A Spectacular Okra Orzo — Made from What’s On Hand

| January 25, 2011 | 1 Comment

Every now and then I open the kitchen cupboard or spare freezer in the garage and have to stifle a scream because both are bulging with so many half-used boxes of pasta, cans of diced tomatoes, packages of sausage, and frozen vegetables that I vow to challenge myself to whip something tasty and nutritious for my family from these cast-asides. No doubt you never have cupboards that are bulging at the seams and won’t close, or so many things in the freezer that it’s simply not possible to cram your bottle of vodka back in there after making yourself a martini. In times like these, the bounty of food on hand can be the mother of invention. All you need is a spark of creativity and a sense of adventure to give birth to something delicious for the table.

Last week I had two mid-week days off and when it came time to think about what to do for dinner during one of those days, I was attacked by the contents of our kitchen cupboard. More specifically, a half-used box of orzo was growling viciously from under several layers of half-used boxes of pasta and beans on the dry goods shelf. Lurking nearby, baring their teeth and eying me with contempt from the shelf below, were half-forgotten cans of diced tomatoes. Then I took a walk to the garage to inspect the spare freezer and was set upon by a Ziploc bag filled with three links of Italian sausage and half a package of sweet sausage that fell from the door pockets onto my feet. Have you ever been assaulted by frozen meat? In addition to the weight of the packages crashing onto your arches, there’s the frosty burn from contact with your skin.

This called for a drink, so I grabbed the bottle of vodka we keep in the freezer in the kitchen. A package of frozen peas and a package of frozen okra cascaded from the shelf like a rock slide triggered by the movement of a massive boulder. Thankfully, they landed on the floor and didn’t hurt any of our three dogs, one of which (Jasper, the Shih Tzu) was eying the packages warily and then casting his glance upward as if to ask if I was about to feed him peas and okra. He looked almost crestfallen when I gathered the packages and told him they weren’t for him.

I had everything I needed to make a tasty dinner. I made myself a vodka and tonic and set myself to work, happy in the knowledge that I was making a dent in the forgotten freezer and cupboard food.

Okra Orzo with Italian Sausage


  1. 4 tablespoons (60 ml.) of olive oil
  2. 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  3. 1 yellow or white onion, diced
  4. 3 links of Italian sausage and half a package of mild sweet sausage
  5. 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) dried basil
  6. 1 tablespoon (15 ml.) dried thyme
  7. 2 14.5-ounce (860 ml.) cans of diced tomatoes
  8. 2 cups (480 ml.) of frozen okra
  9. 2 cups (480 ml.) of frozen peas
  10. ½ box of dried Orzo (any other pasta would also work)
  11. 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) chopped parsley for garnish


  • Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium high heat.
  • Sauté garlic until golden, add onions and stir until onions begin to turn translucent.
  • Add sausage and use a wooden spoon to break into small pieces in the pan.
  • Continue until sausage is cooked, then lower heat and add basil, thyme and cans of tomatoes, and stir until mixture starts to boil.
  • Add frozen okra and peas and stir until they’ve thawed and are cooked, but still vivid green.
  • Turn off heat and cover.
  • Boil orzo (or other pasta) according to package’s instructions and drain when it’s cooked.
  • In a bowl, combine the pasta with the other cooked ingredients and toss. Top with the chopped parsley for garnish and serve.


— Vic

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Category: Pasta

About the Author (Author Profile)

Victor Panichkul is a journalist and writer by training; a cook, wine lover and photographer by passion; and a lover of the outdoors since moving to Oregon more than 10 years ago. He is a native of Bangkok, Thailand.

Comments (1)

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  1. Saba says:

    This was so simple and yummy! and a great mid week meal in chlily winter. I added a bit too much tabasco sauce though, but the soup is still amazing!

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