The Pantry Raid: Baked Spinach Orzo

Pantry Raid Meals are a winter necessity here in the Hudson Valley where frequent snow and ice storms render a quick jaunt to the market often impossible. When Cafe Drake HRV finds ourselves snowed in, we scour the fridge and pantry for kitchen staples easily incorporated into warming meals. Hence, the birth of Baked Spinach Orzo. The first step is creating the spinach filling. In a large mixing bowl combine 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese with 1/2 cup grated Romano or Parmesan cheese. Stir in 3 beaten eggs and to taste, some dried basil, dried oregano and a generous sprinkle of ground nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper.

If you have it, mix in as well 4 T. chopped parsley.

Add 1 box of frozen spinach, boiled and drained. Place all in a blender - in two batches if needed  - and blend to a thick puree.

Cover the bottom of a large casserole with your favorite marinara sauce, or as in our case, whatever jar you find on the shelves.

Meanwhile, boil 1 lb. of orzo pasta until just al dente and drain. Keep in colander while you assemble the casserole. On top of the tomato sauce add a layer of cooked orzo.

Add a layer of the spinach and cheese mixture, another layer of the pasta and so on and so on.

Once all is assembled, top everything with more marinara sauce and a light grating of Parmesan cheese. Bake, covered, for 45 minutes in a preheated 350 degree F. oven. Remove cover and bake for an additional 15 or 20 minutes. 

Allow the baked orzo to rest at least 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Our recipe leaves plenty for freezing in individual portions if you're not cooking for a crowd.

A romaine lettuce salad and a few Calabrese olives complete our meal.

Leftovers can be enjoyed for lunch the following afternoon; above, with salad, roasted eggplant and pickled peppers.


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