When you don’t feel like cooking, this easy tomato orzo is a recipe you want to have in your back pocket.
I mentioned in my last newsletter that I visited my girlfriend in the Hudson Valley, and she took me to Uncle Giuseppe’s. I bought lots of olive oil, including this gorgeous smoked olive oil. The smoked olive oil was the perfect finishing oil for this tomato orzo.
If you don’t have smoked olive oil, a good quality extra virgin olive oil will do nicely as a finishing oil, or you can skip it altogether if you like.
How to make this easy tomato orzo:
This meal is no-fuss, it’s not fancy, and you can really throw it together super fast. You only need a few ingredients, including:
- Orzo: I’ve been in love with whole wheat pasta, but use your favorite orzo here.
- Sauce: All you need is a red onion, garlic, mushrooms, crushed tomatoes, and spinach. I keep the flavor profile simple with salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, a pinch of sugar, and a dash of balsamic vinegar.
- Garnishes: Smoked olive oil is a beautiful way to finish this dish. Otherwise, grated Parmesan cheese or even lemon zest and black pepper would be a nice way to round out the meal. Fresh basil or minced parsley would also be good.
When I made this, I didn’t even bother with a second pot for the orzo. I just boiled the orzo, drained it, and let it stand as I made the sauce. If you’re worried about the orzo sticking, you can follow a more traditional path of making the sauce in one pot and boiling the pasta in another. I had zero issues throwing the orzo right in the sauce and gently breaking it up, but do whatever works best for you.
How to make the sauce
- Step 1: Boil the pasta. Reserve some pasta water, drain the pasta, and set it aside. Wipe out the pot and return it to the stovetop. Prep all the ingredients for the sauce as you wait for the water to boil.
- Step 2: Fry up the mushrooms and then add the red onion. Once the red onion softens, add in the garlic, sugar, and crushed red pepper.
- Step 3: Add the tomatoes and balsamic vinegar and simmer the sauce. This is a quick simmer sauce. You only need about 15 minutes. The sugar and balsamic vinegar will balance the tomatoes and give a little depth.
- Step 4: Stir in the spinach and add the orzo. Toss to coat, adding the pasta water if needed. Once the orzo is nicely coated, turn off the heat.
- Step 5: Serve it up. Spoon the orzo and tomato sauce into bowls and garnish with smoked olive oil, Parmesan cheese, or lemon zest and basil.
Easy Tomato Orzo
- Medium pot
- 12 ounces dry orzo
- 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, trimmed, wiped clean, and sliced
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- Sugar and crushed red pepper to taste
- 14.5- ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 3 ounces baby spinach, roughly chopped
- Salt and pepper
- Smoked olive oil , optional, for serving
Cook the orzo:
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a generous pinch of salt and add the orzo. Cook until just shy of al dente, about 7 minutes. Scoop out ¼ cup of the pasta water and set it aside. Drain the pasta and set aside. Note: If you’re worried about the orzo sticking, you can cook the pasta in one pot and begin the sauce in a second pot.
- Wipe out the pot and return it to the stovetop.
Make the sauce:
- Turn the heat on the pot to medium and add the mushrooms. Cook for 5–7 minutes until they begin to release their liquid. Add the extra virgin olive oil and the red onion. Cook, turning often, until the mushrooms deepen in color and the onion softens, about 7–9 minutes.
- Add the garlic, a pinch of sugar, and a pinch of crushed red pepper to the pot. Cook for 1 minute until fragrant.
- Pour in the crushed tomatoes and balsamic vinegar and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer the sauce rapidly for 10–15 minutes. If the sauce begins to stick or evaporates too quickly, add a splash of water and reduce the heat to low. Taste and add salt, pepper, sugar, or crushed red pepper to taste.
Finish the sauce:
- Add the chopped spinach to the pot and cook for 2–3 minutes. Add the orzo and toss to coat. Cook for 1–2 minutes until the orzo is well coated, adding a splash of pasta cooking water as needed. Taste and season. Turn off the heat.
- Divide the orzo between shallow bowls and drizzle with smoked olive oil. Enjoy!