Creamy Orzo with Peas and Spinach

I cycle through recipes and will regularly make a dish for a while, then set it aside. When I come back to it again I am often surprised that I took it out of rotation because it is so good. This is a recipe I made regularly years ago, stopped making, and just began using again. It has a rich creamy sauce but takes advantage of seasonal produce. For this version I used peas and spinach from my CSA La Nay Ferme, but in the past I have made it with fresh asparagus and red bell peppers, with very nice results.

Creamy Orzo with Peas and Spinach
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 c. chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. dried basil or fresh basil to taste
pinch of Aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes to taste
1 Tbsp. sugar
salt and pepper to taste
1-1/2 c. heavy cream
1 c. fresh peas
1 c. fresh spinach
1/4-1/2 c. Parmesan cheese
3/4 lb. orzo pasta
1 Tbsp. fresh basil

Begin by bringing a 5-quart pot full of water to the boil. Add some kosher salt, add the fresh peas and cook for 3 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Save the water and cook the orzo until al dente, about 10-12 minutes. While the orzo is cooking, heat olive oil on medium heat and, when hot, add the onions. Sauté for 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute to soften. Add tomatoes, spices, 1 Tbsp. chopped parsley, sugar, salt, and pepper to taste. Break up tomatoes with the back of a spoon. Cover and let cook 10 minutes. Add cream and heat for 3 minutes. Add peas and spinach. Cook 5 minutes to wilt the spinach. Add cooked orzo and Parmesan cheese. Cook 5 minutes to heat through until it becomes creamy. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. Pour into a serving bowl and garnish with remaining parsley and fresh basil. Serves 6.


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