Want a bowl of pasta that eats a heck of a lot like a bowl of risotto? Look no further than this Creamy Asparagus Orzo. I don’t know about you but I’ve always had trouble choosing between pasta and risotto. Sure, I eat a lot more pasta than I do risotto because pasta is quick and risotto is, well, meditative? But in a restaurant setting, when my time and effort aren’t remotely on the line, it’s a really tough call. And when I’m confronted with a tough decision, I do what any rational, responsible person would – I find a way around it.
It felt strange to write about restaurants just now. They’re starting to feel like a distant memory. At this point, the meals I remember having at a table other than my own feel like they happened to someone else. The pre-COVID Susan led quite the luxurious life – don’t you just hate her? I suppose it goes without saying, but here in Toronto, restaurants are still closed. I haven’t had to choose between the pasta and risotto I don’t have to make in such a long time. These days when I choose risotto, I know I’m choosing a more involved process and that, frankly, doesn’t work in the dish’s favor. So yeah, pasta has been winning lately and I miss my friend risotto.
Perhaps it is largely due to my unwillingness to stir for 40 minutes but orzo and I are having a moment. Orzo seems to be my quarantine main squeeze. It’s funny how you can walk by a pasta shape for months, even years, and never really consider it. And then, all of a sudden, you see it in the aisle and you truly see it. You don’t know why it’s been so long or what caused the rift, but you’re glad it’s over because damn, it’s so good to see it again. So, you pop a bag in your cart and after a truly magical experience, it becomes a mainstay once again.
I know it’s horribly cliche to write about foodstuff as if they are romantic partners. And frankly, it’s a touch creepy considering you consume them in the end. But that’s honestly how it feels between orzo and me. I’d sidelined the shape for a good year and I honestly have no idea why because as a pasta shape it’s top-notch.
I sort of think of orzo as the rice of the pasta world. Its itty bitty size and inhale-ability give me exactly what I love about rice but with the satisfying texture of pasta. It’s essentially been filling the void risotto left. But it’s not just that, orzo is very adaptable. It readily soaks up vinaigrettes and can it ever swim in a lush cream or tomato-based sauce. It’s good hot or cold and it cooks in no time at all. I don’t know why we lost each other – but I’m so glad we’re reunited.
But enough about my relationship with orzo, the pasta shape, let’s talk about this Creamy Asparagus Orzo, the dish. What I love about this dish is it reminds me of a very bougie mac and cheese. It has a sharp tang and grassiness from the herbed goat cheese which gives it an air of sophistication and interest. While the earthy flavors of the asparagus give the dish a touch of seasonality and lightness. But, even with those glamorous attributes, it still delivers all the unbridled comforts a bowl of cheesy pasta typically provides. Honestly, if I can feed my inner-five-year-old while maintaining my dignity, I’m gonna do it every time.
Unlike risotto, this Creamy Asparagus Orzo takes very little time to make. It all starts with a simple sauté of onions, garlic, and asparagus, followed by a quick vermouth-spike mornay sauce. From there you are about 10 minutes away from dinner. Simply cook and drain the orzo and add it to the sauce. Really, it’s that easy! It makes you question the necessity of boxed mac and cheese, doesn’t it?
So that’s everything you need to know about this Creamy Asparagus Orzo with Herbed Goat Cheese. It has all the creaminess of risotto without the cook-time. And provides all the comfort of mac and cheese without the judgment. Oh, and it only takes 30 minutes to make. What a total dreamboat!
Creamy Asparagus Orzo with Herbed Goat Cheese
- Large, deep skillet
- 450g (16 0z) uncooked orzo
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 yellow onion quartered and sliced
- 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes optional
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 bunch asparagus ends removed, cut into thirds
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup dry vermouth
- 2 cups 2% milk
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 140g (5oz) herb crusted goat cheese
- 1/4 cup full-fat yogurt
- 1 lemon juiced
- Place a large pot of water over high heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling, liberally salt the water and add the orzo. Cook the orzo according to the package's direction. Drain and rinse the orzo and set aside until ready to use.
- While the orzo is cooking, pour the olive oil in a large, deep skillet. Place over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the onion and a pinch of salt. Saute the onion until translucent. Stir in the garlic and crushed red pepper flakes and saute until fragrant. Add the asparagus and saute until tender but not mushy. Transfer the sauteed veggies to a plate and set aside.
- Add the butter to the skillet. Once the butter melts, whisk in the flour to form a roux. Gradually whisk in the vermouth, followed by the milk. Go slow. Make sure each addition is well-integrated before the next is added.
- Add the Dijon mustard and the goat cheese to the sauce and stir until the cheese melts. Taste and season with salt accordingly.
- Return the veggies to the skillet followed by the orzo. Add the yogurt and stir until well integrated. Spoon the finished orzo into bowls and serve immediately with white wine.