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ORZO WITH PAN-ROASTED TOMATOES, LEMON,No. Boil. Pasta. That’s right! Small pasta such as orzo works beautifully in a sheet pan. Because of the starches in the pasta (usually you lose some of them when you drain the pasta water), it becomes wonderfully creamy and comforting. Along with the tomatoes, I roast lemons in the sheet pan—the resulting flavor is softly acidic and warm, incredible intertwined with the soft herbaceousness of the vermouth. Meyer lemons have a beautiful sweet lemon flavor and are nice if you can find them in season (usually late fall through winter). Leave out the cheese for a vegan version.

  • Yield: 4 Servings


  • 1 pound cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 medium-size lemon, thinly sliced into rounds, seeds removed
  • 3 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 0.33 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 0.33 cup dry vermouth or dry white wine
  • 1 box (16 ounces) orzo pasta
  • 3¾ cups boiling water
  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves, stacked, rolled, and thinly sliced crosswise
  • into ribbons
  • 6 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, roughly torn by hand
  • ¼ cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (preferably freshly grated)
How to Make It
  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position, place a sheet pan on the rack, and preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Place the tomatoes, lemon, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, and the olive oil in a medium-size bowl and toss to combine. Carefully turn the tomato mixture out onto the heated sheet pan, spread it in an even layer, and roast for 10 minutes.
  3. Remove the sheet pan from the oven and stir the vermouth into the tomato mixture. With a silicone spatula, press down on the tomatoes and lemon slices to extract their juices. Stir in the orzo.
  4. Pull the oven rack out partway and set the sheet pan on it. Carefully pour the boiling water into the orzo, stirring to combine and distribute evenly. Wearing oven mitts, cover the sheet pan with aluminum foil (you may need 2 sheets), crimping it tightly around the edges to seal. Bake the pasta for 15 minutes.
  5. Uncover the pan, add the remaining 1 teaspoon salt, stir the orzo, and cook, uncovered, to allow the juices to thicken and any partially cooked pasta from the top layer to absorb more liquid, 5 minutes more.
  6. Preheat the broiler to high. Stir most of the basil into the pasta, then scatter the mozzarella cheese over the top. Sprinkle the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese over the mozzarella and broil until the cheese is melted and golden, 3 to 5 minutes (watch the cheese closely as broiler intensities vary). Remove from the oven and let stand for a few minutes. Sprinkle the remaining basil over the top just before serving.

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