Sunday 2 November 2014

Yotam Ottolenghi's baked orzo with mozzarella and oregano from Plenty More.

We all know how much I love a good pasta bake right? Well have I found a winner for you!

Rich, tomatoey, vegetable-full, cheesy and full of flavour. Does it get any better than that?!

This months Delicious. magazine features an exclusive extract from UK Chef Yotam Ottolenghi's new vegetarian cookbook Plenty More. His previous vegetarian cookbook Plenty is such a fantastic cookbook even if your not a vegetarian because it has salad and side option which go great with any meat. It also has some great stews that most meat eaters will completely forget that there isn't any meat in the dish in the first place. This little snippet Delicious. has provided has made me want this new cookbook so badly (I might have to visit book depository after I finish this post). Plus this months (November 2014) issue of Delicious magazine is a gooden! definaly go out and pick one up. now. There is so many recipes in it getting you in the mood for summer and food which just makes you want to host a summer party. Plus this weather we're having at the moment in Sydney is pretty good too for wanted to host summer lunches with huge jugs of mocktails full to the bring of ice and fresh mint.

The recipe that caught my eye was the Baked Orzo with Mozzarella and oregano. Umm.... yum!

Yotam Ottolenghi's approach to cooking vegetables is to make them 'sing with flavour' and I have to agree. The few recipes I've made of his in the past really do show off how delicious vegetables are as the hero and not just the runner up on the side.

This pasta bake is a little fiddley in the fact that you need to fry the vegetables off separately then add them all back in the pan then pour everything into a oven safe dish to bake it. I kinda cheated in this section and used a oven proof dish to fry everything in then I didn't have as much washing up in the end.
Yotam Ottolenghi baked orzo with mozzarella and oregano from Plenty More

First I fried the cubed eggplant in some olive oil for about 8 minutes (yes I actually used a timer for this so I could kind of forget about it and come back and stir it every now and again while I chopped the rest of the goodies) then used a slotted spoon (or tongs) to take the eggplant out and let it drain on kitchen paper. Next I fried the carrots and celery for about 6 minutes and instead of taking them out of them pan I just added my onions and garlic and cooked it all for a further 5 minutes until they were soft.

I then added the orzo (which is also called risoni pasta) and tomato paste, gave it a good stir for a couple of minutes. Added the stock, fresh oregano, lemon zest and eggplant. I brought it to a boil then took it off the heat and added the mozzarella, parmesan, salt and pepper. At this point I should have poured everything into an oven proof dish but I was already using one so I just gave it all a good mix then arranged slices of tomatoes on top, sprinkled it with dried oregano, salt and pepper and baked it for 40 minutes at 200C (or 400F).

It then says cook until all the stock is absorbed but all my stock was pretty much absorbed before it went into the oven. I was a little worried I'd done it wrong and read the recipe wrong, again! But I re-read the recipe about 6 times and double checked the markings on my jug about 10 times and it all seemed right and it was a waiting game to see if it actually worked or not.

It worked!! YAY! It's going to be super hot when you take it out of the oven so let it sit for 5 minutes and then dig in! The cheese is stringy and vegetables full of flavour... this is also great cold the next day eaten straight out of the pot.

I defiantly recommend to give this a go if your a pasta bake lover like me. It brought back memories of my high school days and being surrounded by friends at my mums kitchen bench as we all devoured the easiest pasta bake known to 16 year old girls.

This will defiantly make an appearance again on our dinner table, it was freakin' delicious!

(I apologise for this photo... hunger 1 : dani 0)

Yotam Ottolenghi baked orzo with mozzarella and oregano from Plenty More

Yotam Ottolenghi's baked orzo with mozzarella and oregano from Plenty More.

serves 4
(recipe adapted slightly, excerpt taken from Delicious. magazine Nov 2014)

 100ml olive oil
1 large eggplant, cut into 2cm pieces
4 carrots, peeled, cut into 1.5cm pieces
4 celery stalks, cut into 1.5cm pieces
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
250g orzo (risoni) pasta
2 tsp tomato paste
375ml vegetable stock
1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano leaves
zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
120g mozzarella, cut into 1cm pieces
1/2 cup grated parmesan
3 tomatoes, cut into 1cm slices
1 tsp dried oregano

- Preheat oven to 200C or 400F.

- In a oven proof pot heat the oil on a medium heat and fry the eggplant for about 8 minutes, stirring now and then until golden. Remove from pan using a slotted spoon or tongs and drain on some kitchen towel.

- In the same pan (keeping the oil) fry the celery and carrots for about 6 minutes. Add the onion and garlic and good for a further 5 minutes until everything is soft.

- Add the orzo (risoni) and tomato paste and cook for a couple of minutes giving it a good stir. Then add the stock, fresh oregano, lemon zest and eggplant. Bring to a boil.

- Remove from the heat and stir in the mozzarella, parmesan, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp grounf black pepper. Mix well.

- Arrange the sliced tomato over the top. Sprinkle with the dried oregano and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cover (I used the lid to my pot but otherwise foil will be fine) and bake for 40 minutes or until pasta is cooked through.

- Let sit for 5 minutes before serving (or you'll burn the roof of your mouth off!).

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