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Orzo Risotto with Buttery Shrimp

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While waiting for my eyes to dilate at the optometrist's office, I came upon this recipe in Food & Wine Magazine. Barely able to focus, I took down some messy notes and gave it a shot that evening. Even with a mistake or two, the recipe came out tasting good without too much work.

Risottos are usually made with Italian rice with wine and broth stirred until rich and creamy. In this recipe, the orzo - a rice shaped pasta - is cooked and then stirred in broth for a similar effect. Finally, parmesan cheese is stirred in for extra flavor and richness. I use a Microplane zester to shave the cheese into extremely fine pieces. This makes it very easy for the cheese to melt into the orzo.

I started off by assembling the main ingredients: 6 oz. (170 g) asparagus tips, 2 Tbs. chopped parsley, 12 oz. (340 g) orzo, 1 cup (235 mL) chicken broth, 3 oz. (55 g) butter, and 1/2 cup (50 g) grated parmesan cheese.

I also shelled, deveined, washed, and drained 1/2 pound (225 g) medium shrimp (about 30-40 count).

I brought about 2 quarts of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. (Next time I make this recipe, I'll probably use a larger pot - you'll see why when I cook the orzo.) When the water began to boil, I threw in about a tablespoon of salt and stirred until the salt dissolved. I dropped in the asparagus tips and allowed them to cook until tender - about four minutes.

I removed the asparagus from the water and set them aside on a plate. Then, I took the orzo and poured it into the water that I had used to cook the asparagus. I cooked the orzo until al dente - nine minutes.

Meanwhile, I melted the six tablespoons of butter in a large saute pan.

Once the butter was melted, I let it brown until it produced a nutty fragrance. I drained the shrimp one last time and added them to the pan. I lightly salted and peppered them. Then, I cooked the shrimp for one full minute before flipping them over and cooking for a final minute.

While the shrimp was cooking and the orzo was boiling, I cut the asparagus until 1-in. (2.5 cm) pieces.

The shrimp was then removed to the same plate as the asparagus. By now, I realized that I had just enough water in the orzo pan to cook the orzo, but wouldn't have much left over. I was a little concerned that if I couldn't drain the orzo, then it might be too salty. The recipe calls for reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta water, and it looked like that was just about all I was going to have left over in the pan. So I decided to skip reserving the water.

I poured the chicken broth into the sauté pan to deglaze it. In the original recipe, 1/4 cup of reserved water from the drained orzo would also be added to the pan. Since I didn't have much water left in the orzo pan, I didn't drain it at all. I thought about rinsing the orzo to reduce the salt content (however, this will adversely affect the texture of the final dish as the starch content in the water is reduced) but felt that the saltiness wasn't overwhelming. I decided to take a chance and proceeded with the recipe. I used a wooden spoon to scrape up any brown bits on the sauté pan, then, when the broth started to bubble, I poured it into the orzo pot.

I stirred the orzo and broth over medium heat until the liquid thickened a bit and became creamy.

Then I put the cut asparagus and shrimp back in the orzo and mixed until heated through.

I removed the pot from the heat and mixed in the chopped parsley and grated parmesan. Taste the orzo at this point to determine if additional salt and pepper should be mixed in. Lucky for me, the saltiness was just right. I did add some freshly ground pepper.

The orzo risotto reminded me of Rice-A-Roni, except fresh and wonderful tasting. The clean seafood taste and creamy texture was great. This is definitely a dish I'd make again.

Orzo Risotto with Buttery Shrimp (serves 4)
6 oz. (170 g) asparagus tipscook in boiling water until tender (4 min.)cut into 1-in. (2.5 cm) piecesmix until heated throughremove from heat and stir in
1/2-lb. (225 g) medium (30-40 ct.) shrimpcook 1 min. each side
salt & pepper
3 oz. (55 g) buttermelt & brown
12 oz. (340 g) orzoboil until al dente and drain, reserving 1/4 cup waterstir over medium heat until creamy
1 cup (235 mL) chicken brothdeglaze shrimp pan with 1/4 cup reserved orzo water
1/2 cup (50 g) grated parmesan cheese
2 Tbs. (7 g) chopped parsley
salt & pepper

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Written by Michael Chu
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20 comments on Orzo Risotto with Buttery Shrimp:(Post a comment)

On February 16, 2006 at 05:39 AM, AnneE from Paris (guest) said...
like always, lovely

On February 16, 2006 at 10:37 AM, Lee (guest) said...
Subject: Orzo
In my limited experience with Risotto I think the Orzo pasta makes a much better tasting dish than the Arborio rice. I'm not sure why. I will definitely be trying this dish.

On February 16, 2006 at 10:47 AM, Joe (guest) said...
Subject: Nice demonstration!
Nicely demonstrated and executed. I must point out, though, that the photo is not of asparagus tips, but asparagus stalks. tips are usually about the top 4 inches or so of the asparagus stalk. Also, I'd suggest adding about 1/4 cup of good white wine - maybe a sauvignon blanc - to the deglazing liquid.

On February 16, 2006 at 02:37 PM, DrObvioussSo (guest) said...
Subject: But is it really Risotto
Hmmmm.... well, the dish looks great, and if I could only convince my wife to like shrim, and me to like those vile weeds, I might just have to make it some night.

I'm a little currious though, would this really be risotto? To me, the thing that really made it a rice dish was the starchy sauce that comes out of the rice. I've made risotto with a number of different rices, and while none of the other rices produced as much of this starch, its always there. I would assume orzo wouldn't have this, and from the pic, it didn't look like it.

I guess it probably all comes down to mouth feel, and that's not something you can really show ;)

On February 16, 2006 at 04:49 PM, Dagon said...
Well by pure definition it isn't a risotto as its not made of rice, but Orzo in my experience does make a nice and much easier replacement. Since orzo is a pasta you still get starch coming off it when it cooks(prob not as much as Arborio rice, but it has some) which is probably why the original recipe asked to use part of the cooking water(as well as flavor).

As for mock risottos with orzo vs real risottos, personally I like both. I do think there are flavor and texture differences but they are still very similar for me. I am definitely going to try this recipe although seeing as my wife and I can't seem to make shrimp we like(love it in a restaurant) at home will prob substitute another meat or leave protein out and serve it as a side dish.

On February 19, 2006 at 04:06 PM, Dominic (guest) said...
Subject: shrimp at home
The trick with making decent shrimp at home, as this recipe illustrates, is to use high heat (promotes flavor via Maillard reaction) and be VERY quick. This recipe suggested a minute on both sides -- I might be tempted to cook for a minute on the first side and then 30 seconds on the flip and allow the heat of the orzo to cook the shrimp the rest of the way through.

On February 20, 2006 at 06:53 AM, Aaron McFarlane (guest) said...
Made it, turned out rather deliciously. If I had to do it again I wouldn't add salt at any stage as the stock tends to be salty and the butter has high salt content. In the same vein, I think I'd dilute the stock a bit more. I substituted a 1/4C white wine for the 1/4C asparagus stock.

All-in-all very nice. Thanks for the recipe and wonderful photos.

On February 20, 2006 at 05:50 PM, Sonali (guest) said...
Subject: Risotto

I made this dish today & it came out very well. Thanks a lot. You have got a very nice website.


On March 05, 2006 at 12:03 AM, Dana (guest) said...
I just found your website a few days ago and have now made two recipes from it (Asparagus with Almonds) and this one and I really enjoyed both of them. I am college student majoring in economics and though I am not an engineer, I truly enjoy an analytical look at most things -- and now I can add cooking to that list!

On March 12, 2006 at 05:35 PM, BMC01 (guest) said...
I have the photo in the Food and Wine magazine and compared to your photo, your looks creamier. I kept this issue of Food and Wine to try this, now I definately will. By the way, the original recipe calls for asparagus spears, not just tips.

On April 02, 2006 at 02:48 PM, Salma (guest) said...
Subject: A Delight!
I made it last night. I think I had a bit too much salt but, the dish is very good and far lighter than conventional risotto. Always found risotto a pain to make but this is easy and good. I never would have thought of doing it with orzo. Browning the butter helped the overall flavour. Want to try your onion rings next perhaps. :)

On March 25, 2007 at 10:51 PM, an anonymous reader said...
The fastest and easiest way to make risotto is to use a [u:63169c0d37]pressure cooker[/u:63169c0d37]. You don't have to constantly stir the risotto, and it only takes 7 minutes. For directions, go here: [color=green:63169c0d37][u:63169c0d37]pressure cooker risotto recipe[/u:63169...37].

On June 21, 2007 at 05:57 PM, ryan (guest) said...
Subject: How is orzo made?
I've looked all over the web for details on how orzo pasta is made, as in how do they manufacture the pasta to be in those little rice kernel shapes. All I can find anywhere are recipes on how to cook orzo pasta.

So, anyone know how it's made? My initial guess is that it's created as a big sheet of pasta and cut into those bits while still fresh and that the drying process gives it that tapered shape maybe?

On July 27, 2007 at 03:01 PM, anna (guest) said...
Subject: Very appetizing!
While on the lookout for a risotto recipe i came across your very wonderfully displayed recipe! I'm no engineer, but i found very helpful and clearly worded. Thanks :)

On January 18, 2008 at 04:43 PM, cookin (guest) said...
Subject: orzo shaping
I was wondering if anyone could tell me how they actualy shape Orzo. I am a home cook and would like to try and make some fresh.

On March 25, 2008 at 07:53 PM, Kristi (guest) said...
Subject: Excellent Recipe
I fixed this for dinner tonight and it was excellent. I have a box of Orzo sitting in my cabinet and didn't know what to make. The shrimp, orzo, asparagus was very delicious and the directions were very simple. :)

On June 25, 2008 at 03:57 AM, an anonymous reader said...
Subject: orzo
I just love the layout of the recipe cards at the end. they are very organized. You have a very nice site and i appreciate the specialized layout and explinations of the steps and ammounts for each ingredient. :)

On July 14, 2008 at 04:02 PM, an anonymous reader said...
Subject: Orzo shape
I don't know how labor intensive making all the tiny shapes this way would be but my immediate thought would be to roll out long strings of pasta and pinch off small lengths. I'm thinking from experience with clay and bread dough as I have never personally tried making pasta.

On July 14, 2008 at 04:57 PM, Dilbert said...
....long strings of pasta and pinch off small lengths

indeed, very small lengths, then point the ends.

lottsa lottsa lottsa small lengths. orzo is about the size of a grain of rice.

I went looking and find no references to "home made orzo" - lottsa references to machine made specialty pastas.

it would appear orzo is a child of the machine made pasta age.

gnocchi tries my patience, can't fathom "hand making rice"

On October 14, 2008 at 11:11 AM, paizley (guest) said...
Subject: orzo "risotto"
Since risotto is always made from rice and orzo is a pasta, you may want to correct the title of the recipe to orzo, risotto-style or risotto-style orzo. You're an engineer...get it right! JK :D

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