The Secret Ingredient (Saffron): Saffron and Orange Rice Pilaf with Orzo and Pine Nuts Recipe

The Secret Ingredient

Every month we highlight a different ingredient and share weekly recipes that showcase its uses.

The Secret Ingredient (Saffron): Saffron and Orange Rice Pilaf with Orzo and Pine Nuts Recipe

[Photographs: Kerry Saretsky]

I know that when someone calls you yellow, you're a coward. But as far as spices go, I think the yellowest, saffron, is very brave. It is subtle, floral, aromatic, almost bitter—and extremely bold. It makes its presence known, shouts it from the rooftops, dying everything it comes into contact with a bright marigold hue. And something that tastes of saffron, well, it only tastes of saffron. It's a force to be reckoned with.

I first starting mixing orange and saffron in bouillabaisse. It works so well together, the aromatic bitterness of saffron with the bright sweetness of orange. This is a very simple rice, based on my favorite yellow rice that I get in Spanish and Mexican restaurants, that is glammed up with some ritzy ingredients. I toast orzo and shallots and add white rice, and then cook it with saffron-infused stock for color and a deep, heady flavor. Stud it with toasted pine nuts and orange zest at the last minute, and you have a simple-to-make side that is elegant and impressive. I would serve this with roasted bone-in chicken, or jumbo shell-on prawns.

  • Yield:4
  • Active time: 7 minutes
  • Total time:25 minutes


  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup low-sodium organic chicken stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron
  • 2 teaspoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup orzo
  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup parboiled rice
  • 2 teaspoons zest from 1/4 orange
  • 3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
  • Freshly cracked black pepper


  1. 1.

    In a medium saucepot, heat the water and stock with the saffron over medium heat.

  2. 2.

    In a large saucepot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the orzo, and toast until golden brown, about 90 seconds. Add the shallot, and season with salt. Sauté on low heat until the shallot is translucent, about 2 1/2 minutes. Add the rice, and stir to coat in the butter. Add the water, stock, and saffron, and raise the heat to high to bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat to low, cover, and cook until the rice is tender, 16 to 18 minutes. Fluff with a fork, and stir in orange zest, pine nuts, and pepper. Serve hot or at room temperature, especially alongside a juicy roast chicken or jumbo roast shrimp.