Hi there! It’s grain off time again, and this week it’s orzo vs rice comparison. We’ll take a closer look at the pasta that looks like plant granules and an actual grain. No, we’re not kidding; we’ll get to that further in a bit.
In this new post we will learn which among these two is the healthier option and what recipe is best to make.
The Pasta and the Grain: An Introduction
Orzo actually is the Italian name for barley, one of the major cereals famous for its role in beer production. However, it’s a misnomer of sorts as it really refers to a type of pasta (and one that’s actually made from semolina, not barley).
Unlike the typical look of noodles, orzo – also known as risoni – is cut so short that it looks like the larger version of rice grains.
Rice – everyone knows what this Asian grain is, which proves how popular it is. It’s the cereal grain that has the highest consumption in the entire world.
It’s versatile and comes in a great many varieties, which are grouped into four major categories: aromatic, Indica, glutinous, and Japonica. There are rice varieties which have more health benefits too especially when you are bodybuilding or simply want to stay fit.
Weighing Nutritional Values
The itty-bitty orzo is low in fat and has an impressive protein content, considering it is among the carbohydrate-rich types of food. It has about twice as much protein as brown rice. It also produces an important variant of fiber – resistant starch.
On closer examination, 2/3 cup of cooked risoni yields about 7.1 grams of protein, 1.8 grams of fiber, and 0.9 grams of fat. Carbohydrates take up 44 grams of the said serving.
With tri-colored orzo, which is made with durum wheat, spinach powder, and red bell pepper powder, the nutritional layout is a bit more varied because of the addition of spinach and red bell pepper. There’s a bit of iron practically zero trans and saturated fat.
On the other hand, white rice has about 7.1 grams of protein for every 100 gram portion. It also has 80 grams of carbs, 1.3 grams of fiber, and 0.8 grams of iron per 100 grams.
It also has zinc (1.09 grams) and other minerals, some of which orza doesn’t have. If we pit orzo against white rice, it appears orzo would edge out the latter a bit.
However, against brown rice, which has more fiber and less carbs, risoni fades a bit into the background. But when you consider the cost, practicality, and quick-cooking qualities of orzo, it appears to edge out its Asian competition.
The Facts on Cooking with Orzo
Orzo, which has its origins in Italy, cooks faster than rice – about half the time it takes to prepare the latter. As such, it makes an ideal option for culinary and dietary emergencies, like rustling up a bowl of instant noodle soup if you’re famished at an ungodly hour.
Orzo is also so versatile it can be used with soups, salads, or as sides to main dishes. It can even be served on its own (“naked”), hot or cold, accompanied only by a sprinkling of pepper and salt.
Traditionally, though, orzo is served in soups, such as minestrone. It is also prepared like risotto – boiled and then fried a bit. It is a rather more budget-friendly stand-in for rice, after all.
In Greece, orzo is popularly prepared as part of baked meat dishes or casseroles, such as the giouvetsi. This dish is a Greek favorite, made with meat (chicken, beef, or lamb) and pasta then baked in a ceramic container.
Orzo vs Rice, The Best Way to Cook
What’s the best strategy in cooking rice and orzo? The answer is simple – using a rice cooker. It’s not hard to see why – the convenience and hassle-free utility of rice cookers takes out a number of steps in the old school way of preparing the said starchy ingredients.
Plus, you don’t have to worry about overcooking or boiled over attempts as rice cookers have built-in mechanisms that allow them to automatically shift the heat to the appropriate level. Some models, like the Zojirushi or Cuckoo rice cookers, come with settings that allow you to whip up cereal-based dishes in a specific way.
By the way, as orzo cooks more quickly (about 8-10 minutes), you can tweak the settings a bit so you can time the boiling time to a shorter duration than that for rice.
Here’s a basic orzo recipe you can use:
What you need:
- 1 ½ cups dried orzo
- 3 quarts water
- Rice cooker
- Colander or strainer
- Sprinkle some salt into the water, which is placed in the rice cooker pot. Bring the water to a boil.
- Put the orzo into the boiling water. Let it cook for about 10 minutes. You’ll know it’s done if the risoni is chewy and firm to the bite.
- Take out the excess water using the colander or strainer. Serve immediately. You can mix in a bit of olive oil or butter to keep the pieces from sticking to each other.
If you’re baking the orzo or using it for a salad, you should rinse the grains. The same process can be used for boiling rice, except that you would neet more than 10 minutes to cook it. Just let the rice cooker do its work after pressing the cook button and you’re done.
Recipe to Add on Your Collection
Want to prepare a main dish with orzo? Try doing that with this Chicken Orzo recipe:
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 1 cup shredded carrots
- 2 cups sliced mushrooms (button)
- ½ cup chopped onions
- ¼ tsp ground black pepper
- 2 basil leaves sliced into strips
- 1 Tbsp chopped basil leaves
- Tomato (diced)
- 300 ml can of cream of chicken soup
- ¾ lbs of boneless chicken breasts sliced into strips (skinless)
- 2/3 cup water
- 3/4 cup orzo
- Cook the chicken in oil the rice cooker pot until it’s brown. The heat setting should be high. Then, combine the onions, mushrooms, and garlic to the meat and stir the mix for about 3 minutes.
- Mix in all the other ingredients, save for the basil and tomato. Allow this to boil before putting the heat at low setting.
- Cover the pot and allow it to simmer for about 15 minutes. Stir very now and then.
- Once pretty much done, add the basil and tomato and mix everything well. Serve in about 3-5 minutes.
You can use rice with this recipe. But, considering the longer cooking time, you may need to boil the rice first and use the cooked version to make this dish.
For orzo soup, you just add in a half cup of dried orzo to any broth or liquid (about 6 cups) you’re simmering in the rice cooker. Add the orzo about 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time.
You may also watch this video on how to cook Chicken Orzo for a delectable dinner!
Orzo, like rice, is a versatile ingredient that can be mixed into almost any dish. It can be enjoyed as a pasta dish or as a grain substitute. So whatever you prefer, orzo over rice or vice versa, still both have their own health benefits.
Try adding orzo on your next meal prepared in a rice cooker and let us know the results in the comments below!