Risotto is classic comfort food but it can take a while to prepare, something that is less than desirable when you are actually in need of comfort food. While mindless repetitive stirring can be comforting in its own way, there is something to be said for comfort food fast.
I was inspired to create this recipe by Nigella Lawson’s wonderful new book Nigellissima, in which she prepares a similar recipe using peas and pancetta. The recipe uses Orzo pasta, a cute little pasta shape that actually looks like large grains of rice but cooks very quickly. Nigella uses the Italian method of cooking pasta – ‘pasta risottata’- which allows the pasta to be cooked as part of a recipe rather than separately in boiling salted water. I’ve used this method before for cooking many different types of pasta over the years, and it works really well with orzo.
If you want satisfying vegetarian comfort food fast, look no further than my Vegetarian Pasta Risotto. It’s perfect for Meatless Monday.
Vegetarian Pasta Risotto
Adapted from Nigellissima
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 leeks, cleaned and finely sliced OR 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 large pepper, preferably red, de-seeded and finely sliced
2 cloves garlic
a pinch of saffron strands
1½ cups orzo pasta
3½ to 4 cups hot vegetable stock
(I use a stock concentrate made up with boiling water)
½ cup frozen peas
¼ cup grated vegetarian parmesan style pasta cheese plus more for garnish
½ cup sliced almonds, toasted if possible
Chop all the vegetables and have them ready to go.
Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large thick bottomed saucepan or heavy based cast iron casserole suitable for the stovetop.
Meanwhile, add the saffron strands to the hot stock, set aside and keep warm.
Add the leeks or onion and red peppers to the saucepan or casserole, stirring into the oil. Cook for two or three minutes. Grate in the garlic and cook for a few minutes more.
Stir in the orzo pasta and cook for a moment or so. Add 3½ cups of the hot stock and let it bubble up a bit, stirring constantly.
Turn down the heat and allow to simmer for ten minutes. Check on the liquid levels and stir a couple of times during this time. If the liquid is all absorbed before the end of the cooking time, add the remaining half cup of hot stock.
After the ten minutes is up, stir in the grated parmesan style cheese and a little over half of the toasted almonds.
Divide the vegetarian pasta risotto between four warmed bowls, garnishing with the remaining almonds and a bit of the cheese.