Orzo, that tiny rice shaped pasta not to be confused with barley which is called orzo in Italy, pairs well with rice and with lentils. In this Greek dish it is cooked with lentils or beans and then topped with deeply flavoured caramelised onions. Yum.
There is some debate about whether the practice of combining pasta and lentils began in Italy or Greece, but what is known is that regions in both countries have traditionally made this pairing. It extends through the Middle East where rice and short pieces of noodles are also cooked together.
Lentils and Orzo Pasta with Caramelised Onions
250 g brown lentils, or whole red lentils (masoor)
1 large onion, minced
1 bay laurel leaf
3 sprigs dried oregano
100 g orzo pasta
2 Tblspn parsley, chopped
0.25 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 – 4 Tblspns olive oil
Slice the onions and saute them for around 30 mins until caramelised.
Place the lentils in water to cover the lentils by 5 cm, and bring to the boil. Add the mince onion, bay and oregano. Simmer until the lentils are cooked, about 20 – 25 mins. Watch the water level and add a little more if necessary.
Season with salt and add the orzo. Bring back to the boil and simmer until the orzo is tender and most of the water is absorbed.
Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Add the olive oil and stir through the parsley.
Serve hot in a deep plate, topped with the caramelised onions.
recipe notes and alternatives
I used whole red lentils (masoor lentils) for this dish. Yellow lentils can also be used, such as split peas, but the flavour won’t be as earthy and intense as using darker coloured lentils.