WHAT IS ORZO?
Basically this cut looks like rice but is actually pasta. From the Italian word for “barley”, orzo with its unique shape is a master of disguise. Versions of this pasta can be found in other cultures like the Greek kritharáki or Spanish piñones (which is also the nickname for pine nuts). Another Italian alias is semi di melone (“melon seeds” or big rice). Boiled, this pasta looks like risotto made with barley. It is a smooth pasta, so sauces don’t stick to it. But this cut is fun in soups, salads or as part of a stuffing. The next time you see a sack of orzo impersonating a bag of rice, your confusion is understandable.
WHERE IS ORZO MADE?
The barley version is made Friuli Venezia Giulia region in the northeast. However there are recipes from other parts Italy that feature local favorites like Carbonara.
KNOW WHEN TO HOLD ‘EM, TO FOLD ‘EM, TO WALK AWAY AND WHEN TO ORDER ORZO?
So while Kenny Rodger’s “Gambler” might not completely agree, apparently in Baltimore, Maryland orzo pasta is the cut gambler’s prefer the most. The Horseshoe Crab casino has an Italian restaurant with a menu owned by celebrity Chef Giada De Laurentiis. Her orzo meatballs and rockfish cacciatore offer diners something new but still Italian. The restaurant features, like beer, wine on tap (which like screw cap taps initially seem blasphemous but can actually yield a consistently better quality of wine if the vino was good to begin with) . To read more about her new place click here!
WHAT SAUCES GO WELL WITH ORZO?
So the general rule is the more fragile the pasta, the more fragile the sauce. Orzo though is a bit of an exception. Its’ small size and similar shape to rice lend it to being used in risotto, soups and salads. But while a small cut, it is also dense and so not that fragile (compared to Angel Hair pasta). So you will also see heavy cream or meat recipes also featuring this cut. If you’d like to see one of our recipes using this delicious pasta check out Amatriciana sauce recipe!