Artichoke & Roasted Tomato Orzo, “Risotto Style”

Chef Jonathan “JB” Bennett’s Artichoke and Roasted Tomato Orzo, “Risotto Style” is reminiscent of a drive down the central California coast in the summer, when the tomatoes and artichokes are at their peak. He takes the familiar Italian classic method for cooking Arborio rice, and uses Barilla Orzo pasta.

1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds Cipollini onions, peeled, halved
3/4 cup garlic cloves, sliced
3/4 cup ground black pepper
6 pounds assorted baby tomatoes, halved, oven roasted
7 1/2 cups unsalted chicken or vegetable stock
3 pounds Barilla Orzo
6 pounds baby artichokes, cleaned, quartered
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 cup loosely packed basil chiffonade
1 1/2 teaspoons red chile flakes
7 1/2 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 1/2 pounds grated pecorino sardo, or other semi-firm cheese
Instructions
  1. Roast halved tomatoes in 375ºF convection oven, drizzled with olive oil on parchment lined sheet pans until most moisture is evaporated and skins are wrinkled.
  2. Heat oil in large rondeau on medium-high heat. Fry artichokes and baby onions 5-7 min. or until artichokes begin to brown and crisp. Drain artichokes and onions on racks; season with salt.
  3. Add garlic, basil, pepper and chiles to remaining oil in pot; cook 1-2 min. on medium heat until fragrant. Add tomatoes; toss to combine. Strain mixture, reserving seasoned oil.
  4. Meanwhile, combine milk, stock and salt in pot on medium heat until simmering.
  5. Heat 3/4 cup seasoned oil in large rondeau on medium-high heat. Add orzo; toast 2-3 min., or until pasta begins to brown. Stir in 2-1/2 quarts milk mixture; reduce heat low. Cook 7 to 8 min., or until most of the liquid is absorbed by the pasta, stirring frequently. Add remaining milk mixture to pot; cook 2-3 min., or until pasta is creamy and al dente.
  6. Stir in cheese and 3 quarts fried artichoke mixture. Garnish with the remaining artichoke before serving.