I love late summer. It’s not deathly hot outside and the air is comfortable and breezy. I love how the sun sits low in the sky and gives everything a golden, rosy glow. Everything seems much more precious because soon autumn will set in and the nights will soon require sweaters and then jackets. But right now? Everything is perfect.
With the slightly cooler evenings that this late summer provides, I think it’s time to bake up a quick little meal that is as fresh as it is hearty. It’s chock full of vegetables from our CSA: beet greens along with their candy cane stems, garlic, onion, sun gold tomatoes, and summer squash (of course). These get sautéed on the stovetop along with a little sweet red pepper and herbs.
Orzo gets tossed alongside grated strong cheddar, and a bit of tomato sauce and milk to keep things moist. And then the best part…
A cracker or breadcrumb topping, of course! I dig the crunchiness and the comfort it provides. Though if you do decide to smush your own crackers like I did, grind ’em up fine or you’ll end up with something more rustic. A finer crumb would have worked better, I think. Add on some more grated cheese and then pop it in the oven to get everything melted and golden like the evening sun.
There you go, a splendid late summer meal. Enjoy!
elsewhere: Over at Poppytalk I bake up a deliciously moist spiced zucchini bread. You’ll need this recipe handy if your squash drawer is anything like mine. Also, I just started writing for the Huffington Post and you can read my first post about homemade maraschino cherries!
late summer vegetable & orzo bake
While this is a rustic dish, try to keep your vegetable dice small to match the orzo as it makes for better bites.
1 c orzo
1 T olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red pepper, diced
1/2 zucchini or summer squash, diced
6 beet leaves + stems, sliced thinly (chard, kale or spinach can be subbed here)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 t dried basil
1/2 t dried oregano
1/4 t dried red chili flakes
1/2 t kosher salt
1/4 c milk
3/4 c tomato sauce
3/4 c grated cheddar cheese + 1/4 c for topping
1 t olive oil
1/4 t dried oregano
1/4 c finely crushed crackers or breadcrumbs
Preheat oven to 400F.
Prepare orzo according to package directions.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a medium sized oven-safe pot over medium heat and add in the onion and garlic, sautéing until translucent. Add in the zucchini, tomatoes, red pepper, and beet stems and greens along with the herbs, salt and chili flakes. Stir until tender-crisp, about 5-8 minutes.
Drain orzo when al dente and return to the pot. Add in the vegetables, along with the milk and the spaghetti sauce. Add in the cheddar cheese and stir until well combined.
In a small saucepan, heat the olive oil and add in the oregano and the crushed crackers or breadcrumbs, stirring until well mixed & slightly fragrant. Top the dish with the crumbs and the reserved cheese and bake uncovered for 20 minutes, or until the top is golden and melty. Remove from oven. Serves 6.
Congrats on HuffPo!! How do you think this would fare with barley? Went haywire in the bulk bins and have it coming out of my ears 🙂
Thanks Darien. Yes, I think this would be delicious with barley! Go for it and let me know how it goes 🙂
Splendid indeed! This looks delicious!
I appreciate all your creative vegetable dishes, and I’m a big fan of Huffington Post. Congrats!
I love how this kind of like baked ziti or mac and cheese…but five hundred thousand times healthier and chock full of veggies! I kind of wish late summer could last forever if it means I could eat this every day.
This looks great! So fresh and healthy! Will be adding this recipe to my list of “must tries!”
Love your red pot and what’s inside, too, of course! I was getting sad about summer leaving, but your way of thinking is much better. Late summer IS the best 🙂
Thanks Amanda, it is quite splendid 🙂
Thank you, Donna! With our CSA giving as it currently is, I see lots more vegetable dishes in my future.
Yes, way healthier, Joanne.
Ali, I hope you do!
Nicole, I love that red pot too – a thoughtful xmas gift from Cornelius. Late summer = agreed!
this looks absolutely delicious – i have never cooked with orzo pasta before – i tend to stick with the fusilli or penne.Is it easy to work with?
What’s spaghetti sauce?
Jade, yes, super easy and it quicks much sooner too because of its small size. You could easily sub any kind of short pasta here, like penne or fusilli.
Daniela, uh, prepared tomato sauce? I’ve always called it spaghetti sauce! I’ve amended the recipe to be more clear 🙂
you come up with the most creative “all in one pot” meals that are not only tasty but healthy too.
Aw, thanks VSB!!!
Oh, how I enjoy eating orzo. You know I never thought to add cheddar cheese to it but I just love the sound of that. Usually with orzo I stick to the Italian influence and just add parmesan or feta even. Which actually isn’t Italian but well, you know 🙂 Baked pasta dishes are definitely on my radar for this fall season.
Just made this with farmers market veggies– amazing. Thanks for the great recipe!
Bijoux, I love cheddar and it really works well here! This is the start of some good fall eats 🙂
BethP, so glad you enjoyed this!! Thanks for letting me know.
ohhhh yum… not only does this have beet greens and tons of tiny tomatoes, but its cheddar + rose sauce? mm, best fall welcome ever! I just made a macaroni and cheese with bacon and scallions yesterday, but this sounds honestly way more special.
I needed a good dinner idea like this- my husband and I have been stuck in a bit of a rut lately. The idea of baking the dish with cheddar is really nice, I can’t wait to see how the flavors all come together 🙂
Elizabeth, it is pretty special and a great way to use up all the vegetables you’ve got languishing in your crisper.
Thanks Christy, enjoy – it’s a good one!
I made this using farro perlato instead of orzo. Farro’s a whole grain, so it imparts a nuttier flavor than orzo, and I think it’s bulkier, so I used less. Judy said it was “odd but good” which was probably more about my substitution than your recipe (I like it). Please consider adding cherry tomatoes to the instructions, and indicate whether the dish should be covered in the oven or not. I did, and probably shouldn’t have.
Incidentally, I pulled up this recipe on my iPhone while at a red light on the drive home. After pulling into my driveway, I requested “Airprint” and the recipe completed printing before I got into the house. This saved me about 3-4 minutes, as no laptop / copy / paste into text editor / format / print was required. Given the number of ELS recipes I make, the new printing feature is a big deal for me. Now if I could just use “Print This Recipe” from my RSS reader (Feedler Pro)…
Robert, amended the recipe with the cherry tomatoes. Glad you’re enjoying the print feature!
I somehow forgot about this recipe and hadn’t made it probably a couple of years. I miraculously had all the stuff* to do so yesterday and wow! I’d forgotten how delicious it was!! I now have leftovers for days and I’m not sharing.
*Actually I didn’t have bread crumbs or crackers except Panko crumbs and those worked amazingly.