One of the food items I’m always the worst at is trying to come up with side dishes to go with our meals. I get so focused on the main dish that I forget about anything else. I love orzo pasta, and have made a few meals with it before, and planned this to be the main dish, but it ended up working better as a side item.
Orzo is so versatile because it’s the size and shape of rice but still tastes like pasta. I have only made a few recipes with it and enjoyed every one of them. The trick is to get the orzo cooked just right. Since it’s so small it’s easy to overcook, make sure to keep a close eye on it while it boils.
Each brand of orzo is slightly different, so start by cooking the orzo as directed on the package. Typically, you are just boiling the pasta in water for a set amount of time, usually about 10 minutes. Stir it occasionally, so the orzo doesn’t stick to the pan, then drain in a colander. Remember, the pieces are small, so you need a small-slotted strainer for this. My regular spaghetti one has too large of holes, so I use one that is netted, similar to an open sifter.
You need to act quickly when making this, so nothing sticks to the pan, so it helps to get the ingredients measured out before you start, especially the spinach and parmesan cheese.
Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the minced garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook these for about a minute, until the garlic is fragrant.
Add the flour and whisk this into the oil mixture, then stir in enough milk to whisk the flour until there are no lumps. I find about 1/4 to 1/2 of the milk is enough for this. Once there are no lumps, continue to whisk in the rest of the milk. Bring this to a simmer and cook for about 6-8 minutes. The sauce will start to thicken.
Pour in the spinach and cook for a few minutes until it has wilted.
Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese until it melts.
Add the orzo to the sauce and stir until it is coated. Garnish with extra parmesan cheese and serve immediately.
Cheesy Spinach Orzo Pasta Sides
- 1 1/2 cups orzo pasta
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic (minced)
- salt and pepper (to taste)
- 2 tsp flour
- 1 cup milk
- 2/3 cup spinach (chopped)
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese (shredded)
- Cook orzo pasta as directed
- Meanwhile, heat olive oil in medium pot and add minced garlic, salt, and pepper
- Cook about 1 minute, until garlic is fragrant
- Add flour and whisk until combined
- Slowly add milk while whisking to eliminate lumps
- Simmer for about 6-8 minutes until the sauce starts to thicken
- Mix in spinach and cook for a few minutes until it wilts
- Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese until it's melted
- Add the orzo to the sauce and stir to coat
- Garnish with extra parmesan cheese and serve immediately