Brown Butter Orzo Salad
A few weeks ago I was having lunch on a farm in California with a bunch of other bloggers for a Land O Lakes retreat (like you do). The lunch spread was impressive and included a delicious roast salmon, grilled chicken, and a few different spreads and baked goods.
The person sitting next to me (Shawn) and I keyed in on the same dish though: A brown butter orzo salad that was super creamy, buttery, nutty and SO addictive. We hoarded a whole bowl of it which I think was supposed to feed like eight people.
We both vowed to make versions of the dish and I’m fairly certain I beat her to it. That’s probably because I literally had dreams about orzo for about a week after having this for the first time.
Trust me when I say that I realize this salad looks uninspiring, but it just might be the best pasta salad you have all summer.
- Melt butter over medium-low heat in a large pot. Keep an eye on it as it cooks. After a few minutes it will start to foam and turn a tan color (and also give off a very nutty aroma). You just made brown butter!
- Stir in orzo pasta and continue to cook for a minute to coat the orzo well in brown butter.
- Add vegetable stock to the pasta and bring to a slight simmer. Cover the pot and cook the orzo until it’s tender and almost all of the stock is absorbed, maybe 12-14 minutes.
- Stir in chopped walnuts and Parmesan. Stir to combine and remove lid to cook off any extra liquid. Keep stirring to prevent sticking. The pasta should have an almost creamy, light sauce on it. Season the pasta with salt and pepper to taste.
- Transfer pasta to a large serving bowl and serve while warm.
- If you have leftovers, it’s best to reheat them gently in a small pot with 1/3-1/2 cup of stock or water until the pasta turns loose and creamy again.
Brown Butter Orzo
Step one here is making brown butter. This isn’t hard and you don’t have to worry about straining it or anything for this dish. The only risk you run is burning the butter so just keep a close eye on it and keep your heat on low to medium-low.
After a few minutes of cooking, the butter will melt, foam, and then start to turn a deep tan color. It’ll also start to smell really nutty and savory. You’re done now.
Don’t over-do it or it’ll quickly burn.
Now toss your orzo in the pot and continue to cook it for a minute or two to really coat the orzo in the butter. They orzo may brown a bit as well which is just fine. Keep stirring it as it simmers.
Next you can add your liquid. While you could use water, I prefer to use stock for it to amp up the flavors. Either vegetable stock or chicken stock works well. Once the liquid is stirred in, cover the pot, turn the heat down to low, and simmer the orzo until it’s tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, somewhere in the 12-14 minute range. It’s okay to stir it occasionally to check for doneness.
Once the pasta is tender, you can stir in the walnuts! Bonus points if you toast them a bit in a dry skillet before adding them in.
And lots of Parmesan! I added about 1/2 a cup but honestly you could double that if you wanted. Never enough.
The result is a creamy smooth brown butter orzo pasta that some guests might walk right by. Once they try it though they will be hiding the bowl under the table so others don’t discover it. It’s seriously that good.
If you cook one thing from Macheesmo this month, make it be this. Thank me later!