Diana Henry’s ‘Italian penicillin’, aka orzo with lemon, parsley and Parmesan

Midweek is usually when I run out of food. Leftovers, from anything long-winded made over the weekend, get eaten on Mondays or for lunches, Tuesday is usually cheese on toast after choir rehearsal and then there is Wednesday, home of empty fridges, a lack of inspiration and no time to shop. I am always looking for answers to that ‘can’t-be-bothered-with-cooking’ feeling and here, thanks to my friend Liz, is an excellent one.

Liz has been telling me, and the rest of the world, about this for months, even making up food parcels to spread her evangelism about it, and she was right to do so. It’s wonderful and ticks all the right boxes for midweek food: simple, one-pot, fast, delicious. And, if you keep four or five items in your fridge/storecupboard at all times and grow a pot of parsley on the window ledge, it is yours for the making in about 30 minutes. Henry says it takes 12, but that doesn’t include any chopping, and assumes your onion cooks in two minutes which, as anyone who has ever cooked one knows, is somewhat unrealistic. Honestly, this is what Wednesdays were made for; a complete keeper. Having said that, it’s pretty lovely on a Saturday too…

Makes enough for 2

Cupboard (or things you may already have)
small onion, ½
garlic clove
olive oil, ½ tbsp
flaked sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Shopping list 
chicken stock, 400ml (or use a cube, made up to 400ml)
orzo pasta, 225g
lemon, ½ (you only need the zest)
parsley, a small bunch (you need 3 tbsp once chopped)
Parmesan, 80-100g

How to

1. Peel and finely chop the onion and garlic.

2. Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan or deep frying pan (I use one of these, which is brilliant for everything like this, including risotto, as well as sauces and scrambled egg) and gently sauté the onion until soft and pale gold. Add the garlic and cook for a further couple of minutes.

3. Add the stock, bring to the boil, then add the orzo.

4. Raise the heat a little then cook, uncovered, for 8-10 minutes. Stir it a few times, to check it’s not sticking, but not too often. It is done when the stock has been absorbed and the orzo is soft but still al dente.

5. Whilst the orzo is cooking, zest the lemon, chop the parsley and grate the Parmesan.

6. Once the orzo is cooked, stir in the lemon, parsley and, little by little, the Parmesan, tasting as you go (you may not need it all, depending on how cheesy/salty you want it to be). Season to taste and eat immediately. You can reheat it gently, if need be, adding a tad more stock if it seems intransigently sticky.

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3 Responses to Diana Henry’s ‘Italian penicillin’, aka orzo with lemon, parsley and Parmesan

  1. Emma Cownie says:

    I have never seen Orzo pasta before – I doubt I will find it in Tescos either!

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