Yotam Ottolenghi's Baked Orzo with Mozzarella and Oregano
Even the most standard of pasta bakes will always hold a place in my heart, for they comfort me and remind me of my father’s cooking. This is no sentimental journey, though; it’s a proud, sophisticated and rather luxurious take on the bake. People can get a bit sniffy about the ﬁrm, low-moisture mozzarella sold in blocks. If eaten by itself it’s a very different beast from the buffalo, but it works brilliantly for grating or ﬁnely dicing in a dish or bake like this.
|1||large aubergine, cut into 2cm dice (300g)|
|4||medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1.5cm dice (300g)|
|4||celery stalks, cut into 1.5cm dice (200g)|
|1||large onion, finely diced (170g)|
|3||garlic cloves, crushed 250g orzo pasta, rinsed|
|1 tsp||tomato purée|
|3 tbsp||fresh oregano, chopped, or 1½ tbsp thyme leaves|
|grated zest of 1 lemon|
|120g||hard mozzarella, cut into 1cm dice|
|3||medium tomatoes, cut into 1cm-thick slices (400g)|
|1 tsp||dried oregano|
|salt and black pepper|
You will need : a rectangular ovenproof dish, 21cm x 27cm, or a round one, 27cm in diameter
Preheat oven to 200ºC/180ºC Fan/Gas Mark 6. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan and add the aubergine.
Cook for 8 minutes on a medium–high heat, stirring occasionally, until golden-brown. Remove with a slotted spoon to kitchen paper and set aside. Add the carrot and celery to the pan and fry for 8 minutes. Transfer to kitchen paper. Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the orzo and tomato purée and cook for a further 2 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and pour in the stock, fresh oregano or thyme and lemon zest. Add the cooked vegetables, mozzarella, Parmesan, 1 teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of pepper. Mix well and transfer to a rectangular ovenproof dish, 21cm x 27cm, or a round one, 27cm in diameter. Arrange the tomatoes on top and sprinkle with the dried oregano, along with ¼ teaspoon of salt and a grind of pepper.
Bake in the oven for 40 minutes, or until all the liquid has been absorbed and the pasta is cooked through. Remove from the oven, leave to settle for 5 minutes and serve.