Weeknights after work are the least desirable times to start cooking. Work is tiring, commutes can be unpleasant, and by the time I get home I want to eat right now. I could order take out (and sometimes I do) but then I still have to wait for the food to arrive. And I could heat up something pre-made, but I rarely do that because I don’t find refrigerator section foods to have that much personality. So I cook at home, even when I don’t want to. This recipe for orzo with sausage and tomatoes (and some other vegetables), will be a meal you’ll be happy to cook and eat after work.
Although cooking dinner after work can feel like a chore, I really do love it and think it’s important. I like that it makes the whole apartment fill up with the yummy smell of sauteing garlic or onions. It makes me happy that in less than hour something that didn’t exist before, that was just separate ingredients, has come together to make something tasty and filling. And also, when it goes well I love the appreciation I get when dinner has been delicious and satisfying.
Everyone should have a handful of go-to of weekday meals that they can get on the table in an hour of less. Some of mine are taco salad, spaghetti and homemade tomato sauce, roast chicken with broccoli, baked salmon, and chicken and vegetable stir fry. But sometimes, the old favorites get well…old, and so I experiment. Sometimes I experiment with recipes from other sources and sometimes I make things up based on what’s available in my house and the tiny convenience store I pass on the way home from the tube. This orzo recipe is one of those I just made up. And it’s pretty good ya’ll.
The orzo, which is pasta cut short and shaped like rice, was taking up space in my cabinet so I decided to highlight it for dinner. I especially like dinner recipes where I can fit multiple food groups together, so I decided to do something like a stir fry with sausage, tomatoes, and leafy greens. The sausage I had, the vegetables were what the conveniences store had. I figured it’d be easy and it would have protein, grain, vegetables, and fruit (the tomato I guess…) all in one. I like when the vegetables are woven throughout because it means I’m more likely to eat them than if the vegetables are kept on the side. Yes, I’m 30 years old and I have ways of tricking myself to eat vegetables.
The first time I made this I used kale instead of spinach. Ryan and I agreed we really liked the dish overall, but we really didn’t like kale. I know kale is a super food and has been impossibly trendy recently, but I just don’t like it. I’m sorry, I just don’t. No matter how it’s cooked kale always always tastes like a dead crunchy autumn leaf off of the sidewalk.
We decided for future iterations we’d use other leafy greens like spinach, but I think chard word work nicely too. Ryan also suggested adding peas, which I think adds nice color and a different texture. In fact, I think this recipe is really versatile and can easily be changed to suit your tastes. If you like kale, or collards, or whatever – use that leafy green instead. If you don’t like sausage you could do this just as easily by sauteing bite sized chunks of chicken breasts, shrimp, or tofu. It’s s-i-m-p-l-e. And that’s totally what we want for after work dinner. Also, it’s great as lunch leftovers for the next day too!
- 6 sausages, in whatever seasoning flavor you like (about 400g or about 1 pound)
- olive oil
- 4 medium sized round tomatoes, chopped roughly to 1" pieces (about 380g or about .8 pounds)
- 1-2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 teaspoon tomato paste
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 cup orzo
- water to cook the orzo
- 3 cups spinach
- ½ cup frozen peas
- Remove the sausages from their casings.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the skillet is hot add the sausage meat. Cook the meat until cooked through. This takes about 10 minutes depending on the heat of your pan. As you cook the meat, use a wooden spoon to break the sausage up into bite sized pieces.
- Cover a plate with a paper towel and put the cooked sausage on top. Try to pour out as much of the grease from the skillet as you can, but it doesn't have to be perfectly clean. This step helps to drain off the excess grease. You can skip this step if you want, but the overall dish will taste nicer without the grease.
- Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of water to boil. Once it's boiling generously salt the water. Add the orzo to the water and cook for 8 minutes (or check package for timing recommendations). When the orzo is done cooking, drain the water and set the orzo aside.
- Return the empty skillet you used before back to the stove. Add a splash of olive oil if the pan is dry. Once the oil is hot, add the tomatoes, garlic, tomato paste. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5-7 minutes or until the tomatoes are losing their juices and everything is starting to simmer. Taste and adjust seasonings if you need to.
- Add the spinach to the skillet. Stir the spinach in until it starts to wilt, about 1-2 minutes.
- Next add the frozen peas. Stir the peas in until they lose their frozen look and start to turn brighter green, about 1 minute.
- Now add the sausage and orzo to the skillet. Mix so everything is coated with the tomato juices and the vegetables are distributed throughout.
- Serve in a bowl or on a plate.