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April 1, 2009

Orzo-Approved Sauce for the Pasta Social Scene


Like all things, pasta has its own social hierarchy. Get different kinds of pastas together, and they will segregate themselves into different sizes and shapes. In this world, the smaller the piece of pasta, the more regal an approach it takes to life. The lasagna noodle is the biggest and least sophisticated of noodles, considered by its peers to be the village idiot of pastas, and things work their way down from there.


At the low end of things is the orzo. It is as short as its name, shaped and formed to look like a fat grain of rice. It is believed that this was on purpose, that the original orzo was crafted by pasta makers of old to take on the form and shape of simple rice, knowing that a pasta that small might carry with it an inflated sense of self-importance so huge that it could crush the world if not otherwise kept in check.


Orzo defies typical pasta sauces. It holds marinara in disdain, and believes alfredo sauce to be beneath its station. What it prefers is a sauce that does not attempt to overpower it, that allows it to still shine, despite its size.


It is also a very quick pasta to cook, which means that you may boil water and soften it in about the same time that it takes to put together a very simple sauce.


You start by boiling a pot of water. In another skillet, fry some garlic in butter. You may substitute olive oil, but keep in mind that the texture of butter is smoother and more flavorful than that of plain oil, and it better lubricates orzo’s haughty nature.


Add a very small amount of very finely diced onion and finely chopped kale.


The onion will release its flavors and slowly soften. The kale serves two purposes. The first is that it will offer flecks of green that will enhance the nearly uniform off-white appearance of the pasta. The second is that when you serve this to unsuspecting children, you can lie to them and tell them it’s merely tasteless parsley. What you’re really doing is feeding them one of the most healthful foods there is, which under more honest conditions would constitute a death sentence to the entire dish.


Fried gently in butter and garlic, the kale will soften to where it can be eaten and digested. Meanwhile, the orzo itself should have plumped and soaked up the water.


Drain the orzo and stir in the butter and kale. Add some Parmesan cheese.


The dish will appear to be dry with melting cheese on top. This is where we introduce the standard answer to every question in the kitchen . . . add chicken stock. Ask yourself a question with no apparent answer, and instead of a question mark follow with, “Add chicken stock.” This is how everything works.


Stir while adding stock. This should convert the cheese to a light sauce that orzo will find acceptable.


© 2009 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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