Recipe: Weeknight Orzo Paella

Recipe: Weeknight Orzo Paella

Sheela Prakash
Aug 8, 2018
(Image credit: Joe Lingeman | Kitchn)

Take all your favorite components of Spanish paella, combine them with crowd-pleasing orzo pasta, and the result is a quick weeknight dinner the whole family will agree on. Fragrant chicken sausage joins forces with smoked paprika, sweet tomatoes, and lots of juicy shrimp to make a one-pan pasta that tastes familiar yet feels new. It's a fast dinner that's easy on the wallet, and is sure to find a permanent spot on your meal planning roster.

A Simple Twist on Classic Spanish Paella

Paella is a Spanish dish of rice, vegetables, and typically a mix of meat and seafood. I love it dearly, but don't make often enough — usually because it calls for ingredients such as chorizo and saffron, which aren't staples in my pantry. So instead of making it a once-in-awhile thing, I opted to view it as a source of inspiration for a weeknight-friendly meal made with things I always have on hand.

Orzo is the ultimate quick-cooking pasta, and there's always a box in my pantry. It eats a bit like rice, so it's a fun substitute. Chicken sausage is an affordable swap for chorizo, and while it doesn't have its signature smokiness, a bit of smoked paprika solves that problem. Add a can of tomatoes, frozen peas, and shrimp (you have that in your freezer too, right?), and dinner is on the table in less than 30 minutes.

Weeknight Orzo Paella

Serves 4

Prep time: 5 minutes ; cooking time: 25 minutes

  • 1 tablespoon

    olive oil

  • 8 ounces

    cooked hot or sweet Italian chicken sausage, cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds

  • 4 cloves

    garlic, minced

  • 1 1/2 cups

    dried orzo pasta (10 ounces)

  • 2 cups

    low-sodium chicken broth

  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can

    diced tomatoes

  • 1 teaspoon

    smoked paprika

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt, divided

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper, divided

  • 8 ounces

    uncooked peeled and deveined large shrimp, thawed if frozen (26 to 30 shrimp per pound)

  • 1/2 cup

    frozen peas

  • 2 tablespoons

    chopped fresh parsley leaves

Heat oil in a 9- or 10-inch cast iron or straight-sided skillet over medium until shimmering. Add the sausage and cook, stirring occasionally, until evenly browned on both sides, 3 to 4 minutes total. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds more.

Add the orzo and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly toasted, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the broth, tomatoes and their juices, paprika, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, and cook, undisturbed, until the orzo is almost al dente, the liquid has reduced by about half, and there is tight, rapid bubbling, 7 to 9 minutes. Meanwhile, pat the shrimp dry with paper towels and season with remaining 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper.

Scatter the shrimp and peas over the rice, cover, and cook until the shrimp are pink and opaque, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to rest, covered, for 5 minutes, allowing any residual liquid in the skillet to be absorbed. Top with the parsley and serve.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

(Image credit: The Kitchn)
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