Spring Orzo Risotto

Highlight the bountiful produce of Spring with this twist on traditional risotto. Using whole wheat orzo pasta in place of white arborio rice is more nutritionally sound and it takes less time to cook! Stirring the pasta while it cooks, like you would rice, releases starch creating a creamy dish without having to use butter or cheese.

This recipe also has a high vegetable to pasta ratio making each bite nutrient dense. Both fennel and zucchini are high in immune boosting vitamin C and asparagus has anti-inflammatory properties. And where do I get my protein you ask? The small but mighty green pea! One cup of green peas provides 7 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber. Enjoy this risotto as the main event, or as a side dish, either way you’re sure to be pleased.   

Serves 6

  • 1 tablespoon safflower oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 spring onion, (or leek or ramps), white and light green parts thinly sliced
  • ½ head fennel, small dice
  • ½ cup wild mushrooms, such as morels*, oysters, chantrelles
  • 1 zucchini, small dice
  • ½ bunch asparagus, tough ends removed and sliced 1” long
  • ½ cup frozen peas, thawed
  • ½ cup dry white wine (optional)
  • 1 quart vegetable broth
  • 1 ½ cup whole wheat orzo pasta
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice, about ½ lemon
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (optional)
  • salt and ground black pepper, to taste

*If using morels, you’ll need to rehydrate them first in boiling water for 30 minutes

  1. In a small saucepan, heat vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer.
  2. Over medium heat, heat safflower oil in a large deep sauté pan and sauté onions, fennel, and garlic for about 2 minutes until vegetables begin to soften. Add mushrooms, and cook 5 -7 minutes longer until mushrooms have released most of their liquid.
  3. Add orzo and mix well, toast pasta for a minute, and deglaze pan with white wine, if using.  Once most of the liquid is absorbed, add ½ cup warm vegetable broth to the pan and stir continuously until almost all the broth is absorbed.
  4. Continue adding about ½ cup broth increments and stirring pasta until most of the liquid is absorbed, about 7 minutes until the pasta is almost cooked through. Next, add in asparagus, peas, and zucchini, cooking 1 -2 minutes until vegetables are just tender, and pasta is al dente. (You will still need to keeping adding the vegetable broth at this point while the vegetables and pasta finish cooking) Season with salt, pepper, lemon juice, and nutritional yeast, if using.

This recipe is: Whole Grain, Vegan

Stephanie Hoban, MS, RD, LD

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