Orzo pasta is a famous Italian pasta variant that is loved for its versatility. It is also famous for its unique shape, and it works pretty well for different dishes.
However, orzo pasta isn’t perfect and you might need to get a replacement for it sometimes.
So, what is the best substitute for orzo pasta? Arborio rice is the most ideal substitute for orzo pasta, thanks to its similar shape and structure. Arborio rice also tastes quite similar to orzo pasta, making it a perfect substitute for the latter in any meal.
An Overview of Orzo Pasta
Also known as risoni, orzo pasta is a pasta variant that is obtained from durum wheat. It contains gluten, although it is without any barley content.
Orzo pasta is especially famous for its unique shape. Most kinds of pasta are long and slim, but this one just looks like a grain of rice. For this reason, it is unsurprisingly in the “pastina” category – a word meaning “little pasta.”
You can use orzo in soups – just like the Italians use it. You can also combine it with rice if you’re looking to make pilaf, or use it as an ingredient in things like soups and salads. Orzo’s shape and size make it easy to cook it in different ways. You can cook it like pasta and just boil it with salt, or you could make it like rice – put it in a saucepan, add some cold water, and let it boil.
Why Replace Orzo Pasta?
- Taste differences: If you don’t like the taste, you should definitely get something else.
- Gluten content: Some people don’t like the fact that orzo pasta contains gluten. In that case, you will need a substitute.
Options for Orzo Pasta Substitutes
Best Overall Substitute for Orzo Pasta: Arborio Rice
You might think that rice is a one-dimensional food, but you’d be wrong. It comes in different sizes and types, and arborio rice is one of the most interesting iterations of it.
Here, you have short-grain rice that actually has a similar shape to orzo pasta. Its texture can also be creamy, just like orzo pasta. Originating from Italy, this type of rice has a sufficient content of amylopectin starch, which gives it a creamy flavor. However, this will depend on how you cook it.
Thanks to the possibility of getting a creamy taste from cooking, arborio rice works as an excellent substitute for orzo pasta. You can use it in any recipe and rest assured that it will work just fine.
Note that while arborio rice is brown, it is usually sold as white rice. Of course, the fact that the colors differ doesn’t affect your ability to cool in any way.
You can cook arborio rice in the same way as you would cook regular rice. Place it in a pan or pot and throw in two cups of salted water. Let the mixture boil properly over some medium heat, then simmer until the rice absorbs the liquid and is ready to serve. Usually, the entire process takes about 20 to 25 minutes.
Arborio rice is great for preparing anything – salads, soup, etc. However, it shines especially when making risotto. You can add it to several dishes as well – including arancini, white bean soup, and more.
People on a diet will love that arborio rice helps to reduce your carbohydrate intake – definitely more than orzo pasta. It is a one-for-one substitute, so don’t bother about proportions.
Best Substitute in Soup: Acini de Pepe
Acini de Pepe is a form of pasta that is made from semolina. Translating to “seeds of pepper,” this pasta variant is very small and very round. Thanks to this shape, it works as an impressive substitute for orzo as well.
Also originating from Italy, acini de Pepe has become quite popular. You should be able to find it in stores and supermarkets near you. You can boil it until it becomes tender, strain it, then mixed with some pasta sauce. Alternatively, you can allow the strained pasta to cool off, then add some creamy mayonnaise with parmesan, chilli, and Italian herbs. Just like that, you have a pasta salad.
Usually, the tendering is where many chefs tend to have issues. The best way will be to heat some oil in a pan and add some celery and onions. Then, cook the pasta on medium heat for about five minutes. It will be tender enough, and you can add it to the other recipes.
Acini de Pepe is best for cooking light soup. Its size makes it fit perfectly. Other recipes that work fine with this pasta variant include vegetable soup, spicy garlic chicken and snow peas, and salad.
Best Substitute for Salads: Fregola
Also known as succu, fregola is a type of Sardinian couscous that is obtained from processing semolina. Fregola has bigger seeds than the traditional couscous that you see in stores. They also come with a nutty flavor that is a by-product of the toasting process that they go through when they’re being made.
Fregola is an especially great substitute for orzo pasta when you’re looking to improve the flavor of your dish and make it really pop. you can prepare it in the same way as orzo, so you don’t have to worry about methodology. Just note the nutty flavor that comes with the dish.
You will need to cook fregola until it’s properly tender – a process that takes about 8 to 10 minutes. Just make it in a large pot with four cups of salted water and boil it over some medium heat. Once it’s tender, drain it and you’re ready to go. If you’re using it in a salad, spread it on a baking sheet so it can take some air in.
Fregola is a lovely addition to seafood bisques, pasta bakes, and pasta salads. You can add it to roast meat or fish, and you can eat it as a salad.