I’m really liking the orzo lately. I’ve always enjoyed it well enough, but it’s seriously starting to pull alongside my undying love for penne. If this keeps up the two might soon be neck and neck for the number one spot.
I picked this recipe because 1. it was in the “lighter” side of one of Giada’s cookbook’s and 2. because it uses that mucho expensive herb, saffron. That’s pretty different for me, intentionally going after an expensive ingredient. I usually try to stay clear of specialty stuff because the cost for what I get doesn’t often seem to justify it or it’s something I would rarely if never use again. Saffron, though, it’s special. It’s worth splurging on once in a while, the way crab or lobster or even, occasionally, truffles, are. The pig-snuffling-found kind of truffles, not the chocolate kind. Chocolate truffles will always be worth splurging on. Heart you always, chocolate truffles.
But to get back on track, I also wanted to try this recipe because it has very few ingredients and I wondered how the flavor of the saffron would hold up or if it would stand out at all. I’ve used it once before, but the most it seemed to do then was turn the dish that golden yellow saffron is famous for doing.
But before we delve into just how well the saffron worked, let’s talk about the other ingredients. We’ve done a Giada orzo dish before and added shrimp. They just go so well together and shrimp is very quick and easy to cook up and make delicious. It’s no wonder this one appealed so well on sight alone.
We added garlic while cooking the shrimp and couldn’t believe it wasn’t already part of the recipe. It was, for us, a rather fantastic addition, but it’s up to you whether you want to use it or not. Just so you know, we will always choose garlic. Garlic Forevah – the t-shirts are coming.
See? Saffron came through and made our pasta warm and golden and oh so purty. The recipe calls for draining the pasta, which is cooked in chicken broth, but there is so much pasta that it really needed all the liquid and had absorbed it to the point there was nothing to drain. We cooked it a full 10-11 minutes and stirred a lot in the last two, letting the pasta absorb all of the liquid. It ends up slightly like a risotto this way.
By the way, the flavor of the saffron? Heavenly.
By this point it’s time to cook up those shrimp real quick and finish stirring it all together. A little olive oil, some lemon juice, salt and pepper rounds it all out.
The shrimp themselves are simply tossed with a little of the lemon juice, salt and pepper, and that’s the point we added in the garlic. Just saute till pink and firm and perfecto, done.
I had already convinced one of my coworkers to make this for his wife’s birthday this past weekend and the verdict was unanimous – his family loved it. It is incredibly easy to do, so mark it down as work-night-frazzled-exhausted-do-able. The flavors are just as bright as the color. It’s a true joy when we can make something so satisfying from so little.
Saffron Orzo with Shrimp
Adapted only slightly from Everyday Pasta by Giada De Laurentiis
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 20 minutes Level: Easy Serves: 4-6
4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon saffron threads
1 pound uncooked orzo (small, rice-shaped pasta)
7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided use
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Juice of 1 lemon
3 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1-2 cloves garlic (optional)
In large pot, bring chicken broth to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, bringing broth to simmer. Add saffron, stir and simmer until saffron has “bloomed,” about 5 minutes. Return heat to medium and bring stock to boil, then add orzo and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain orzo and transfer to large bowl, or if there’s little to no liquid to drain, continue cooking for another 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently, until the liquid is absorbed (much like a risotto). Add 4 tablespoons of olive oil, the parsley, half the lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste and combine thoroughly. Set aside.
In another bowl, toss the shrimp with 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, the remaining lemon juice and the minced garlic (if using). Heat remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil in medium skillet over medium high heat. Add shrimp and saute until just turning pink, about 2 minutes per side. Add shrimp to bowl with orzo. Toss to combine and serve.
The recipe called for cooking the shrimp in a single layer, but this would have required us to cook them in two to three batches, something I just didn’t have patience for. It was easier to saute them anyway with the addition of the garlic, stirring frequently to keep said garlic from burning. I love nicely-browned shrimp as much as the next person, but know this is just as good with sauteed shrimp, too.
Giada advises in her own notes that this can be served warm or room temperature. I do like that it doesn’t have to be served immediately for maximum enjoyment. You can cook and not feel rushed to get it done and on the table, another plus on a hectic work night.
If shrimp aren’t your style, I bet this would be just as good with some grilled or baked chicken.