This dish works well for summer; especially here in the tropics as it is too warm and steamy for heartier pasta meals. Mammina often cooked meals using orzo pasta during my childhood. She would use orzo in her chicken and minestrone soups in winter and as a replacement for rice in her stuffings. I like orzo in pasta salads in the warm summer months; I add seasonal chopped vegetables and herbs; sometimes also adding grilled chicken or shrimp to finish the dish.
I found this recipe in the March 2010 issue of InStyle Magazine, created by Chef Amanda Freitag of The Harrison in Tribeca, New York City. Chef Amanda officially calls her dish, truffled orzo with asparagus; a mix of fresh asparagus, grated cheeses and a final addition of truffle butter. Truffles (the white and black variety) are a mushroom commonly found in Italy, France and Spain during their peak autumn and summer seasons.
Considered a luxury ingredient, truffles are avidly sought after by chefs and foodies all over the world. They are hunted in the old style, one that has been handed down for generations. The traditional serving method is to shave the truffle into the dish right before serving for the best flavor and aroma. A standard medium size truffle can sell for many thousands of dollars per pound.
An affordable way to enjoy truffles is to find and purchase a good quality organic infused butter and oil. These products can be used in a wide variety of egg, chicken and risotto dishes.
My personal addition here is the zest of fresh lemon and a squeeze of the lemon juice to brighten the dish up a bit; I love lemons and tend to incorporate them often in many of my drink recipes and food creations. This creamy, decadent and light dish will satisfy you and your guests at your next summer gathering.
This dish pairs well with grilled chicken or meats or for a lighter option, add a fresh arugla salad and seasonal summer fruit. Serve with a quality chilled white wine of your choice (non-oaked Chardonnay, Albarino or a White Bordeaux would do nicely.)
orzo con asparagi al tartufo e formaggio
1 bunch standard size fresh asparagus (peeled and trimmed)
1 1/2 cups of orzo pasta (cooked al dente)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled and sliced
approximately 1/4 to 1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp unsalted butter
2-3 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
1-2 tbsp grated romano cheese
1 lemon (all the zest and juice to taste)
2 tbsp truffle butter (be sure to but authentic, organic truffles; NOT imitation)
This is the secret key flavor ingredient; if you cannot find truffle butter; create your own using 2 tbsp unsalted and softened butter ; add 1/2 tsp black or white truffle oil; blend well and set aside.
1 tsp grated black pepper
In a large pot, boil water and cook the orzo until it is “al dente”, not too soft or overcooked.
I cook orzo using a mix of water and stock for additional flavor; try an organic vegetable stock for this recipe to keep the flavors fresh and clean.
In a large non-stick skillet, add olive oil and garlic and saute until lightly cooked (do not brown the garlic.) Remove the garlic and add the asparagus and saute ; add a bit of salt and pepper to taste.
Add the cooked orzo to the pan and add the heavy cream and butter placing the heat on low; cook and stir consistently for a few minutes until the orzo starts to thicken. Add in the zest of the lemon and squeeze in some of the lemon juice to your personal taste.
Continue cooking, add the grated cheeses and mix well to combine. At this final step, add the truffle butter and the grated black pepper; stir until the butter is well incorporated and immediately remove from the heat.
Serve this dish immediately and remember to include additional grated cheese at the table for you and your guests to enjoy.
Note: Photography provided by Annette L. Venditti