Discover the magic of mushrooms in this comforting pasta dish

A simple dinner with all the creamy satisfaction of a risotto, without the stirring

I was going to make a risotto this week, but I just love how you can achieve the same creamy sauce effect but still have great texture when cooking with orzo.

There’s no need to stand over a pot stirring for 20 minutes as you would with rice. Orzo is a little rice-shaped pasta that is pure comfort food, easy to cook and eat. It’s great in soups or salads too. I first came across it many years ago in Greece where it was served with beef stifado. It’s so nice served with stews or casseroles. It’s very quick to cook and so handy to have a bag in the cupboard.

I have used thick and creamy Greek yogurt before for this dish, adding it at the last minute, instead of cream, to avoid curdling. It works well and is slightly healthier. I love the sweet aniseed flavour from sambuca but white wine, or even brandy, is an ideal alternative.

I often use barley to make this dish too. Barley has a slightly nutty texture but is really tasty and something I love to cook with during autumn and winter, adding bite to soups and body to stews.

I’ve used regular chestnut mushrooms here, but this could be made even nicer with some speciality mushrooms. There are so many available now in most supermarkets, as well as from producers such as Ballyhoura Mountain Mushrooms that grow gourmet mushrooms and forage for wild mushrooms.

As we head into the darker months it’s good to include as many foods rich in vitamin D as we can in our diet. Mushrooms, oily fish, egg yolks, red meat and cheese are good sources. Mushrooms naturally absorb vitamin D, and retain it, when exposed to UV rays. You can leave your mushrooms on a windowsill when the sun is at its strongest at 10-3 pm for 15-20 minutes before storing them.

I’ve added plenty of parsley to this dish too, treating it almost like a leafy green. You could also stir through a few handfuls of spinach and it would wilt down, or  cubed roast butternut squash.

Mushroom orzotto