Friday, April 4, 2008

Easy Peas-y Casserole

I like eating Orzo pasta, as I can trick my mind into thinking that I'm having rice. We, Filipinos, are big rice eaters , so we are susceptible to any Jedi-mind trick about rice. Hehhehe..

But unlike rice, pasta settles a little heavier in the stomach, so you can't really eat so much of it,especially when drowned with rich meaty or cheesy sauce. But, not this particular dish though. This recipe requires cheese, yes, but not a lot of heavy cream in it.

This dish is versatile too. You can prepare this either as a side dish, or as a complete meal.

Baked Orzo with Peas & Cheese
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 pound orzo pasta
1-1/2 tablespoons butter, plus more to grease the baking dish
1/2 medium onion, chopped

1/4 cup diced red bell pepper (optional)
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
3/4 cup Marsala wine
1/4 cup heavy cream
4 ounces shredded fontina cheese (about 1 cup)
4 ounces diced fresh mozzarella cheese (about 1 cup)
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tbsp butter

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter a 9 by 13-inch baking dish.
2. Cook orzo with the chicken broth. Cook until almost tender, about 7 minutes. Pour the orzo and the broth into the baking dish. Set aside.
3. Melt the butter over medium heat in a medium skillet. Add the onions and saute until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and continue to saute until the mushrooms are beginning to turn golden around the edges, about 7 minutes.
4. Add the Marsala. Scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan and cook until wine has reduced by half, about 5 minutes.
5. Add the mushroom mixture to the orzo in the large bowl. Add the cream, fontina, mozzarella, peas, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.
6. Combine the bread crumbs, parmesan
and dried thyme. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture on top of the pasta. Dot with butter. Bake uncovered until golden, about 25 minutes.

Option: Add 2 cups pre-cooked shredded chicken to the pasta mix

If you want to make this a complete meal, then you can add the chicken (turkey or shrimp would be good too) in the pasta mix. To make this a vegetarian dish, then you can probably add beans to it, like chick peas or red beans?

As for me, I opted to make it a complete meal - I added shredded cooked chicken breasts. Also, since Fontina is a bit pricier, I got a pre-shredded 6-cheese italian mix which already included Fontina (as well as Romano, Asiago, Parmesan, Mozzarella, Provolone) in it. I have fresh mozzarella in the fridge, so I used them for this dish. The fresh mozzarella added the gooey, sticky factor to this pasta.

This dish is even better eaten the next day.

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