The end of August is one of my favorite times of the year. With summer crops in full swing, our garden is overflowing with amazing fruits and vegetables and the farmers markets are flush with produce that is as sweet as candy. It is easy to overstock your refrigerator when the choices are endless and the prices are cheap!
If I had to pick one recipe that defines summer for me it would be my mom’s zucchini casserole. When I was little, it was a staple meal in our house and one that my brother and I adored! As soon as the zucchinis were ripe on the vine, my mom would start to cook. Simple and fresh, with only four main ingredients, it was easy to whip up whenever we asked (and we asked for it a lot)!
This recipe for Zucchini and Sausage Orzo is inspired by that dish. Most people think that zucchinis are bland and boring. I disagree! Once cooked they have a mildly sweet flavor that adapts well to spices and compliments the flavors you are cooking with. Cooked in a spicy tomato sauce, the zucchini in this dish adds a crisp and refreshing twist when paired with sausage and orzo pasta.
The beauty of this meal is that you cook the orzo pasta in the same pot as the sauce. Not only do the flavors blend seamlessly together as they simmer together, but you are eliminating extra steps and minimizing clean up (if you skip the sausage, you actually have a one-pot dinner that is just as delicious!).
The trick to this recipe is using a bottle of stewed tomatoes to create the sauce. Because stewed tomatoes have higher water content than a thick tomato sauce it allows for the pasta to absorb liquid and cook properly. I like to make this recipe using stewed tomatoes that we made and canned ourselves (I will post that recipe soon) but if you do not have fresh stewed tomatoes, don’t fret! You can pick up a can at your local supermarket and they work just as well. Whether I am using tomatoes that I prepared myself or ones from a can, I always like to add a couple of fresh diced tomatoes to my sauce. This helps to add a little extra sweetness to the sauce.
A couple of tips:
- Zucchinis vary in size. If you have a zucchini with a particularly large end and a thin top, you will need to chop accordingly. While you probably cut the smaller pieces in half, the bottom pieces may require multiple cuts to make a similar size.
- When adding the orzo pasta to your pot, make sure that there is enough liquid in the pan for the pasta to cook properly. You want to have little puddles of liquid and all the pasta should be mixed into the sauce (see photo above).
- If during the first 5 minutes of adding the pasta you notice there is not enough liquid in the pan, simply stir in more water in 1/4 cup increments. The liquid should be simmering around the edges of the pan.
- Let the pasta sit for 5 minutes without a cover before serving and any stray liquid should be absorbed.