All of summer's abundance — hearty eggplant, juicy tomatoes, colorful peppers, and fragrant basil — come together in this quick and easy skillet dinner that's perfectly suited for busy weeknights. Caramelized onions are added in to bring depth to this meatless meal, and the orzo is toasted right in the pan to ensure there's just the right amount of texture and flavor. It's the kind of dish you want to eat when your attempts to keep the kitchen cool has you suddenly bored of no-cook salads and sandwiches for dinner.
If you're willing to turn on the stove for just 30 minutes, you'll be rewarded with something homey and satisfying that's got serious eye appeal. It's a vibrant dinner that's fresh enough for summer, yet comforting enough that it finishes off a long day right.
A Colorful Orzo Skillet That's All About the Vegetables
This simple skillet packs in a colorful array of fresh veggies — eggplant, bell peppers, tomatoes — to keep things bright and nutritious.
While sprinkling on some Parmesan cheese shavings is a worthy way to finish off each serving, if you'd like to keep this dish vegan or dairy-free, don't hesitate to leave it off. Even without the cheese, this skillet is a comforting dinner that you'll likely want to make over and over again.
This is summer eating at it's best. It's a vegetable-packed pasta you can feel good about serving.
Caramelized Eggplant & Onion Orzo
Prep time: 10 minutes ; cooking time: 30 minutes
orzo pasta (about 1 1/4 cups)
olive oil, divided, plus more to coat pasta
medium eggplant (about 1 pound), diced
medium yellow onions, diced
small bell peppers, diced
medium tomatoes, diced
Freshly ground black pepper
loosely packed chopped fresh basil leaves
Shaved Parmesan cheese, for serving (optional)
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the orzo and cook until barely al dente, about 6 to 7 minutes, or according to package instructions. Drain, then drizzle lightly with olive oil and toss so that the grains of orzo are lightly coated; set aside.
Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a 10- or 12-inch straight-sided sauté or frying pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the eggplant and arrange them in a single layer; season lightly with salt. Sauté until golden-brown and softened, 6 to 7 minutes.
Reduce the heat to medium and push the eggplant up in a pile against one half of the pan. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the center of the pan. Add the onions to the center of the pan and season lightly with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir it into the onions. Push the onions off to the side of the pan next to the eggplant, where they will continue to caramelize.
Add the peppers and tomatoes to the hot center of the pan. Sauté until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the vinegar and sauté for 2 minutes, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
Increase the heat to medium-high. Add the orzo gradually, shaking in a cup at a time, and stirring and scraping constantly. Cook, letting the orzo get browned on the bottom of the pan, then scraping it up to lightly toast the pasta, for about 5 minutes.
Remove from the heat. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Stir in the basil and serve immediately, sprinkling Parmesan shavings on top of each bowl, if using.
Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.