The Pasta Substitute Giada De Laurentiis Uses In Rice Pudding

Rice pudding is a warm, comforting dessert that elevates humble rice to make it the star of the show. A classic rice pudding recipe uses short-grain rice, milk, cream, sugar, salt, and vanilla, which gets cooked together until it resembles a creamy porridge. As delicious as it is alone, many people like to add toppings like fresh fruit, chocolate, or the often controversial raisins. Italian-born and raised chef Giada De Laurentiis's spin on rice pudding sticks to her roots by swapping orzo for rice.

Laurentiis's recipe for white chocolate orzo pudding uses orzo pasta, which is a comparable size to rice grains and also cooks similarly. On her website Giadzy, she explained that she likes to use orzo because of its texture and closeness to the shape of rice. Her pudding also strays from warming spice flavors of cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger to feature white chocolate, orange zest, and Italian amaretti cookies. 

Her recipe garnered an impressive 5-star review on Food Network, with one person writing, "This was easy to make and everyone loved it." Since you only need 1 cup of orzo to make this dessert, it'd be wise to double — or triple — the amount and make something savory for dinner, too. 

Orzo can be used in sweet and savory applications

If you're wondering if you should keep orzo in your pantry, the answer is yes. Because orzo is a dried pasta, it has a long shelf life and can be used in numerous applications, from soups and pasta salads to desserts. Much like other types of pasta, there are a few tips to ensure your orzo is cooked well. 

If you're making Giada De Laurentiis's "rice" pudding, simmer the milk, sugar, salt, and spices in a pot first, then add the orzo and allow it all to simmer and cook together for 12-14 minutes. If you plan to cook orzo on its own, add the pasta to a skillet with butter and toast it before adding liquid, then whisk and cover until the pasta has cooked through to a perfect al dente texture. 

If you want to enjoy orzo for dinners and desserts — and to be honest, why wouldn't you — plenty of recipes feature this ingredient. Since orzo looks and acts like rice, it can be used as a substitute for rice in stuffed peppers. Orzo can also be substituted for other kinds of pasta to change up the texture of a dish, like in shrimp scampi, which traditionally uses linguini. If that's not enough, orzo can also be substituted for breadcrumbs, such as in ricotta meatballs, where the pasta absorbs more sauce, ensuring a juicy and flavorful meatball.