First off, this recipe from Epicurious is actually called "orzo carbonara," but I slipped in the "style" because this version is missing one absolutely essential ingredient (egg) and includes one that most experts agree shouldn't be there (cream).
Not to get all semantic, but I care deeply about the classic pasta dish, and don't like seeing its meaning thrown about without care. So, I'm calling it carbonara-style. Second, regardless of its title, this is an absolutely wonderful dish.
I was extremely leery when my wife suggested this recipe, but was eventually won over during the cooking process. Instead of mixing cooked pasta with the sauce at the very end, the orzo is cooked in the same pan as the bacon, making this an easy one pot meal. The combination of bacon fat, cream, and butter ensures that everything is flavorful, while thyme adds an herby note. My only alternation was a handful of frozen peas, which lent a touch of sweetness to each bite.
- 6 ounces bacon, chopped
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 pound orzo
- 5 cups chicken stock (homemade or low-salt broth)
- 1/2 cup cream
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
- 3/4 cup frozen peas
- salt and pepper
In a large saucepan set over medium heat, add the bacon and cook until crisp, five to eight minutes. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon, and drain on paper towels. Discard all but one tablespoon of the bacon fat.
Add the butter the saucepan, and let cook until it starts to brown, about two minutes. Dump in the orzo, and still well. Pour in 4 1/2 cups of the stock. Bring to a boil over high heat, and then reduce heat to maintain a simmer. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the orzo is tender but al dente and the stock has been absorbed, about eight minutes.
Stir in the cream and the frozen peas, stir well, and bring to a simmer. Return the bacon to saucepan, and add half of the Parmesan cheese and all of the thyme. Stir well, and then season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the remaining stock if it looks too dry. Turn off the heat. Serve with a sprinkling of the remaining cheese.