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Quick Fix: No need for constant stirring with this ‘risotto’ recipe

by Tribune News Service | September 7, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.
Quick Spinach and Tomato "Risotto" with Seared Scallops. (Linda Gassenheimer/TNS)

This mock "risotto" takes only 10 minutes to make and doesn't need constant stirring. Instead of using traditional rice for the risotto, I use orzo, a rice-shaped pasta, and a large nonstick skillet for this quick meal. The orzo has a creamy texture when cooked this way. Using a large, nonstick skillet instead of a saucepan increases the surface area so the orzo cooks faster and doesn't stick. There's no need for constant stirring as with a rice-based risotto.

While the risotto boils, the scallops are sauteed. Sweet, tender scallops need very little cooking. In fact, to remain delicate and flavorful, they should be cooked only a few minutes over high heat in a skillet large enough to hold them in one layer without touching. The result will be a crusty coating while the inside remains juicy.

Helpful hints

• When buying scallops, ask for dry, not wet scallops. The wet ones have been treated with a solution that helps keep them moist. They will be difficult to sear and brown.


• Start orzo.

• Prepare remaining ingredients.

• Sautee scallops.

• Finish orzo.

Shopping list

To buy: 3/4 pound fresh, large scallops, one box orzo, one small container crumbled blue cheese, one bottle cayenne pepper, one can no-salt-added chicken broth, one package washed, ready-to-eat spinach, one tomato and one piece Parmesan cheese.

Staples: canola oil, salt and black peppercorns.

Linda Gassenheimer is the author of more than 30 cookbooks. Listen to Linda on and all major podcast sites. Email her at [email protected].



Makes: 2 servings

3/4 pound fresh, large scallops

1 tablespoon canola oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pat scallops dry with a paper towel. Heat oil in a skillet over-high heat. When smoking, add scallops and sauté 2 minutes, turn scallops over and sear 1 minute. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Per serving: 210 calories (35% from fat), 8.1 g fat (0.6 g saturated, 4.3 g monounsaturated), 54 mg cholesterol, 28.6 g protein, 4 g carbohydrates, no fiber, 276 mg sodium.


Makes: 2 servings

1 1/2-cups no-salt-added chicken broth

1 cup water

2/3 cup orzo

1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese

Pinch cayenne pepper

Salt freshly ground black pepper

2 cups washed, ready-to-eat baby spinach

1 tomato cut into cubes (about 1 cup)

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken broth and water. When liquid is boiling, add the orzo and blue cheese. Stir to bring back to a boil and cook 8 minutes. All liquid should be absorbed and orzo soft. Boil a little longer if needed. Remove from heat and stir in the cayenne pepper and salt and pepper to taste. Mix in the spinach and tomatoes. Stir until spinach starts to wilt. Divide between 2 dinner plates and sprinkle Parmesan cheese over both.

Per serving: 384 calories (28% from fat), 12 g fat (7 g saturated, 0.9 g monounsaturated), 30 mg cholesterol, 19.4 g protein, 49.9 g carbohydrates, 3.6 g fiber, 634 mg sodium.

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