Italian Orzo Bake

This week’s meal-planning was inspired completely by one of my favorite cookbooks, Moosewood Restaurant New Classics. My dog-eared copy of this book has seen its fair share of splashes of tomato sauce, drops of water, and puffs of flour; it is a comfort just to read, and even more of a comfort to cook its contents.

My original, 70’s Moosewood cookbook was a gift from my Aunt Betsy. It was hers before she passed it on to me, so there are all sorts of notes about what was good, what substitutions worked well, and other fun little treasures throughout. If you are thinking of doing more vegetarian cooking, Moosewood is definitely one of the ways to go. I still dream of making a trip out to their Ithaca, NY restaurant someday.

My first meatless meal of the week evolved from a baked ziti of sorts. The recipe in the Moosewood book was an Italian Orzo Gratin.


I started with the basic idea and then used what I had in the house to whip up a balanced meal, starting with a cup of raw orzo and a can of Trader Joe’s marinara. While I prefer to make my own sauce, TJ’s marinara is a great substitute and can be doctored up with veggies and herbs for more of a homemade taste.

marinara sauce

To the marinara sauce, I added an entire container of silken tofu, whipping it with a whisk until the tofu blended into the sauce, sort of like ricotta cheese, making it more of a “cream” sauce.

On the side, I chopped several cups of baby spinach, half of a white onion, and a red pepper.

spinach and onions

When it came time to cook, I borrowed Moosewood’s idea of cooking the orzo from raw. I started by ladling enough of the sauce and tofu combo  to cover the bottom of a casserole dish, then covered that with dry orzo.


On top of the orzo, I layered the spinach, peppers, and onions. The moisture released from the cooking veggies definitely helps to cook the orzo. On top of the veggies, I layered another thick layer of tofu and sauce, then popped the dish in the oven to bake for 40 minutes at 350.

baked orzo

The orzo cooked perfectly, and while the final dish was a little bit watery, once mixed together, it was fine.

orzo bake

This made a few extra servings, perfect for weekday lunches. While this baked pasta dish was not the fancy grilled tofu I originally planned, it was the perfect low key meal for someone who was not feeling well but wanted to eat something healthy.

Do you have a favorite family cookbook? One that has been passed down or given to you as a gift by a close friend or relative that instantly brings you comfort, like my Moosewood books do?

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Tags: meatless, Moosewood, orzo, pasta, recipe, tofu, vegetables, Vegetarian

  1. Melissa’s avatar

    This sounds perfect for me. I love Moosewood! I’ve had great meals at the restaurant in Ithaca and my mom has a few of the cookbooks.


  2. Megan’s avatar

    This looks awesome. Orzo is one of my favorite pasta shapes. I keep telling my little sister, who is in her first year at Ithaca, that I’m going to come visit so we can go to Moosewood. She always says sure, you want to come for the food, not to see me. :)


  3. Elizabeth’s avatar

    Have you ever been to the Moosewood restaurant?! Years ago when I was in Ithaca visiting colleges, going to Moosewood was a must. I’ve actually never cooked from the cookbook though.


  4. Roxan’s avatar

    Oh, I just last week got my first Moosewood book! I got their low fat favorites. I made a couple of the recipes last night and so far I am loving it! I can’t wait to get some more of the books in their collection but since I already have so many cookbooks I’m trying to wait a little longer before buying anoter one (it’s so hard though!). Which of your moosewood books is your favorite?


  5. Emily @ A Cambridge Story’s avatar

    Looks perfectly healthy and comforting! I’ve never used any of the Moosewood books but hear great things about them!


  6. Heather’s avatar

    I got a Moosewood book a few weeks ago but haven’t had the chance to spend some time with it.

    I hope to one day snag my mom’s Good Housekeeping cookbook – it is very similar to your Moosewood cookbook.


  7. Michelle Collins’s avatar

    This looks great! I love orzo, and am always looking for new dishes to incorporate it in. Thanks for the recipe!


  8. Daisy’s avatar

    i need to make orzo more often. sounds like a great cookbook and a winning dish!!


  9. Michelle’s avatar

    I really like your bakeware. I know, random, but I’ve been meaning to mention this for some time!


  10. alicia’s avatar

    I love the moosewood books – I love their layout and tone – they’re so fun to read. I also really love the Good Housekeeping cookbook. My mom had it when I was a kid and I remember cooking with her and going through the pages….the photos are so 1970′s….but it just makes me happy.


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