Summer Vegetable and Orzo Casserole

It’s a beautiful, sunny summer day here in Cincinnati, so today we’re cooking to suit the local climate. That means we’re keeping it light, healthy and yea, even vegetarian. Today’s offering is a very simple Italian-themed one-pan pasta and vegetable dish that both vegetarians and carnivores alike will find very satisfying. It gives a bed of richly seasoned orzo pasta topped with broiled squash, tomatoes and parmesan cheese, and the whole thing is accented with fresh herbs.

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Here are your ingredients for 4 servings as a meal, or 6 if you choose to serve this as a side dish:

  • 1 ½ cups grated Parmigiano Reggiano, divided
  • 1 cup orzo pasta
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 3 tbsp. minced fresh oregano leaves (or 1 tsp. dried oregano)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Red pepper flakes to taste
  • ½ tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1 zucchini, sliced into ¼” pieces
  • 1 yellow squash, sliced into ¼” pieces
  • 4-5 plum tomatoes, sliced into ¼” pieces
  • 1 ¾ cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil leaves

Preheat your oven to 425. In a large mixing bowl, combine the ½ cup of the cheese, orzo, shallots, garlic, red pepper and ½ tsp. of salt. Spread this mixture into a 13” x 9” baking dish, then layer the tomatoes, squash and zucchini on top in a shingle pattern. Pour the stock over the vegetables, making sure the orzo is evenly saturated, and bake for about 20 minutes until the orzo has absorbed the stock.

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Remove the baking dish from the oven and switch over to the broiler. While that is heating up, drizzle the olive oil over the vegetables, season them to taste with salt and pepper, and then sprinkle the other 1 cup of cheese over the entire dish. Pop this under the broiler for about 5 minutes, until the cheese becomes brown and bubbly.  Pull the dish back out of the oven, let it cool for about 10 minutes, then sprinkle it with the chopped basil leaves, and plate it up.

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We enjoyed this as a light, healthy dinner as we sat on our back porch and soaked up the summer sun – dining al fresco as the Italians like to say. There were big, happy grins all around. I hope you’ll give it a try and enjoy it as much as we did. Until next time: Eat well, my friends!

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