Portobello mushrooms with orzo sauce

Portobello mushrooms boldly take the spotlight in a light, creamy garlic and thyme sauce including orzo.

Portobello mushrooms with orzo sauce

I know the title of this recipe might seem like the words are in the wrong order, but it’s correct. This is a celebration of the mighty mushroom, boldly and meatily (without actual meat, of course, though even the most committed carnivore will enjoy this). This isn’t orzo with a mushroom sauce – it’s mushrooms with a sauce that includes orzo.

While you can use any mushrooms that are available, the portobello (or any of the flat, hefty varieties) give this dish the stately, uncompromising presence it needs. Bigger kinds of shiitake are also very good if portobellos are not around, or a mixture of both portobellos and shiitake, as you choose.

Because we’re talking about a huge quantity of mushrooms – they cook way down, of course, so don’t panic when confronted by the enormous pile of sliced mushrooms you’ll start out with – you’ll need to employ the biggest pan in your arsenal. I use my wok, and it works perfectly here. If you are using a smaller pan, you can divide the mushroom-cooking into two batches, combining them before the addition of the sauce ingredients.

Orzo and risoni are the same thing: small pasta the size and shape of rice grains. The only difference is their lineage – Greek or Italian, respectively – so use whatever it’s called where you live. While most brands cook to al dente in under 10 minutes, be aware that some are particularly tough little customers and can take 15 or even 20 minutes, so be guided by the recommended time on the pack and start testing a minute or so before that time is up.

Finally, I add a little bit of cream at the end of cooking. Feel free to substitute with crème fraîche or mascarpone if you have any to hand. You can also use sour cream, for a slightly tarter edge, or yoghurt – the thick Greek kind and, please, not of any reduced-fat variety – though you will need to add it off the heat as it’s prone to curdling.

Portobello mushrooms with orzo sauce


Serves 2.

2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
500g (1 pound) portobello mushrooms
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ teaspoon dried thyme
80ml (⅓ cup) white wine
45ml (3 tablespoons) cream
sea salt flakes
freshly ground black pepper
150g (1 cup) orzo
2 tablespoons parsley leaves, to serve

Wipe the mushrooms clean, trim and cut into finger-width slices.

Bring a saucepan of lightly salted water to the boil, getting it ready for the orzo.

In a large pan over medium-high heat, warm the butter and oil. When the butter foams, add the mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently.

Cook until mushrooms release their liquid, then keep cooking until no liquid remains and the mushrooms have cooked down and become darkly golden.

Put the orzo into the pan of boiling water to cook, following recommended timing from the pack.

Drizzle the balsamic vinegar over the mushrooms and add the thyme and garlic. Cook, stirring, just until the garlic’s fragrance rises.

Pour in the wine and continue cooking until no liquid remains in the pan.

Turn the heat to low, add the cream and let it simmer gently. Taste, seasoning with salt and pepper as required.

Drain the orzo and add to the mushrooms. Toss together, gently but thoroughly, and serve immediately, scattering over some roughly chopped parsley as you do.