Baked Orzo with Broccolini, Sausage and Fontina
Today I want to tell you a little bit about my friend Lara.
Lara is one-fifth of my college girl group, and I’ve loved her since we first met eight years ago. She’s hilarious and kind (like, so authentically nice that it makes me feel uncomfortable), smart, beautiful, and ridiculously patient. People tend to gravitate toward her, mostly because she emits glorious sunshine-y vibes and makes everyone feel like they’re her best friend (which they aren’t, because I am, but whatever).
Honestly, Lara is one of those unicorn-like individuals that doesn’t appear to have any negative qualities. (She’s pretty obsessed with her dog, but I have been told that most peeps don’t actually find that to be as weird and upsetting as I do.)
It’s very tempting to wax poetic on Lara’s superior friendship skills for all of you…
I’d start by telling you about the time that we went on a road trip to Forks, Washington (whatup Twilight Tour?), and how Lara never once complained that she had to drive the whole way because the time-release Xanax I was prescribed for my newly acquired panic disorder rendered me mildly narcoleptic. Then I’d express my gratitude that she happily acts as a much less scary version of WebMD via text message at all hours of the day and night (did I mention she’s a nurse?). I’d go on to discuss her ability to give honest, thoughtful advice on almost any subject, while never, ever making you feel judged. I’d also be sure to mention that she’s a very good hugger.
But detailing Lara’s awesomeness would make for an extremely wordy blog post, so I’ll restrain myself here and save the extended version for my toast at her WEDDING.
The caps are necessary because the purpose of this blog post is to celebrate the fact that Lara got engaged last week. And it’s not like she was proposed to by some run-of-the-mill dude either. She’s marrying Charlie, who is equally wonderful, and I couldn’t be happier to have him as our communal husband. After five years with us Lara, I am confident that he is more than up to the task. (We promise to be very low-maintenance, Char.)
Don’t worry, I’m not planning to write lovey-dovey posts about each of my besties when they get engaged, but I felt the need to make something special for Lara and Charlie because they have been die-hard supporters of Domesticate ME! since the days when it was called “Domesticate Moi,” had a bright pink background, and featured not-so-fancy Blackberry photos. They’ve easily made 90% of the recipes on this site, and I’ve come to rely on them both for genius suggestions and
compliments feedback. They also like to cook together, which is totally adorable, and they deserve a recipe that’s tailor-made just for them.
I brainstormed a lot of ideas for this celebratory meal (their preferences include cheese, cheese, some sort of meat, and more cheese), and I finally settled on Baked Orzo with Broccolini, Turkey Sausage and Fontina.
This casserole tastes like happiness, people.
Nutty whole-wheat orzo is tossed with broccolini and garlicky turkey sausage, bathed in a dreamy cheese sauce, topped with Pecorino Romano and Panko, and then baked to bubbling, golden brown perfection. Each bite is a textural home run, and the comforting flavor profile really can’t be beat. The true magic lies in the Fontina sauce, friends, which is pretty life-changing (I haven’t used that term in a while, right?). Creamy, yet light, and kicked up with subtly fruity extra-virgin olive oil, crushed red pepper, and bright lemon zest, it’s basically liquid gold. Lara is gonna flip.
I’m also thrilled to report that despite its decadent appearance, this casserole is actually pretty inoffensive on the health front. Whole-wheat orzo packs a decent amount of fiber, turkey sausage provides protein without too much fat, and each portion has a hefty serving of vitamin and antioxidant-rich broccolini. Plus, the cheese sauce has a base of heart-healthy olive oil and low-sodium chicken broth, both of which add big flavor while cutting calories and saturated fat. Boom. Wedding diet approved!
Congratulations, Lara and Charlie! I love this casserole and both of you. (Not necessarily in that order.)
Blogger’s Note: I’d like to point out that Lara and Charlie made my recipes and then got engaged. I’m not saying that cooking my food guarantees you a husband/wife, but it might, so you should probably try it.
Baked Orzo with Broccolini, Turkey Sausage and Fontina: (Serves 4 generously)
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 large shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
10-12 ounces uncooked spicy Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
1¾ cups whole wheat orzo (Yes, you can use regular orzo if you like.)
1½ bunches broccolini, cut into 1-inch pieces (You should end up with about 4½ cups chopped broccolini)
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1½ cups grated Fontina cheese
½ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, divided (You can also use Parmesan if you prefer.)
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
¼ cup whole wheat Panko breadcrumbs
Preparing your Baked Orzo with Broccolini, Turkey Sausage and Fontina:
-Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees. Put a large pot of water on to boil.
-Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet or sauté pan over medium heat. When hot add the shallot and garlic and cook for 3 minutes until the shallots become translucent and the garlic is fragrant. (Be very careful not to burn the garlic peeps!)
-Add the sausage to the pan and cook, breaking up the meat with a spatula, for 5-6 minutes until lightly browned. Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside.
-Now we’re going to cook the orzo and the broccolini. This isn’t as scary as it sounds, but please keep the broccolini by the stove so you don’t screw up the timing, capiche? Start by adding the orzo to the boiling water. Cook for 6 minutes and then add the broccolini to the pot. Cook for 2 more minutes and strain immediately.
-Add the orzo and broccolini to the skillet with the sausage. Set aside while you prepare the cheese sauce.
-Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When the oil is hot and shimmering, whisk in the flour. Cook your roux, whisking constantly, for 3 minutes.
-Add the chicken stock, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil, whisking periodically (about 2-3 minutes). Lower to a simmer, and cook for 4-5 minutes, whisking continuously until the liquid is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Turn off the heat and add the Fontina. Whisk until fully incorporated and then whisk in ¼ cup grated Pecornino Romano, the red pepper flakes and lemon zest. Taste and add a little salt if necessary.
-Pour the cheese sauce over the orzo mixture and stir to combine.
-Transfer the orzo to a casserole dish and top with the remaining ¼ cup Pecorino Romano and the Panko breadcrumbs.
-Bake for 25 minutes until the top is golden brown and the cheese is bubbling.
-Spoon orzo into bowls and serve warm.
Live happily ever after.
I’m thrilled to be a part of Food Network’s Comfort Food Feast this week. For more swoon-worthy casseroles, check out the blogs below.
The Cultural Dish: Mediterranean Fish Casserole
The Heritage Cook: Arroz Con Pollo Casserole (Gluten-Free)
The Wimpy Vegetarian: Baked Artichoke Radicchio Risotto with Lemon-Caper Breadcrumbs
Taste with the Eyes: Mini Shrimp and Grits Casseroles
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Lasagne al Forno with Chard & Mushrooms
Red or Green: Pasta “al forno” Casserole with Mushrooms, Peppers & Vegetables
Swing Eats: Pastitsio: A Delicious Greek Pasta Casserole (gluten-free)
Virtually Homemade: Tamale Pie
Weelicious: Chicken Wild Rice Casserole
Haute Apple Pie: Tex Mex Spaghetti Squash Casserole
FN Dish: 5 Hearty Casseroles Ready to Warm You Up
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