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The word “orzo” in italian means “barley”. Orzo pasta (pasta shaped like rice or grain) is very versatile. It can be boiled, baked, used as a filler in casseroles or when making stuffed peppers.  Also, great in soups. The best orzo is made of durum semolina flour and is very popular in Italy, Greece and other Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Countries.  I like this version of orzo pasta because it is very savory and not very heavy. Add as much spinach as you can and by all means… it has to be fresh!  Serve alone or as a side dish.  Orzo with Spinach is also great as a cold salad.  If you are going to serve it as a salad, drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil before serving so that it looks shiny and fresh.

Enjoy!

Orzo with Spinach

Ingredients

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oi

3 ounces of thinly sliced pancetta chopped

1/2 cup of yellow or white onions cubed

1/3 cup red bell pepper finely cubed

2 fresh garlic cloves minced

6 cups of fresh spinach (lightly packed)

2 tbsp cold butter

2 tbsp dry white wine

2 tsp fine sea salt

pepper to taste

drizzle of white truffle oil

1 pound of orzo

fresh parmesan cheese

Procedure


1.  In a deep large skillet, heat extra virgin olive oil in medium.  Add pancetta and saute for about 5 minutes until pieces begin to cook. You don’t want pancetta to be crispy or burned. Stir occasionally.

2.  Add onions and red peppers and saute for about 2 minutes.  Add garlic and butter and continue to saute for about 1 minute.  Add white wine to deglaze pan. Immediately add spinach and stir until it has wilted.

3.  Meanwhile, in a med sauce pan, bring about 6 cups of water to a boil.  Add a generous pinch of salt and cook orzo according to package instructions.  Once cooked, drain and add to spinach mixture and saute for a few minutes.  Add drizzle of white truffle oil, salt and pepper to taste.  Add freshly grated parmesan cheese once you serve.

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This vegetable lasagna is sometimes called Lasagna Fiorentina or Florentine.   My version does not have tomato sauce, it only has Bechamel Sauce.  I must tell you, the fresh basil fills the kitchen with an inviting and delicious aroma while the lasagna is baking in the oven.   It is important that you use fresh spinach and fresh vegetables to make the filling.  I like to bake it as soon as possible but you may freeze the lasagna for a later occasion, just make sure the lid is tightly closed to prevent freezer burn. My friend Linda is a pro at this technique in which she wraps the lasagna in plastic wrap first and then three times with foil paper before freezing.  Make sure you completely thaw the lasagna before you put in the oven. Great alternative for boat trips or no hassle family gatherings.   I consider this a complete meal but you can accompany with garlic bread, more veggies, steak, salad or rice.

Buon Appetito!

Vegetable Lasagna

Ingredients

filling

drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

1 pound fresh spinach

2 carrots peeled and thinly sliced

1/4 cup onions finely chopped

1/4 cup of red bell pepper finely chopped

10 crimini (baby bella) mushrooms sliced

3 garlic cloves minced

1/2 tsp worcestershire sauce

1/2  tsp dried oregano

1 tsp salt

pepper to taste

Béchamel Sauce (see recipe under sauces)

15 ounces ricotta cheese

2 1/2 cups of shredded mozzarella

9 leaves of fresh basil

12 lasagna strips (boiled or oven ready)

12 1/2 x 8 1/2 (approx.) glass or clay baking pan

Procedure


1.  Sauté fresh spinach in a large sauce pan with drizzle of olive oil until it has wilted, stirring constantly (medium heat). At the beginning it will seem like a lot but, as it wilts you will end up with about a fifth of its original volume.

2.  Immediately, add vegetables, worcestershire sauce, oregano and salt and pepper.  Continue to sauté for about 7 minutes stirring continously.  You will end up with about 3 cups of veggies. Include the liquids. Set aside.

3.  Prepare Béchamel Sauce.

4.  Start assembling the layers of the lasagna by placing pasta (cooked or oven ready) in the bottom and spreading about 5 ounces of ricotta cheese with bottom of a spoon.

5.  Scoop one cup of cooked veggies and spread evenly with spatula or back of a large spoon.

6.  Pour 1/4 of Béchamel Sauce evenly over veggies and sprinkle about 1/3 of a cup of shredded mozzarella.

7.  Repeat steps 4, 5 and 6 two more times.

8.  For final layer spread place top lasagna strips and spread remaining Béchamel, basil and mozzarella cheese (in that order).  Cover with foil paper (not too tightly so that too much cheese doesn’t stick to it), or if you are using a clay/ceramic  pot with lid use the lid, and cook for approximately 30 minutes (or if the lasagna strips are oven ready, bake according to manufacturer instructions).  Remove foil paper and broil until cheese is golden brown.

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