This dish makes the perfect vegetarian dinner and can be a great crowd pleaser, as it looks so impressive to serve straight from the pan. It is in fact so easy and requires little washing up as it is literally built all in one pan! Orzo is so fab, it can be a great filling to salads and used to bulk up soups and stews. Cooking it in a rich tomato and veg base adds a great depth of flavour and the starch released makes a wonderfully creamy sauce. The capers and olives add a great kick to the dish, finished off with fresh herbs and bocconcini which melts into the hot sauce. Leave out the bocconcini for an equally delicious vegan alternative.
2 red onions, finely sliced
1 bulb fennel, finely sliced
1 tbsp tomato paste
4 cloves of garlic, grated
1 tbsp capers, drained
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
500ml chunky tomato passata
25g black olives, halved
20g basil, roughly chopped
20g oregano, roughly chopped
50g parmesan, grated, optional
200g bocconcini (or mozzarella), optional
1. In a deep frying pan, heat a big drizzle of olive oil over a low-medium heat. Add the onions and fennel with a big pinch of salt and cook down gently for 10 minutes, until completely softened and translucent.
2. Turn up the heat and fry the onions for 2-3 minutes until slightly caramelised and golden. Add the tomato paste, capers, chilli and garlic and fry for 2 minute until fragrant.
3. Add the orzo and mix all together. Pour in the passata and top up with water until the orzo is just covered with liquid. Add a generous amount of salt, bring to the boil and simmer for 8 minutes or until the orzo is cooked al dente. Stir occasionally and top up with water if it looks a little dry. The orzo should now have formed a thickened creamy tomato sauce.
4. Add the olives and chopped herbs, then taste and season generously with salt and pepper.
5. If adding the cheese, take off the heat and stir through the parmesan. Tear the bocconcini and scatter over the orzo, to serve straight out of the pan.