside my grandma’s dark kitchen under the dust particles that rode the few rays of sun from the little window to the kitchen table will be imprinted inside me forever!
As I said, this recipe uses cheap ingredients you can easily find in your back yard garden. Since I don’t have a garden – neither a back yard – I like to use a frozen vegetable mix. Other times I buy it from the store and sometimes I chop my favorite vegetables, mix them up and pop them in the freezer for later use.
Don’t have vegetable stock? No worries, just use water and a bouillon!
Using some greek yogurt cuts down the fat, but you can also use light cream cheese (or full fat. I’ll look the other way, promise).
The marinated cheese cubes pair well with this orzotto and also add to the protein content of the dish. Serve with bread sticks for extra pleasure!
Have no clue about what to cook for the next day? Try these one pan greek mini meat loaves with potatoes. Sure thing.
- For the orzotto
- 1 cup chopped leeks or scallions
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cups orzo pasta
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 2 cups mixed vegetables in small cubes (I use baby carrots, red peppers, peas, corn)
- 6 – 7 cups warm vegetable stock (for non vegetarian you can also use chicken stock)
- ½ cup greek yogurt (or cream cheese)
- ½ cup grated parmesan
- Salt and pepper to taste
- For the cheese cubes
- 1 cup cheese in cubes (parmesan, cheddar, gruyere or other)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon dried tarragon
- Pinch of pepper
- Start with cheese cubes. In a bowl, mix well all the ingredients except the cheese.
- Add the cheese cubes and stir gently to coat. Set aside.
- For the orzotto: Heat olive oil and leeks in medium high heat until translucent.
- Add the pasta, thyme and vegetables and stir for 1-2 minutes.
- Start adding the stock, half a cup at a time and reduce heat to a low simmer.
- Start tasting to see if it’s ready when you have used 6 cups of stock. Add pepper and adjust salt.
- When it’s ready, turn off the heat and add the yogurt and parmesan.
- Stir to combine and serve with some cheese cubes and bread sticks. Maybe sprinkle some parsley if you have any.