Anna Mintz is a Publicist for Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House, and is an editor for The Recipe Club. Originally from Atlanta, she now lives in New York City and loves exploring NYC’s restaurant scene and trying out new recipes in her own kitchen.
I have a guilty pleasure, and I’m not afraid to admit it: I am a Bachelor and Bachelorette nut! I get so excited at the beginning of each season; the possibilities are endless. Who will pull an attention-grabbing stunt on the first night that ends up backfiring? Who will make it to the final four and get to show off their family on a Hometown Date? What will happen in the Fantasy Suite? And of course, who will be the one who goes off the deep end and not be able to handle their boyfriend/girlfriend dating 25 people at once?
We’re about halfway through the current season of The Bachelorette, and I’m loving it so much that last Monday, I invited some of my best girlfriends over to watch the show and enjoy a home-cooked meal. I knew that I would be coming straight from work on Monday and wouldn’t have a lot of time to put together a dinner, so I searched for a recipe that I could make ahead of time. I found the perfect dish in this recipe for Baked Orzo with Fontina and Peas from Giada’s Kitchen (Clarkson Potter, 2008) by Giada De Laurentiis.
I was able to do the grocery shopping and the majority of the cooking on Sunday night, which made this baked pasta an incredibly easy dinner party dish. To start off, I sauteed the onions and mushrooms in a skillet with butter. Once these veggies had cooked for about ten minutes, I added in the Marsala and cooked it down for about another five minutes. Simultaneously, I cooked the whole-wheat orzo in chicken broth, which gave the pasta extra flavor.
After everything was cooked, I added the mushrooms and onions to the orzo and stirred in the cream, peas (I actually added twice the amount of peas called for in the recipe — they are my favorite), two cheeses, salt and pepper…and it’s that simple! I poured the mixture into my buttered baking dish, covered it with plastic wrap, and popped it in the fridge overnight. When I got home from work on Monday night, all I had to do was take the dish out of the refrigerator, sprinkle bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, and dried thyme over the top, and bake at 400 degrees F for about 25 minutes.
“The end result was a huge crowd-pleaser: a warm and comforting pasta dish with a crusty, cheesy top.”
The end result was a huge crowd-pleaser: a warm and comforting pasta dish with a crusty, cheesy top. I served the pasta with sides of asparagus (simply roasted with a squeeze of lemon and salt and pepper on the top) and brussels sprouts topped with a homemade pesto, prepared by my friend Madeleine. It was a great meal and the perfect way to kick off the week with friends and good/bad TV!
Baked Orzo with Fontina and Peas
Recipe from Giada’s Kitchen by Giada De Laurentiis:
Serves 6 to 8
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 pound orzo pasta
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more to grease the baking dish
1 onion, chopped
8 ounces mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
1 cup Marsala wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 ounces shredded fontina cheese (about 1 cup)
4 ounces diced fresh mozzarella cheese (about 1 cup)
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter a 9 by 13-inch baking dish.
Bring the chicken broth to a boil over medium-high heat in a medium saucepan. Add the orzo and cook until almost tender, about 7 minutes. Pour the orzo and the broth into a large heat-proof bowl. Set aside.
Meanwhile, melt the butter over medium heat in a medium skillet. Add the onions and saute until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and continue to saute until the mushrooms are beginning to turn golden around the edges, about 7 minutes. Add the Marsala. Scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan and cook until the Marsala has reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the mushroom mixture to the orzo in the large bowl. Add the cream, fontina, mozzarella, peas, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.
In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan, and thyme. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture on top of the pasta. Bake until golden on top, about 25 minutes.