Tis the season for comfort food. During these chilly days and nights, it is easy to indulge in heavier dishes — with all the soups and chilis and bacon out there (oooh bacon, how I love thee). This dish warms the soul with its creamy, rich orzo yet the fruit and fresh herbs keep it light and fresh. It’s a dish fit for holiday meals or chilled and enjoyed on a picnic blanket with your loved one. <3
2 cups of orzo (or couscous), regular or whole wheat
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh rosemary
1 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 medium green apple, diced
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds
In a medium saucepan, add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Follow the directions to cook your orzo (you may need to add some water to your pot to meet their requirements).
While the orzo is cooking, toast your almonds until golden brown by stirring them in a sauté pan over medium heat. Remove from heat and set aside. You can also toast your almonds in the oven at 350 degrees F. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in a single layer and cool.
Once your orzo is cooked, strain the liquid out (as much as possible) and add the parsley, rosemary, thyme, apple, cranberries, and almonds. Combine and serve.
Add some fresh arugula, either cooked or uncooked, for some added greens.
Now, there are recipes and then there are RE-CI-PES! Man, this one is out of the ballpark. I don’t know what it is — the creaminess of the pasta and cheese or the heat from the sausage, but boy this is a winner in my book.
One thing I love about this recipe is how quick and easy it is to make. Plus it’s super versatile too. You can use just about any kind of sausage and replace Pecorino or Grana Padano in place of the Parmesan. Heck, I even replaced the orzo with tiny star-shaped pasta. Okay, I named more than one thing that I love about this recipe… but who’s counting?
I like to think that because you can substitute just about everything in here, this dish could be a healthier version of an Italian meal. Substitute turkey Italian sausage for a lower fat content and low-sodium broth for the pasta water. You shouldn’t lose much flavor because of all of the spices that are waltzing around on your taste buds.
In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken broth and 3 cups of water to a boil. Add the pasta and bring back to a boil. Cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally. This will depend on your pasta so read the directions on the box, approximate 8 minutes or so. Drain your pasta, reserving about 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid, and set aside.
While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add the sausage links, cover and saute until cooked through. You will need to turn these over after a couple of minutes to brown each side. Remove the sausage once they are cooked and cut them into coins. You may want to cut the coins in half to disperse the sausage throughout the pasta more. Place the sausage back into the pan and add the garlic, peppers, tomatoes and red pepper flakes. Stir for about two minutes, or until the tomatoes begin to form a bit of a watery sauce.
Add your cooked pasta into the pan. Add 1 tablespoon of parsley, most of your Parmesan and toss well to combine. Add the reserved pasta liquid to loosen the pasta if necessary. Top with Parmesan and sprinkle with remaining parsley before serving.