Italian for "barley," orzo is tiny, rice-shaped pasta that actually resembles pearls of barley. Traditionally used in zuppa (soup), modern chefs have taken to using it for side and main dishes as well.
Look for dried orzo made with semolina (durum wheat). With a mellow taste, this type of pasta absorbs less water and retains a nice "bite" when cooked to al dente.
Always check the package when buying any dried pasta. If it's dusty, or the pasta looks crumbly or broken, choose another box. Generally speaking, imported Italian pastas are of better quality than American-factory made products.
Dried pasta can be stored almost indefinitely in an airtight container. Keep it in a cool, dry place.
- Make sure your water is boiling rapidly before adding the pasta.
- Rub vegetable oil around the top of your pot to prevent boil-overs.
- Cook orzo till al dente—tender, but still firm to the bite.
- Add orzo to vegetable, meat or fish-based broths for a quick and easy lunchtime soup that kids will love.
- Stir orzo into heartier soups like minestrone, lentil or avgolemono.
- Combine orzo with peas and top with fresh mint and Parmigiano-Reggiano.
- Use orzo as an alternative to Arborio rice in risotto recipes.
Try another "soup" pasta such as ditalini or pastina.
Try one of our favorite orzo recipes: