Side dishes have a bad reputation for being uninspired and feeling like they were added to the menu as an afterthought, usually because they were. One moment you're at the grocery store picking out a protein to cook based on what looks good and is well-priced that day, like a responsible adult, and the next you're standing there like, "Oh shoot, now I have to figure out something that goes with this."
Well, Ina Garten never lets anything feel like an afterthought, and she has a ton of side dishes in her repertoire. But of all the side dish recipes she's created, she says the side dish she's made more than any other is her orzo with roasted vegetables. It's easy to see why, too, because Ina's orzo is a year-round dish that goes with everything and can fill any hole in your menu.
"The side dish I've made the most over the years is orzo with roasted vegetables," Ina wrote in her newsletter this week. "It's an all-in-one side — pasta, roasted vegetables, feta, and pine nuts with a lemon vinaigrette."
This really is an all-purpose side dish. Whatever you need on your menu, this recipe could do because it's simultaneously sort of a salad, sort of a pasta, and sort of roasted vegetables. And if you put this in front of me all by itself and called it a main dish, I would not be disappointed.
Ina starts by tossing eggplant, bell peppers, and red onion in olive oil with salt, pepper, and garlic and roasting them in the oven until they're nice and brown. Then she adds the roasted vegetables to orzo, scraping off any leftover liquid and seasoning stuck in the pan and adding that, too.
She dresses that in a simple dressing of lemon and olive oil and lets the whole thing cool. Once it's at room temperature, she adds minced scallions, pine nuts, diced feta cheese, and thinly sliced basil leaves. It looks amazing.
Ina's orzo would work alongside whatever you picked up for dinner that day — beef, salmon, shrimp, chicken, sausages, etc. It's a year-round dish, too. Ina says that in the winter she serves it with rack of lamb, but in the summer she serves it alongside grilled steak or chicken.
What's your go-to side dish?