If you’ve never tried orzo, you must! It’s little noodles that are shaped like rice I’m a big fan of the “roni” part of Rice-a-roni so it’s just perfect for me. I love broccoli and cheese together and I love bacon and cheese together…and I love mac ‘n’ cheese and I love broccoli cheese rice – so of course the next logical step would be all of those things that I adore all put together, right? Yes. Exactly. Here it is. We couldn’t get enough last night and it’s even better leftover.
- 2/3 box of Barilla orzo
- 1 head of broccoli – cleaned and broken up into florets
- about 6 oz of cheese – grated (I prefer colby-jack or cheddar – or a mix of the two)
- 3 tbsp salted butter
- 1/4 cup of diced sweet onion
- 3 heaping tbsp flour
- 3 cups of milk (1%, 2% or whole)
- a couple slices (or more!) of cooked bacon
- kosher salt & fresh ground pepper
First, get the water on to boil in a large pot. Salt it liberally so the orzo has some flavor when it cooks.
Next, get a smaller saucepan out to make the cheese sauce. Put it on medium heat and add the butter. Once it starts to melt, add the diced onion and cook for a few minutes until it becomes translucent and fragrant.
Use a small whisk and whisk in the flour to the butter/onion mixture. It will be pasty (like glue paste) and let that cook for about 30-45 seconds. SLOWLY whisk in the milk a little at a time while you whisk until it’s all incorporated. Bring to a boil stirring often – it will thicken. Taste it and add salt/pepper so it has a lot of flavor – remember, you want it very flavorful because you are adding it to a blank slate of pasta. Once it’s thick (after about 5-10 minutes) turn off the heat. Let it sit for a few minutes.
Add your orzo AND your fresh broccoli florets to the boiling salted water and set the timer for 10 minutes.
Back to the sauce – use your whisk and mix in the grated cheese until it’s melted in. Taste it again. Is it bland? Add salt (or more cheese if you want). Now crumble up your bacon and add it to the cheese sauce. Let that sit (NO HEAT) until the orzo and broccoli are ready.
NOTE: the reason we don’t want heat on the sauce once the cheese is in there is that if it’s overcooked and over worked…the cheese will separate and become gritty and curdy and not very appetizing. We want smooth velvety sauce.
Once the 10 minutes is up, drain the orzo/broccoli mixture. Don’t rinse it! Add it back to the pot and pour all of the cheezy bacony sauce over the broccoli and orzo. Mix it very well. The broccoli will fall apart and thoroughly mix in with the orzo and cheese giving it the authentic look of those boxed mixes (haha) – taste it. If it needs salt, add more. Best after it sets up for 5-10 minutes.