Stovetop orzo and cheddar

February 18, 2009

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Serves 6

This version of mac and cheese, made with orzo and cheddar, manages to strike the balance between kid- and adult-friendly fare. Orzo is rice-shaped pasta, so kids are willing to give it a try. Here, it's simmered in a mixture of stock and milk, then mixed with cheddar. It's creamy and cheesy, which should also please the little ones, but its flavor is a bit more complex thanks to a hint of nutmeg and cayenne. Beef this up with 1 cup of frozen peas and 1 cup of diced ham. The dish goes from the stovetop to the table.

1 pound orzo
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 cups milk
6 ounces shredded cheddar cheese (1 1/2 cups)
Pinch nutmeg
Pinch cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. In a large, dry flameproof casserole over medium high heat, toast the orzo for 2 to 3 minutes or until it is very lightly browned.

2. Add the stock and milk and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer about 15 minutes or until the orzo is tender but still has some bite.

3. Add the cheese and stir until melted. Add nutmeg, cayenne, salt, and pepper.

Keri Fisher