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toasted orzo with kale, basil, and pecorino romano

Looking for a delicious, easy-to-make, healthy dinner, preferably one that cooks in under 30 minutes, and uses just one pan? Then you have come to the right place. This meal is light, packed-full of fresh tender greens, and bursting with flavor. And after a festive Labor Day weekend filled with sweet pies, creamy Thai iced tea, and chocolate cookie ice cream bars, this is the perfect savory dish to revitalize and start the month off right. In this simple recipe, we sauté orzo until deeply toasted and fragrant, tossing it with sizzling minced garlic, tangy pecorino romano cheese, freshly ground pepper, a pinch of cayenne, and generous handfuls of kale and chopped basil. With a quick prep time and minimal clean-up, this deliciously satisfying pasta is an ideal mid-week dinner leaving you more time to enjoy these warm September evenings.

Somehow, this was our first time ever toasting orzo, but it certainly won’t be the last! Why did we never think of toasting it before? It brings out an irresistible nutty aroma and golden brown color, completely transforming the pasta. This roasted taste is the perfect complement to the kale and basil, while the pecorino romano cheese ties it together with its delicious sharp flavor. Here, garlic is roasted with the orzo, which is then simmered gently in a broth of your choice. We have tried so many vegetarian broths over the years and know how difficult it is to find a good one, but after finding this brand, we now use it in all our recipes and have been very happy with it.

This dish is quite versatile, as it can be be enjoyed either as a light dinner or a wonderful side that can be served with almost anything. When trying out the recipe for our blog, we made this pasta four times in a week, adapting and improving it each time, but it’s been an absolute pleasure since it is so satisfying, healthy, and easy to prepare. Nutritious, hearty, and chock-full of greens, this orzo dish now has a permanent spot in our dinner rotation.

Toasted Orzo with Kale, Basil, and Pecorino Romano
adapted from allrecipes
serves 4 to 6 as a side, 2 to 3 as a light main course

2 tablespoons butter
1 cup (6 ounces) uncooked orzo pasta
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup water
2 ounces trimmed and coarsely chopped kale
2 ounces pecorino romano cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 ounce basil, chopped (about 12-15 leaves)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Then add the orzo, and cook until lightly browned, about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then add the garlic and sauté for one minute. Pour the broth and water over the orzo, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then cover skillet, reduce heat to low, and set a timer for 15 minutes. When there are 4 minutes remaining, remove lid and scatter the kale leaves evenly over the orzo without stirring. Replace the lid and continue cooking until the 15 minutes are up, and the orzo and kale are tender. Remove skillet from heat, then add the pecorino romano, basil, black pepper, and optional cayenne. Stir well to combine, and since the pecorino and broth can both vary in saltiness, add salt to taste as needed. Serve warm, and enjoy!