This dead-simple baked pasta is going to solve all your early-spring meals. It starts out as a welcome hot dish for gray, blustery days. But it also eats fine at room temperature. Leftovers served as chilled pasta salad make an instant lunch on sunny afternoons. Whatever spring throws your way, this dish has you covered. And it comes together in a snap: you chop the pepper and quickly blend the sauce while the orzo cooks on the stove top. Then the whole thing goes in the oven, and done.
This pasta and bean number is homey and comforting, thanks to cooking the orzo in veggie broth with a sprig of rosemary. Then you'll bathe the pasta and chickpeas in a creamy, high-protein sauce of silken tofu blended with herbs, a little white wine, and a good dose of spring onions. Green peas and diced roasted red peppers add welcome color and gorgeous little pops of sweetness. Plus, with frozen peas and jarred red peppers, you can keep the ingredients for this guy on hand to toss together on any given evening.
And if you're in the mood for something a little richer, feel free to top the whole thing with some panko crumbs tossed in oil and a little salt.
Creamy Orzo and Chickpea Bake (from the Pantry)
2 cups water
2 no-salt-added vegetable bouillon cubes
1 fresh rosemary sprig
1 cup orzo
1 15-oz can chickpeas
1 large jarred roasted red pepper (or freshly roasted, if preferred)
6 oz silken tofu (half an aseptic pack)
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 TBSP canola oil (or other neutral oil, but olive oil is not recommended [see Note])
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp fine sea or kosher salt
freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup frozen peas
Add water and bouillon cubes to a medium pot over high heat. Dissolve cubes and bring to a boil. Add rosemary sprig and orzo. Boil 9 minutes (or according to package directions), stirring frequently to prevent sticking. Do not drain. Discard rosemary sprig.
While the pasta cooks, heat oven to 375. Drain and rinse chickpeas in a sieve and set aside to let drain thoroughly. Chop pepper into small dice.
Next, prepare the sauce. Add tofu, wine, white and firm pale green portions of scallions (reserve tops for garnish or for another purpose), oil, thyme, oregano, salt, and black pepper to a food processor. Blend until smooth.
Add chickpeas, diced pepper, and frozen peas to the orzo pot. Stir to combine. Add sauce and mix thoroughly. Transfer contents to a 1 1/2-quart baking dish (shallow, app 8"x12") and bake 20 minutes. Let cool five minutes before serving. Garnish with sliced scallion tops, if desired.
[Note: food processors and immersion blenders can turn olive oil bitter. I found that to be true when processing this sauce with olive oil and had good results using canola oil instead.]