Red Orzo Risotto with Goat’s Cheese
Orzo is sometimes called the soup pasta because its shape and size, like grains of rice, are perfect for minestrone-type soups. It’s great, too, for faux risotto, saving time and effort, yet behaving beautifully and giving a silky mouthful with a creamy finish. It takes about 10 minutes to cook in boiling, salted water, almost the amount of time you need to make a chunky red pepper, red onion and tomato sofrito. It is cooked in olive oil and flavoured with saffron, garlic and flat-leaf parsley. It could be made with freshly roasted peppers, preferably the long, pointed Romano variety that cooks very quickly, or you could cheat, as I did, and use roasted piquillo peppers in a jar. The finest, from Spain, are bottled in olive oil but the Fragata brand, using piquillos from Peru, is a fraction of the cost.
|2 tbsp||olive oil|
|1||large clove of garlic|
|l50g||roasted or chargrilled Romano or piquillo peppers|
|1||pinch of saffron stamens|
|4||vine tomatoes (200g)|
|70g||pitted dry black olives (a Crespo sachet)|
|10g||flat-leaf parsley leaves|
|100g||soft goat’s cheese (Coeur de Lion, Chavroux)|
You will need a spacious, lidded sauté or frying pan and a blender.
Cook the orzo in plenty of boiling salted water in a spacious, lidded sauté or frying pan, stirring once to prevent sticking, for about 10 minutes until just tender. Drain, but reserve a mugful of the cooking water. Tip the pasta into a warmed bowl, toss with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the cooking water, then cover with a stretch of clingfilm.
Trim, halve and slice the onion. Heat the other tablespoon of olive oil in the pan and add in the onion. Cook, stirring often, for 6 or 7 minutes. Peel the garlic and crush it to a paste with a pinch of salt. Peel the roasted Romano peppers, if using. Slice them or the piquillos into ribbons and chop a few times. Stir the garlic into the onion, add 2 tablespoons of the orzo cooking water, cover, reduce the heat and cook for 10 minutes. Add the saffron and mix it in, followed by the peppers.
Quarter the tomatoes and blitz them into passata. Pour it into the pan. Simmer for a few minutes until juicy but not too wet. Mix in the drained pasta and turn off the heat. Halve the olives round their middles and chop the parsley leaves. Stir both into the pasta. Serve with a few teaspoons of goat’s cheese.