Vegetable and Orzo Tian

March 14, 2018


If my children had their way, we’d have some form of potato on the dinner plate every night of the week. Mashed, steamed, shredded, roasted, fried–my girls love ’em all. And let’s be honest, I fancy a potato as much as the next girl. Perhaps more than most girls, because: part German, yo.

However, unlike my little loin-flowers, I burn out on the suckers. Some days I just don’t want to face down another plate of potatoes, period. This potato ennui is often seasonal; I’m content to ingest potatoes like clockwork in the winter months, but when things start to warm up a little, I get a hankering for something different. Maybe something containing *gasp* a vegetable or two. Something a little spring-ish.

I use the term spring-“ish” because it’s only mid-March in the Rocky Mountains; I’m well aware that winter isn’t even thinking of quitting yet. But we’ve had a run of lovely, mild weather lately that lulls me into a false sense of springtime security, even though I know better. Still, who can blame me for turning my face up to the sun on a balmy March day? Days like that give me hope that I just might survive winter one. more. year.

We’re definitely not in fava bean or asparagus season yet, so if I want to include a vegetable in my side dish, it’s going to be one of the usual winter suspects: squash, zucchini, broccoli, etc. We’re not even close to tomato season yet, but winter tomatoes are okay to ingest if you bake them or roast them, which is a nice little bit of news. When I saw this recipe for an orzo and vegetable tian, I had a feeling I’d be kicking potatoes off of the menu this week. A “tian” is basically a fancy word for a gratin, which means some form of vegetable in thinly sliced form + cheese, layered and baked to yummy, cheesy perfection.

Sure, I can lull myself into believing that this dish is healthy, with the pretty layers of vegetables and the vegetarian-ness of it all, but let’s face it: the pasta and the cup and a half of cheese called for in this recipe place it firmly in the treat category. Oh, and what a treat this is.

It is so, so good.

It is so good that I’m going to tell you to disregard the serving size indicated, because you’re going to shovel this in like there’s no tomorrow. You’re not going to be able to help yourself. It’s also dead easy and impressive looking and special enough for company or a place on your Easter table (you do realize that Easter is a couple of weeks away, right?)

In case you need that little extra nudge to scoot yourself into the kitchen right now and make this, I’ll let you know that my husband took the first bite of this tian-gratin-thingy and said, “Jesus, what is this? It’s crack.”

He’s right. We couldn’t stop nibbling on it. The tomatoes get roasty and concentrated, the zucchini and squash soften into something tender, and the cheese is both lush and irresistibly chewy around the corner edges, thanks to a quick pop under the broiler at the end. We made a meal of it, which probably insulted the grilled shrimp and the Caesar salad on the dinner table, but too bad.

Worth it.




Vegetable and Orzo Tian

serves 4 as a main dish, 6 as a side (unless, like me, you make an utter pig of yourself on this)

from America’s Test Kitchen


3 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)

1 cup orzo (regular or whole wheat, if it will make you feel more virtuous)

2 minced shallots

3 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

salt and pepper

1 zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds

1 yellow summer squash, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds

1 pound plum tomatoes, cored and sliced 1/4-inch thick

1 3/4 cups vegetable or chicken stock

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or parsley


Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425.

Combine 1/2 cup Parmesan, orzo, shallots, oregano, garlic, pepper flakes and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a bowl. Spread mixture evenly into a 9×13-inch baking dish. Alternately “shingle” the zucchini, squash and tomatoes in tidy rows over orzo.

Carefully pour the broth over the top of vegetables. Bake until the orzo is just tender and most of the broth is absorbed, about 20 minutes.

Remove dish from oven. Carefully move oven rack to about 9 inches from the broiler element and heat broiler.

Drizzle olive oil over the top of vegetables, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle remaining Parmesan over top. Broil until browned and bubbly, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle fresh herbs over top and serve.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Annie March 14, 2018 at 8:39 am

Oh my, crack indeed!! I adore orzo and well you know my feelings about cheese! Lol. Adding this to our menu!


Carole July 30, 2018 at 2:16 pm

This is aMAZing!! Try it, try it, try it! Like risotto without the stirring (or rice LOL)
There’s 2 kinds of orzo, flat like cucumber seeds or chubby like lemon seeds….if using the chubby kind, it takes longer to bake; it was 30 minutes for us….if you have it, a tablespoon of chopped fresh oregano is just lovely!


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