This dish makes the perfect vegan or 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 tomato and veg base adds a great depth of flavour and the starch released makes a wonderfully creamy texture, like a quick risotto. Fennel is used in place of onions here for an interesting depth and aniseed flavour, which pairs so well with the salty capers and olives.
This dish works well with parmesan, bocconcini or burrata but can be substituted for a vegan parmesan or left out all together.
2 fennel bulbs, trimmed and finely sliced
1 tbsp tomato paste
4 cloves of garlic, grated
2 tbsp capers, drained
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
2 tsp smoked paprika
500ml chunky tomato passata
25g black olives, halved
Handful of basil leaves, roughly chopped
Handful of parsley leaves, roughly chopped
1. In a deep frying pan, heat a big drizzle of olive oil over a medium heat. Add the fennel with a big pinch of salt and a splash of water. Cover the pan and cook down gently for 10 minutes, until completely the fennel is soft and transluscent.
2. Uncover the pan, turn up the heat and cook for a few minutes so the fennel caramelises and turns golden. Add the tomato paste, capers, chilli, paprika and garlic and fry for 2 minutes 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 (check packet instructions). 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. Lastly, add the olives and stir through the chopped herbs. Taste and season generously with salt and pepper.
5. If adding the cheese, take off the heat and stir through to enjoy warm straight from the pan.