Thursday, June 16, 2011

Not Famous but Still Tasty

Mac and cheese is one of my favorite foods in the whole world. There is just something so filling and delicious about a creamy bowl of pasta and cheese. It's good out of the pan, but I especially love it out of the oven with a toasty, crispy, cheesy crust.

A few months ago, my friend Maia introduced me to restaurant just outside of DC called Rustico. One of the best things on their menu, other than the Grilled Romaine Salad, is their appetizer mac and cheese. Inventively, their mac and cheese is made with orzo instead of macaroni. They also top it with a crunchy sprinkling of pretzels instead of breadcrumbs. It is totally delish.

I decided to try to  make something similar for myself by shredding a couple of blocks of leftover cheese, smashing some random pretzels sticks from the last trip we made to Boston, and boiling some orzo I ran out and bought the day after Maia took me to Rustico for the first time.

It came out particularly tasty and was the perfect dish for dinner last night between ice packs, post having a root canal redone.

Orzo and Cheese with Crunchy Pretzel Cheez-It Topping
Serves 2-4

  • 1 cup of orzo
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 oz Jarlsberg, shredded
  • 1 oz Sharp White Cheddar, shredded
  • 2 oz plus 1/4 cup Sharp Cheddar, shredded
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • a small handful of Cheez-Its, smashed
  • a small handful of pretzels, smashed


Fill a medium pot with water and boil. Add your orzo and cook to al dente. Mine took about 8 minutes. Once finished, drain and pour into a small baking dish. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl mix together butter and flour using a fork. In a small sauce pan over low heat, combine butter and flour mixture with milk. Stir till combined. Once combined continue to stir until the sauce thickens. As soon as it starts to coat the back of your spoon, add the cheeses except 1/4 cup Sharp Cheddar, salt, and pepper. Heat until melted throughout, stirring occasionally. When the sauce is thick and creamy, pour it over your orzo and allow it to seep in between the grains to coat the entire dish. Top with remaining cheddar, Cheez-Its, and pretzels.

Bake for 30 minutes uncovered or until top is browned and bubbly.


  1. Root canal? Oh no, those really stink. I'm sorry! On another note, these photos are INCREDIBLE. And I think I'd love everything about this dish. Someone at Allie's Mac N Cheese fest put Cheez-Its on top and it was amazing. Feel better!

  2. Pretzels and Cheez-Its - wow! This sounds phenomenal!

  3. a.) I'm sorry to hear about your root canal. Feel better!
    b.) Please express mail some of that mac and cheese to me! It looks divine!
    c.) If you can't express mail, I'm going to make this myself....asap ;)

  4. Yummm orzo mac and cheese! Hope you feel better soon!

  5. OUCH on the root canal. Hope everything heals soon!

    Cool idea about using orzo. I once used it in a fake-out risotto.

  6. Love the idea of using orzo for mac & cheese. I'm definitely trying this--maybe this week :)