Is there a rule that says bolognaise has to be made with spaghetti? Why not orzo (risoni)? Especially given that you can make it all in ONE POT in 20 minutes! Introducing orzo / risoni bolognaise!
This was an accidental discovery. Sometimes it amazes me that I go to the grocery store almost every day and yet when I start making dinner, I’m missing a crucial ingredient. Like spaghetti for spaghetti bolognaise. Seriously. Who doesn’t have dried spaghetti in the pantry at all times?
I know, I’m weird. I think it’s the Japanese blood in my veins. I always have rice. But I don’t always have pasta.
I was about to get started with dinner when I realised I didn’t have spaghetti but I did have orzo. (It’s similar to rice in shape. Maybe that’s why I had it! 😉 ) And then the laziness kicked in, and I wondered – could I cook it IN the bolognaise sauce if I got the liquid ratio right?
Turns out you can. With absolutely zero comprise on flavour or texture. The orzo is perfectly al dente, and the bologanise is gloriously saucy.
You know what else I love about this? It’s great couch food. Have you ever tried eating spaghetti on the couch? Don’t do it! Well, if you do, wear a bib, have a pile of napkins beside you and I really hope your couch is NOT a white fabric couch.
But this Orzo Bolognaise is perfect for eating on the couch. A bowl, a spoon and a glass of wine while you watch whatever show helps you wind down after a long day. You can keep your eyes glued to the screen so you don’t miss a single critical moment of Game of Thrones and manage to scoff down dinner at the same time. (Talent. That’s what it’s called. Like driving and eating.)
And if that wasn’t enough, this is a fantastic midweek meal because it takes just 20 minutes from start to finish. 20 minutes! It’s just ridiculously fast and easy (and delicious!).
One key difference in this bolognaise sauce is that I make it using tomato passata instead of tinned tomatoes. I believe Americans also know it as tomato sauce (but not tomato sauce as Australians know it!).
Passata is simply pureed tomatoes and nowadays it’s sold in all grocery stores and costs around the same as tinned tomatoes. I love using passata because the sauce is smoother and thicker, unlike with crushed tinned tomatoes which you need to cook for a while for the tomatoes to break down.
This is the passata I use which you can find in the pasta section of Coles and Woolworths (supermarket chain in Australia). It comes in a large 25oz / 700g glass bottle. I keep the bottles and use them for all sorts of things, like storing sugar, salt, homemade stock. I even use them as vases and water jugs when I’m entertaining.
OK! Signing off. I have a HUGE bowl of Orzo Bolognaise to scoff down!
– Nagi x
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic , minced
- 1 small onion , peeled and diced (brown, white or yellow)
- 1 lb / 500g ground beef (mince)
- 24 oz / 700g tomato passata (Note 3)
- 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tsp dried Italian Herbs , or any combination of dried parsley, oregano, basil
- 2 beef bouillon cubes (Note 1)
- 1/2 to 1 tsp salt (to taste)
- Black pepper
- 3 cups water
- 1 1/2 cups dried orzo / risoni
- Freshly grated parmesan cheese
- Finely chopped parsley
Heat the oil in a large skillet/fry pan (or pot) over medium high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 3 minutes or until translucent.
Add the mince and turn the heat up to high. Cook the mince, breaking it up as you go.
When the mince is browned, add the remaining ingredients except the orzo. When the liquid comes to a simmer (it might bubble and spit slightly) add the orzo/risoni.
Give it a quick stir then turn the heat down to medium low.
Cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently towards the end to ensure the orzo/risoni doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan. If your liquid is evaporating too quickly, just add a slosh of hot water (tap or boiling).
Remove the risoni from the heat. The risoni should be a teeny bit hard still and it should be very saucy when you take it off the stove. (Note 2)
Check for seasoning (salt), then give it a good stir.
Serve immediately, while it's piping hot and nice and saucy, garnished with freshly grated parmesan and parsley, if desired.
1. Boullion cubes are stock cubes. You could use beef stock (or even chicken stock) instead of water and skip the boullion cubes.
2. Because orzo / risoni is so small, it goes from perfectly cooked to overcooked in a flash. So for perfectly cooked orzo, take it off the stove at 10 minutes while the orzo is a teeny bit hard still. While you are testing for seasoning and serving it out, the residual heat will finish cooking it so it is firm but tender (al dente), rather than soft and mushy (overcooked).
That is also why it is quite saucy when you take it off the stove. The sauce reduces a lot quite quickly, through both evaporation and being absorbed by the orzo. So by the time you serve it, you still have enough sauce.
3. Tomato passata is just pureed tinned tomatoes. Nowadays it is readily available in supermarkets, usually alongside pasta sauces. It costs just a tiny bit more, sometimes the same, as canned tomatoes. If you can't find it, puree canned tomatoes or use crushed canned tomatoes.
4. Nutrition assuming this serves 5 people. 1 1/2 cups of dried risoni does not sound like much but you will be surprised how much it swells when cooked.