Tag Archives: risotto

Orzotto with Mushroom and Spinach

21 Jun

Orzotto… to be honest I do not know if this is an official Italian term or not. But I decided to use the term to refer to this orzo pasta made to resemble a risotto. Makes sense now, no??

I have been playing for a few weeks not with dried mushrooms to give added flavor to my dishes. This is one of my better experiments lately… I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

The beauty of this dish is that it cooks almost by itself; no need to be over the stove stirring rice to get a creamy consistency. The creaminess so characteristic of risottos comes from the cheeses blended into the orzo pasta. I used my trusted Sargento 6-cheese Italian cheese blend, Sargento Parmesan and a newfound favorite, crème fraiche.

Sargento Collage

This is one of the recipes I’ve developed to fuel myself up before training for the half marathons I’ve been doing the last few months. It’s easy, it’s filling and it’s nice enough to make even for a romantic dinner.

Orzotto with Mushrooms and Spinach


½ cup whole-wheat orzo pasta
1 cup water
1 ounce of dried mushrooms – porcini or your favorite kind will do fine here…
1 tsp Knorr vegetable stock or ½ vegetable bouillon cube
½ onion, chopped
2 tbs of olive oil
5-6 white button mushrooms, chopped
1 sprig of fresh thyme
3-4 handfuls of fresh baby spinach
3 tbs crème fraiche
3/4 cup Sargento shredded 6-cheese Italian cheese blend
¼ cup Sargento shredded Parmesan cheese
  1. Bring 1 cup of water to a boil in a small sauce pan. Turn off the heat and rehydrate the ounce of dried mushrooms in this water. Cover and let the mushrooms soak for about 30 mins.
  2. After that time has elapsed, strain the mushrooms, reserving the broth you have now created. Cut the mushrooms up in little pieces and set aside.
  3. In a medium saucepan over medium to high heat, bring back to boil the cup of water that now has become mushroom broth. Make sure you have 1 cup of broth before you start boiling again, if not, just complete the amount with some water. Add the vegetable stock gel or bouillon cube to this broth while it’s coming up to temperature.
  4. While the broth comes to a boil, in a medium sauté pan over medium high heat, add the olive oil and sauté the onions for a few minutes. Add the chopped fresh mushrooms and allow them to cook and brown on all sides. For this, you need to leave them alone for a few minutes at a time for the mushrooms to get some color. Add the reconstituted mushrooms and cook them with the browned fresh mushrooms. Strip the leaves from the fresh thyme sprig and add to the pan. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
  5. When the broth is boiling, add the orzo pasta and mix in well to avoid the pasta sticking together. I partially cover the pot to maintain the level of boiling but be able to reduce the heat of the stove to medium.
  6. While the pasta is almost done, add the baby spinach to the pasta saucepot. Cover the pot and turn off the heat from the stove. Allow the heat from the pot and the stove finish cooking the pasta and spinach. After about 5-6 minutes, the pasta should be done and the water should be almost completely absorbed by the pasta. If you find there’s still too much liquid left, you can certainly strain it. But it does not need to be super strained because this broth will help us create the creamy sauce…
  7. Uncover the pot and stir in the cooked mushrooms, the crème fraiche, the shredded cheese blend and the Parmesan. Mix well to combine everything very well. I allow the pasta to stand cover for about 3-4 minutes while I prepare a salad or any other side dish. I find this helps the sauce to get creamy and all the flavors to fully combine.

The result is a creamy rice-like pasta… easy to make and even easier to eat. It is full of flavor because the pasta absorbed the mushroom broth we created.

Hope you are inspired to make this orzotto at home as well…

This post was inspired by products from Sargento Cheese. They did provide me with their cheese for use and review but the recipe, comments and opinions are all my own.

Spinach, Tomato and 5 Cheese Rissotto

8 Apr

I have to confess here…  I do not necessarily enjoy watching Sandra Lee’s cooking at the Food Network, but I do identify a lot with her philosophy of Semi-Homemade.  I love the idea to make everything from scratch, but if there are products that fit my dietary requirements and at the same time can help me along time-wise – hey why not use them?

I’ve had a box of Arborio rice in my pantry for the longest time.  I am fortunate this rice comes vaccum-packed, because if it was not, I am sure it would have spoiled by now.  Why would I leave a perfectly nice box of rice unused in the cupboard for so long???  Because there are pretty nice packaged risottos varieties that allow me to make this wonderful rice dish, without the need to dirty at least 2 pots (one for the stock and another one for the rice) or to stand in front of the stove stirring.  I know I will indeed try it someday; however, that day has not come yet.  

I used to buy the Lipton bag of Creamy Garlic Parmesan Risotto – it was superb.  When the nice parent company started tweaking with the brand and flavors, for some reason the perfect risotto bag disappeared from the supermarket aisle.   I used to have 2 bags of this at hand ALWAYS…

Enter our good ol’ friends at Target – they make the nicest boxed risotto mixes now.  They have risotto mixes with asparagus, with red pepper, with butternut squash.  But my favorite is the 4 cheese blend.  It’s a nice clean canvas for us to embellish with the flavors we’re in the mood for, making this the perfect semi-homemade meal, in my humble opinion.








This time I’ll show you my version using fresh baby spinach and fresh tomatoes… 



1 box Archer Farms’ 4 Cheese Risotto
2 handfuls of fresh baby spinach leaves, washed and spun dry
15-20 grape or cherry tomatoes, washed and halved
About 2 oz of cream cheese
¼ cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
A tiny bit of garlic salt to taste – optional


  1. Prepare Risotto mixture according to package directions in a medium heavy bottomed pot.
  2. When the risotto is about 10 minutes to be done…  add the cream cheese in little pieces to help it melt in the sauce.  Mix it together well.
  3. When the cheese is mostly integrated into the sauce, add the spinach and the tomatoes.    Mix it well so the spinach wilts and the tomatoes integrate into the rice and sauce.
  4. Wait a few minutes , by this time, the rice should be done according to the package direction timing.  Turn the stove off.  Add the grated parmesan or pecorino.  Cover the pot and let the rice stand for at least 10 minutes so the sauce thickens a bit.

In my opinion…  if you wait about 30 minutes after the stove is turned off, the rice will be perfectly cooked, the sauce would have thickened and it will be warm enough to be able to eat without burning your tongue and enjoy the flavors of the risotto.

I love to have this with my Cinnamon Baked Plantains or with a simple salad on the side. 

To me this is a very simple dinner I can make in a jiffy, even when I am busy doing other stuff.  Taking something store-bought and adding fresh ingredients to make it your own is my interpretation of the semi-homemade meal. 

I have a full line-up of other flavors we can play with in the future… just wait and see.



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