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Orzo with Shiitakes, Caramelized Onions & Spinach

Scott Phillips

Servings: eight to ten as a side dish.

We made a variation of this side dish when I worked in the kitchen at L’Espalier restaurant in Boston, where I learned that orzo pairs wonderfully with Asian flavors.


  • Kosher salt
  • 3 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 1 Tbs. rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
  • 5 Tbs. peanut oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 Tbs. grated fresh ginger (see How to grate ginger)
  • Pinch crushed red chile flakes
  • 6 oz. fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, cleaned, and thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbs. dry sherry (or dry white wine)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely diced
  • 10 oz. spinach, stemmed, washed, and coarsely chopped
  • 1 lb. dried orzo
  • 2 scallions (white and green parts), thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp. toasted sesame seeds (optional)
  • 1 lime, cut into small wedges

Nutritional Information

  • Nutritional Sample Size based on ten servings
  • Calories (kcal) : 260
  • Fat Calories (kcal): 70
  • Fat (g): 8
  • Saturated Fat (g): 1
  • Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 3
  • Monounsaturated Fat (g): 3
  • Cholesterol (mg): 0
  • Sodium (mg): 450
  • Carbohydrates (g): 40
  • Fiber (g): 3
  • Protein (g): 8


  • Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and 2 Tbs. of the peanut oil.
  • Set a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, pour in 1-1/2 Tbs. of the peanut oil and, after a few seconds, add the garlic, ginger, and chile flakes. Stir for 20 seconds, making sure that the garlic doesn’t burn. Add the mushrooms and stir-fry until they soften, 2 to 3 min. Add the sherry and cook for another 30 seconds. Season with salt and pepper and transfer the mixture to a bowl. Reduce the heat to medium, heat the remaining 1-1/2 Tbs. oil in the pan, and add the onions. Season with salt and then sauté them, stirring often, until they’re soft and slightly caramelized, 9 to 10 min. Add the spinach, cover the pan, and steam, shaking the pan occasionally, until the spinach wilts, about 3 minutes. Remove and discard the garlic from the mushrooms, put the mushrooms back in the pan, and toss. Remove from the heat and season lightly with salt and pepper. Reserve until needed.
  • Cook the orzo in the boiling water until it’s just tender, about 9 min. Drain it well and put it in a large bowl. Add the mushroom mixture, soy vinaigrette, scallions, and sesame seeds (if using) and toss. Taste and season. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature, with lime wedges to squeeze over the pasta.


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Reviews (1 review)

  • Setsuko | 12/23/2012

    this is a wonderful pasta side dish. I have served it with beef and fish and have had so many people ask for the recipe. It combines the flavours of the shiitakes, spinach and onions into a very tasteful accompaniment to your main course. Both young (great way for children to enjoy spinach) and old have loved it. It also has a very mild asian flavour which goes well with not only beef but chicken and fish.

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