Orzo risotto is more of a technique rather than a recipe.
The same process for making regular risotto is also used for making orzo risotto.
For those not familiar, orzo is a kind of pasta, shaped like a large grain of rice.
In Greece, orzo is very popular and many well-known dishes are made with it.
Orzo risotto with shrimp and saffron is one of these dishes!
How to clean shrimp
Whichever the variety of shrimp, the cleaning method is always the same.
Start off by removing the heads and shells. Do not throw away the heads!
Devein the shrimp by cutting a slit from the head to the tail end and remove the black vein that runs through the center.
The larger the shrimp, the more prominent the black vein, which is nothing more than its digestive track.
After all shrimp is cleaned and deveined, store in the refrigerator until last minute.
With the shrimp heads that you removed, we will now make our easy shrimp stock.
How to make a simple shrimp stock
Orzo risotto with shrimp requires your full attention, so you should begin by getting all your ingredients ready at hand.
Weight carefully all your ingredients.
Dice the onions, mince the garlic and use a blender to chop your tomato into a purée.
After you prepare the ingredients, the very next step is to create your stock.
The stock we are going to make is the base to our shrimp orzo risotto and is especially important.
This rich seafood stock is so simple, quick to prepare and all that you need are the heads of the shrimp.
So, again, don’t throw them out!
The shrimp shells are not used, because they really have nothing to offer, as all the flavor is found in the heads.
On the other hand, shrimp flesh is not used for a very important reason.
Shrimp requires only a couple of minutes of cooking, thus placing it in the stock for 10-15 minutes would result in an overcooked shrimp, which would be hard, chewy and tasteless.
In our shrimp stock, we have added saffron as well.
Saffron is a spice derived from the flower of “saffron crocus” and is one of the most expensive spices by weight in the world.
Greek saffron (Krokos) belongs to the highest quality in the world and we proudly call it “the gold of the Greek land”.
A little goes a long way, you will notice that we only use 0.12 gr. of saffron.
It’s worth mentioning, that you could also use the heads of lobsters or crayfish for your seafood stock.
Remember to use cold water to start your stock and NEVER allow it to boil, but rather keep it simmering.
Saffron is very delicate and fierce boil will destroy its flavor and color.
With your shrimp stock simmering, it’s time to start sautéing the onions!
How to make orzo risotto with shrimp and saffron
Now, that you have cleaned your shrimp and stock is simmering on the stove top, it’s time to start!
On medium-high heat, start by adding your onion and garlic to a pan and sautéing for 3-4 minutes with the olive oil.
Add the orzo and toast.
By toasting the orzo, you allow it to absorb all the beautiful aromas of the olive oil and also create a crust-like exterior.
This crust-like exterior prevents the orzo from being overcooked and becoming mushy. So, super important step, don’t skip it!
Add the tomato paste, stir so as all the individual grains are nicely coated red and then add the white wine.
Use an excellent quality of dry white wine.
After the white wine evaporates, it’s time to proceed with the shrimp stock.
This is where the risotto requires your full attention.
On medium heat, start by gradually adding the stock one ladle at a time.
In order to yield the best results, your stock should be simmering.
The addition of hot stock keeps on the cooking process in the right way, while cold or lukewarm stock on orzo will result in disaster.
The process now is important! The heat is on medium and you’ve just added your first ladle of stock.
With a big wooden spoon and in circular motion, stir the orzo continuously.
When all the liquid is absorbed, add the tomato purée and stir again.
Add another ladle and repeat.
Around 15 minutes you should start adding less liquid as the orzo is almost cooked al dente (adding too much stock at the end of the process will result in an overcooked orzo).
At this point, add the shrimp.
Orzo risotto needs about 17-19 minutes in total, but the total amount may vary 2-3 minutes, depending on the variety and quality of the orzo.
Shrimp literally need 2-3 minutes of cooking, in order to be juicy and tender!
You are ready to remove the pan from the heat.
Now, it is time to scoop in that delicious cream cheese or butter that will make your orzo risotto with shrimp creamy.
Finally, add the finely chopped parsley and chives and give it all a gentle stir.
By adding the herbs after you remove the pan from the heat, you preserve their rich green color and beautiful flavor.
IMPORTANT STEP: Place a lid on your pan, and let the orzo risotto with shrimp to rest for 2-3 minutes.
This allows all the flavors to come together.
Now, it is time to serve on warm plates! Grab a glass of white wine and enjoy!
- 12 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (keep heads in a small bowl)
- 250gr. orzo
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 60ml. extra virgin olive oil
- 60ml. dry white wine
- 1tsp. tomato paste
- 1 ripe tomato, pureed (approximately 200gr.)
- 1 cube bio vegetable stock (optional)
- 1/3 bunch parsley, finely chopped
- 1/3 bunch chives, finely chopped
- 1tsp. butter or cream cheese (optional)
- 1lt. cold water
- 0,12gr. saffron
Place a medium pot on high heat.
Add the water and the shrimp heads.
Bring to a boil and add a pinch of salt.
Lower the heat and simmer for about 10-15 minutes.
Remove the shrimp heads with a slotted spoon and discard.
Add the saffron and stir.
Cover with a lid and let the stock keep simmering.
Place a medium-sized pan over medium-high heat.
Heat the olive oil and add the onion.
Sprinkle a pinch of salt and sauté until translucent, for 3-4 minutes.
Add the garlic, stir and cook for another minute.
Add the orzo and stir until it coats with the olive oil, for additional 2-3 minutes.
Add the tomato paste and stir carefully until nicely combined, for 1 minute.
Pour in the dry white wine and deglaze, stirring until it evaporates.
Turn heat on medium, add the first ladle of simmering shrimp stock and cook until it is absorbed, stirring continuously.
Pour in the pureed tomato and the cube of vegetable stock (if using).
Add another ladle of shrimp stock and cook until it is absorbed again.
Around 15 minutes you should start adding less liquid as the orzo is almost cooked al dente.
Orzo risotto needs about 17-19 minutes in total.
Add the shrimp and stir gently.
Cook shrimp for 2-3 minutes.
Check for doneness.
Add the fresh parsley, chives, freshly ground pepper, a tablespoon of shrimp stock and butter or cream cheese.
Stir gently again and cover with a lid for 2-3 minutes.
Serve immediately and enjoy!