The Fall Ingredient Swap That Will Majorly Upgrade Your Orzo

Somebody call a doctor — we've got a scorching case of fall fever. It isn't just us: our dishes are catching the fever, too. Luckily, there's a seasonal ingredient arriving just in time to majorly upgrade your orzo

So, what actually is orzo, after all? The best way to describe it might be by saying what orzo isn't. According to Collins Dictionary, "orzo" comes from the Italian word for "barley." While orzo may be small and barley-grain shaped, there isn't any actual barley in orzo; it's usually made from flour, per Good Housekeeping. It probably doesn't help that many folks also confuse orzo for a type of rice, due to its similar size, shape, and texture. In actuality, orzo is a super-small pasta (aka risoni or pastina, which means "small pasta" in Italian, per MasterClass). Like other kinds of pasta, orzo is prepared simply by boiling it in salted water until al dente. It's even used in some soups, similar to how farfalle or elbow pasta is used in minestrone.

So, what's the secret fall ingredient that'll take your orzo to the next level? We're glad you asked.

Stir in a little pumpkin

It's no secret that pumpkin can be a transformative complementary ingredient to desserts like pies, tiramisu, and cheesecake. But, if you've never considered walking on the savory side with pumpkin, it's time to start reconsidering. According to Healthline, pumpkins are a type of squash in the same family as cucumbers, and they're packed with an impressive array of health benefits. Just one cup of canned pumpkin contains 7 grams of fiber, 10% of the daily value (DV) for potassium, and a whopping 209% of the DV for vitamin A. Plus, not only is it incredibly nutritious, but pumpkin can also be a super versatile ingredient in the kitchen: it can be utilized in various savory dishes just like other squashes.

When it comes to orzo, stirring pumpkin into the mix as a substitute for milk or butter makes for a much lighter, creamier mouthfeel with a Risotto-like texture and a slightly sweeter taste, says Serious Eats. It recommends pairing your pumpkin orzo with sage for a savory, earthy, slightly-sweet flavor palette. If you're using fresh pumpkin, bake it first to soften and then puree before incorporating it into your orzo.

Peanuts' Linus once famously prescribed, "There are three things that I've learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin." But, we want to talk about pumpkin, and add it to the orzo conversation. It's a seasonal treat to the senses — and your body will thank you, too.