Baked Orzo and Vegetable Casserole

By Margi Lenga Kahn

Ingredients

12 oz. orzo (can be found in pasta aisle)

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1 teaspoon salt for boiling water

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided, plus extra for oiling dish

3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced 

1 pound any variety mushrooms, cleaned and quartered

3 medium zucchini, trimmed, halved length wise, and sliced ¼ inch thick

1 teaspoons dried oregano

1  can diced tomatoes, 14-ounce

1 large bunch basil leaves, stems removed, leaves piled one on top of the

other, and thily sliced plus more for chopping and adding just before serving

1 tsp. honey

¼ cup pine nuts, toasted (optional)

1 cup (4 ounces) fresh grated Parmesan cheese, divided

Salt, ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

Fill a large soup pot ¾ of the way with water.  Add salt and bring to a boil.  Add orzo and cook for about 8 minutes, or until just tender.  Scoop out ¼ cup pasta water and set aside.

Drain orzo and transfer to a large mixing bowl.  Add 3 tablespoons olive oil and toss to coat pasta completely. Set aside.

Oil a 13×9-inch baking dish or oven-safe pot and set aside. 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over low heat. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute, or until softened but not browned. Increase heat and add mushrooms, zucchini, and oregano. Continue to sauté vegetable mixture over medium heat until mushrooms and zucchini have softened and released some of their moisture, 5-7 minutes. Add tomatoes, basil, and honey and simmer mixture, uncovered, for an additional 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Turn contents of skillet into bowl of orzo, along with reserved pasta water, and stir to combine. Add pine nuts, if using, and ¾ cup Parmesan cheese.  Stir to incorporate.

Set dish, uncovered, into oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Cover with foil paper, and refrigerate overnight. 

The next day, remove orzo from refrigerator and let reach room temperature, about 30 minutes. 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

Uncover dish and bake casserole for 15 minutes, or until heated through. Remove from oven and sprinkle with remaining ¼ -cup Parmesan cheese and chopped fresh basil before serving.

Makes 6-8 servings.