This is one of my few go-to recipes. And…I’ve just revealed that I tend not to get very creative during the work week. Not that this dish isn’t insanely tasty, because it is. I just don’t have a lot of time to try new-to-me things on busy weekdays. Which is why I love this one. Also because it’s yummy, filling and there’s usually loads of leftovers for me to take to work the next couple of days. Yes, I agree, I couldn’t get anymore mundane than that.
Let’s see if we can rescue this ship! *splashes in the water filling it*
This recipe is based off another from Giada De Laurentiis of Food Network fame. I probably saw her making it on her show, but now I pretty much make it without even looking at the recipe. And even though I love her cooking, I usually up the ante when I make her stuff. If it has a sauce, I sauce it up more. If it calls for one garlic clove, I might add at least two more. What can I say, we’re a more kind of family sometimes. So the moral of the story is I’ve changed the recipe around slightly to suit our tastes, but the heart is all Giada’s.
The original recipe doesn’t have meat, but having a pretty typical hubby, I knew I needed to add some. The dish is so light and fresh that I was sure shrimp would be perfect. Tada – I was right.
So you start off by marinating your shrimp. I usually just get regular ‘ole medium-sized shrimp, tossing it with some Italian seasoning blend, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and a little extra virgin olive oil. Easy to the peasy.
Next grab two cans of diced tomatoes. They can be plain – BUT – I use the garlic/basil/oregano variety that pretty much every brand and generic alike out there offers now. I found that this adds an extra kick of flavor overall. Also, thaw out one cup of baby peas.
These are two of your smallest yet most valuable assets in this dish. Meet Shallot and Garlic. Shallots are basically like little baby onions, with a much milder flavor, but when you bite into a slightly still crunchy minced shallot in this dish, the burst of shallot goodness is amazing. You’ll mince both of these.
After you’ve marinated the shrimp for at least thirty minutes in the fridge, it’s time to cook them and then set them aside to be added back in at the end. I love cooking mine on a stove top grill pan. And you’ll be surprised how little seasoning really flavors these up.
Don’t they look yummy?
At this point, start getting that water to boiling for your orzo. Little rice-shaped pasta goodness. It has a surprisingly interesting texture. Plus tiny pasta is just fun.
Now your finely minced garlic and shallots get to dance for their lives! Combined with the smells from the grilled shrimp and these little fellas, you’re probably getting visitors in the kitchen by now.
Add in those fancy canned ‘maters. The steam action is quite lovely at this stage. Your garlic and shallots are really starting the get into this. YOU are really starting to get into this.
This is one of my favorite parts – add in the peas, the cream or milk and you get this gorgeous mix of colors. Look at that. Congrats, people, you’re dinner is getting PURTY.
You know what’s even purtier? This stuff, after adding the orzo to all those great colors plus a three quarters cup of Parmesan, on your plate or in your bowl. The peas are very slightly crunchy, the shrimp are firm and meaty, the orzo is chewy. By really only seasoning the shrimp and then depending on the seasonings in the tomatoes, you get a much bigger punch to every bite than you’d think. Top it all off with some fresh ground pepper and you’re set. Trust me.
This one is perfect when you want something different and full of flavor on a busy weekday night or want to impress some weekend guests and have plenty to go around at the same time.
Creamy Orzo with Shrimp
Adapted from Creamy Orzo by Giada De Laurentiis
Prep Time: 45 minutes Cook Time: 25-30 minutes Level: Easy Serves: 6-8
- 1 lb. orzo (rice-shaped pasta)
- 1 lb. uncooked and deveined shrimp
- 2 tsp. Italian Seasoning
- 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 2 large shallots, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 (14.5 oz.) can diced garlic/basil/oregano tomatoes, juices drained
- 2 C 2% milk (original recipe calls for 1 1/4 C whipping cream; it’s up to you)
- 1 C frozen peas, thawed
- 3/4 C freshly grated Parmesan
Bring a heavy large saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the orzo and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring often, about 8 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
Clean your shrimp if you bought them from the fish counter uncleaned, or thaw them. No shame – I usually buy the already cleaned frozen kind, thaw and remove the shells and legs. Toss them in a bowl with the Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, salt & pepper and 2 tsp. olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate in fridge for at least thirty minutes. If you want to do this step ahead in the morning that’s fine too. After marinating, preheat your grill pan over medium heat for a few minutes, or if you want to just saute them in a pan or skillet, that’s fine too. You just want to get that consistent pink glow in all the shrimp. It’s not necessary to brown them – they might get tough by that point. As soon as they’re nice and pink, remove them to a platter and set aside. Usually about five or so minutes on each side.
Meanwhile, heat 2 Tbs. of the oil in a heavy large frying pan over medium heat. Add the shallot and garlic, and saute until tender, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook until they are tender, about 8 minutes. Stir in the milk or cream and the peas. Add the orzo and toss to coat. Remove the skillet from the heat. Add the Parmesan to the pasta mixture and toss to coat. Stir the pasta mixture until the sauce coats the pasta thickly, adding enough reserved cooking liquid to maintain a creamy consistency. Season the orzo with salt and pepper, and serve.
Are you wondering why you want to reserve some of the cooking water from the pasta? It gets to be a very starch-rich liquid and it actually helps thicken up the dish when you add it at the end. This also lends to the creamy consistency and especially helps if you choose to use milk instead of the cream.
On the cream substitution: I decided after making this once or twice that we didn’t need the extra fat from the cream. I substituted 2% milk and haven’t been sorry since. Texture-wise, the dish is slightly less creamy. Taste-wise, there’s no difference whatsoever.