I’m having a bit of writer’s block with this post, likely because I’m so eager to tell you how delicious this orzo pasta is that I don’t know where to start. I could go right into how it amazing it tastes, but I should probably tell you the imperfect side of the recipe-creation process first.
I have always loved how cooking can be trial and error. I view it as an exciting challenge to create delicious meals, especially so that I can now share them here. I also view the process as a learning experience. If cooking were perfectly easy and all ingredients went great together, where would be the fun in that?
I tried making this recipe several times throughout the past two weeks, but I wasn’t wowed with any of the previous versions. Now I know that all those claims about adding greek yogurt instead of butter or cream might be great sometimes, but it was a bit of a curdled mess in a marsala sauce. Yet if everything had gone perfectly on the first try, I probably would have made the same mistake with greek yogurt with another recipe down the road.
Anyways, onto the greatness of this meal! There are so many things I love about this dish. First, I think that marsala cooking wine is extremely underutilized. Who says you can only use it in chicken marsala? Its sweet and tangy flavor provides so much flavor and depth, but it doesn’t overpower the other elements of the dish. The mushrooms and hazelnuts offer a great variety of textures and really elevate this from a side dish to an entree (which is often a challenge with vegetarian entrees). A bit of cheese always makes things better, especially when its mascarpone and parmesan. Lastly, the orzo is the perfect starch for soaking up all of the delicious sauce.
For feeling so elegant, this meal comes together very quickly. It would be great any day of the week, whether its a quick weeknight dinner or something you serve for friends.
- 2 cups of uncooked orzo
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 shallot, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 cups cremini mushrooms, washed and dried
- ½ cup vegetable stock
- ¾ cup marsala cooking wine
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 2 cups fresh spinach
- ½ cup mascarpone cheese
- ¼ cup vegetarian parmesan
- juice of 2 lemons
- ⅔ cup toasted hazelnuts
- Cook orzo according to package directions.
- In the meantime, saute the shallot in olive oil over medium heat until softened (about 2-3 minutes). Add garlic and cook for one more minute.
- Add mushrooms and cook for about 2-3 minutes, until they begin to brown. Stir often.
- Add the vegetable stock, marsala, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat. Simmer for 5 more minutes, checking periodically to make sure the mushrooms do not become overcooked.
- Add mushroom mixture to the drained orzo.
- Stir in spinach, mascarpone, and parmesan, stirring well as the mascarpone melts into the orzo.
- Add lemon juice and toasted hazelnuts.
- Add additional salt and pepper to taste.