I’ve never made anything from the website Smitten Kitchen (http://smittenkitchen.com/) before. But this recipe looked really good. Only problem: I don’t like eggplant and that was the main ingredient. I’m also not a huge fan of tomatoes, which is also an important ingredient. So I thought about the kinds of vegetables you might be able to substitute and which one of those vegetables I like and, more importantly, actually had on hand.
I had summer squash and zucchini available so that’s what I used. And instead of tomatoes I used roasted red peppers. It’s two different tastes, but I like the sweetness of the red peppers. I increased the carrots and celery because I like a veggie heavy casserole and made a couple of very minor tweaks, but other than that I followed the recipe as written.
It was heavenly. Just the right amount of cheesy goodness and the vegetables were tender and sweet. It was definitely a repeat meal for us. We could have eaten the whole tray in one sitting, that’s how good it was.
If you like eggplant, here’s the link to the original recipe: http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2012/09/baked-orzo-with-eggplant-and-mozzarella/
Baked Orzo with Squash and Mozzarella
- 1 to 1 1/2 lbs summer squash and/or zucchini, roughly diced
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 4 medium carrots, diced small
- 2-3 stalks of celery, diced small
- 1 medium onion, diced small
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 8 oz orzo, uncooked
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
- zest of one whole lemon (I also juiced half of it, about 2 tbsp)
- 3 tbsp fresh oregano, finely chopped
- 4 oz firm mozzarella, diced small
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more to top the casserole
- 14 oz jarred roasted red peppers, roughly chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large skillet, over medium high heat, heat the oil until it shimmers. Add the squash and zucchini and fry for eight minutes. I don’t think I heated my oil long enough because the squash and zucchini didn’t get the kind of color I wanted it to. I didn’t want the veggies to get mushy, so I kept a close eye on it.
Remove the squash and zucchini with a slotted spoon and lay on paper towels to drain. Add the carrots and celery to the remaining oil and cook for 3-5 minutes before adding onion and garlic. Cook for an additional five more minutes, lowering the heat to medium. Stir in the orzo and tomato paste and cook for two more minutes.
Remove the pan from the burner and stir in the fried squash and zucchini, oregano, mozzarella, parmesan, roasted red peppers, lemon zest and juice, salt and pepper to taste, and vegetable stock. Stir well and transfer to a 9×13 baking dish, prepared with nonstick cooking spray. At this point, I added more parmesan to the top of the casserole.
Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove foil and bake an additional 20. The top of your pasta will be crunchy, but so delicious. Let rest at least 5 minutes before serving as the vegetable stock will not be completed absorbed when you take it out of the oven. The resting time is crucial for that.
You could serve this as a side, but it’s meant to serve 4 so eat the whole helping and enjoy it.