Absorption Pasta

Absorption Pasta with Peas and ParmesanAbsorption Pasta with Peas and Parmesan

This was something I have been wanting to try for a while: cooking pasta like a risotto. I’ve seen it on several blogs, in How To Cook Everything by Mark Bittman and at Cook’s Illustrated. Everybody knows that with pasta, you just have to boil it in a big pot of water until al dente. Generally, the more water you have, the better, because the starch has more opportunity to be released from the pasta. But if you cook it like risotto, then the starch stays in the dish. While it may sound counter-productive, that is exactly what you want here. The starch is what makes a risotto a risotto. Now, I have to admit, I have never made a risotto. I will try that soon. But I did have some Orzo left over from when I made some soups. I figured I could use orzo to make absorption pasta. I cribbed a bit from How to Cook Everything, Bittman has a slightly different method in his How to Cook Everything Vegetarian (online recipe here, courtesy Google Book Search ), and the Cook’s Illustrated version.

Absorption Pasta with Peas and Parmesan

Absorption Pasta with Peas and Parmesan

Absorpotion Pasta
2 tbsps olive oil
1 large shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound orzo
3/4 cup vermouth (dry white wine works fine, I had no wine on hand, so I subbed vermouth)
4 cups chicken stock
1 Lemon (grate the zest and juice the lemon)
10 oz frozen peas (one 10 oz box. I actually added only about 3/4 of it.)
1 cup Parmesan cheese
2 tbsps butter, unsalted

  1. Heat the chicken stock in a small pot over medium high heat. If it begins to boil, reduce the heat. The purpose is just to keep the liquid hot for when it is added to the rest of the dish.
  2. Heat the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet on medium high heat. When hot, add the shallot, 3/4 tsp salt and cook about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic, cook about a minute more. Add the orzo and cook, stirring occasionally until “toasted”. At this point, most of the orzo should look lightly golden brown. This can take about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the vermouth (3/4 cup), stir. Continue to stir using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon and let the liquid absorb into the pasta.
  4. Add the lemon juice and zest. Add the chicken stock about a 1/2 cup at a time. Stir each time you add more liquid. Do not add more liquid until the previous addition has nearly been completely absorbed. The orzo should never get “dry” nor should it look soupy.
  5. After about 10 minutes, begin tasting the orzo. It will be finished when it is al dente–it should be tender, but still firm. This time it took about 17 minutes for it to reach that stage, but it can happen sooner. Do not worry if you do not use all of the stock.
  6. Add the frozen peas and mix until everything has warmed through.
  7. Reduce the heat to low, add the Parmesan and the butter.

The peas are optional. I find that they add a nice contrast in texture to the orzo in the dish.
The lemon is optional. I served this with the Pan-roast Chicken which had a lemon-herb pan sauce, so I figured keeping the lemon theme going couldn’t hurt.

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