Orzo and Fontina Casserole

I saw Giada de Laurentis making this side dish, and I thought it looked delicious.  It is part of her steak house dinner menu, and since I had a plan to have people over for a steak dinner, this seemed pretty appropriate.  The list of ingredients is one that makes one swoon regardless of what is done with them; butter, onion, mushrooms, fontina cheese, green peas, mozzarella, and orzo pasta. Do I need to continue?  I thought not.

I changed a few things in this recipe.  I used whole wheat orzo, only 1 tablespoon of butter, added extra mushrooms (10 oz.) and extra peas (about 1 1/2 cups) and used 1/2 2% milk and 1/2 cream to make the full 1/2 cup required.  I also was unable to purchase Marsala wine on a Sunday in Texas, so I used a white wine instead.  Texas, our Texas!  All hail the mighty State!

I really do like that Texas doesn’t sell hard liquor on Sundays, even though it was an inconvenience.  

I am sure the flavor is quite good with the marsala wine, but it was really quite good without it as well, so no worries my fellow Texas foodies.  No need to spend $12.99 0n a bottle of marsala when an $8.99 bottle of white wine will do.  Cheap?  Yes, I am cheap.

I don’t have any good pics of this dish, but it’s image does not do it justice.  It is a casserole, and who can think of a casserole who photographs well?  Nobody!  So, it tastes good and it looks like mush…so what?

Here is the food network pic and the recipe I used.  Try it!  



4 cups chicken broth

1 pound whole wheat orzo pasta

1 1/2 tablespoons butter

1 onion, chopped

10 ounces mushrooms, sliced

1 cup white wine

1/4 cup 2% milk and 1/2 cup cream

4 ounces shredded fontina cheese (about 1 cup)

4 ounces diced fresh mozzarella cheese (about 1 cup)

1 amd 1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup bread crumbs

1/4 cup grated Parmesan

1 teaspoon dried thyme


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a 9 by 13-inch baking dish with butter or Pam.


Bring the chicken broth to a boil over medium-high heat in a medium saucepan. Add the orzo and cook until almost tender, about 7 minutes. Pour the orzo and the broth into a large bowl. Set aside.


Meanwhile, melt the butter over medium heat in a medium skillet. Add the onions and saute until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and continue to saute until the mushrooms are beginning to turn golden around the edges, about 7 minutes. Add the Marsala. Scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan and cook until the Marsala has reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the mushroom mixture to the orzo in the large bowl. Add the cream, fontina, mozzarella, peas, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.


In a small bowl combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan, and dried thyme. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture on top of the pasta. Bake until golden, about 25 minutes.


Everyone liked this dish.  This recipe works well with a simple main dish like grilled steak.  I am not a fan of battling flavors.  Keep your menu simple.  If you have a dish that is complex, don’t make your guests choose which part of the meal is the best.  It is hard to compare good simple dishes with good complex dishes, so don’t make your guests tastebuds go crazy.  Make the meal enjoyable.