Orzo with Parmesan and Basil

Look at orzo, and you might think rice. However, the two grains are very different.

Orzo’s a pasta, and as a pasta, it’s easy to flavor with herbs and spices for a one-pot dish. One great way to really wake up your taste buds without adding a lot of calories is with Parmesan cheese and basil, two staples of perfect pasta that keep the dish light and full of flavor.

How Is Orzo Different From Rice?

Rice and orzo look identical, and in Italy, orzo is also known as risoni, meaning large rice. However, the two are different in terms of their makeup and their texture. True rice consists of grains of rice, while orzo is a pasta that’s made from flour. As such, orzo is not a great fit for a risotto and it’s certainly not a great fit to serve someone who’s on a gluten-free diet.

Orzo shines when you’re looking to create a light pasta dish that you can impart with a lot of flavor. Because orzo only has one gram of fat per serving and a healthy amount of protein, you can still make a healthy dish with orzo that includes large amounts of cheese, butter and other fat-filled toppings that are common in pasta dishes. It’s an ideal pasta when you’d like to include some of your favorite flavors without breaking your diet.

Why Add Basil to Your Orzo?

Of course, not every serving of orzo has to be indulgent to be delicious. By adding basil to your orzo, you can create a fresh, peppery flavor that gives you a lot of taste with very few calories. Plus, basil is loaded with critical vitamins, including Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Vitamin K, as well as healthful omega-3 fatty acids. Any time you can get flavor while adding nutrients your body needs anyway, that’s a win-win.

What Variations Exist?

One of the most common variations on orzo with basil is to add lemon to it. Lemon and basil are a common pairing because both are fresh and the peppery herb works well with the acid of the lemon juice. It’s a great way to brighten up orzo and make it a truly refreshing dish that pairs well with shrimp or other lighter proteins.

How Do You Incorporate Parmesan Cheese?

Parmesan cheese is a staple of pasta and Italian cooking because it melts well, but not in the same way that mozzarella or American cheese might melt. Parmesan doesn’t melt in a stringy manner, but melts in a way that blends into what you’re cooking. However, it needs to be added in the proper way to melt without clumping up, and that means making sure that the cheese is the right size and added a little at a time. If you add the cheese too fast, you’re going to get a grainy, gritty sauce that won’t create the texture you want.

How Do You Make Orzo with Parmesan and Basil?

Making this dish is really simple. All you have to do is boil your orzo properly so that it’s cooked al dente and stir in the Parmesan and the basil once the pasta is at the proper texture. Be sure to add the Parmesan a little at a time, and you’ll have a first-class pasta dinner that can work as a side or a meal.

Orzo might not be what many people think of as pasta because of its rice-like appearance, but it’s a versatile, healthy pasta that lends itself to a wide range of flavors. If you’re looking for an inexpensive way to eat healthy, it’s a great pasta to try in both side dishes and as the main star.

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