In this post:
- introductory quote by Elizabeth Luard
- what is kritharaki and what could you serve it with?
- Al dente… or not?
- difference of kritharaki and orzo pasta
- cooking kritharaki alongside a roast in place of potatoes
- recipe for kritharaki pasta with tomato sauce
“The lamb was exquisitely pink and juicy inside, deliciously charred on the outside, and arrived with a risotto whose curious consistency and complex flavour led me to investigate its composition…..a few questions…. revealed that the risotto included pine kernels and tiny rice-shaped scraps of pasta dough, a surprisingly sophisticated combination”
Elizabeth Luard, Still Life
What is kritharaki and what could you serve it with
Kritharaki (Κριθαράκι), a type of Greek pasta which looks a bit like long-grain rice, is especially good with tomato sauce; or with nuts, nutmeg and peas; or with chicken, or very traditionally as part of a giouvetsi (γιουβέτσι) – casseroled meat to which the pasta is added to cook in the meat juices. Or, as described in Elizabeth Luard’s quote above, it can be added to risotto with a handful of pine kernels. And it’s also good with mince.
Al dente… or not?
It’s not like Italian pasta – it should not be served al dente – but nor should it be cooked to a mush.
Difference of kritharaki and orzo pasta
There are many advantages to using kritharaki over Italian orzo (whose other name is risoni). Kritharaki comes in three sizes. If you go for the largest it will take considerably longer to cook, which gives it longer and more body to soak up the cooking juice. Greeks use a slightly different durram wheat to make their kritharaki (Italians get theirs often from the US) and this also has the advantage of being slower-cooking.
Cooking kritharaki alongside a roast in place of potatoes
You can cook it, in the tomato sauce, alongside a slow roasting lamb. That way you don’t even have to peel the potatoes! Add it in at the end of the cooking, allowing the time specified on the packet, and mixing in well with the cooking juices. Add a little extra stock or vermouth (or wine) if you think necessary.
Recipe for kritharaki pasta with tomato sauce
For about eight people:
- 500g macaroni or orzo pasta or authentic kritharaki
- 4 x 400g tins of good quality, plum tomatoes
- 120 ml red Martini
- 3 tbsp dried mint
- 3 onions, chopped
- 3 tsp Spanish sweet smoked paprika
- cinnamon stick
- 1 head of garlic
- About 40 minutes before the lamb is due to be served put the sliced onions into the same roasting pan as the lamb, and wrap a head of garlic in foil and put it in.
- Ten minutes later check that the onion isn’t burning – baste with some pan juices. They need to caramelise a little
- About twenty minutes before the lamb is due to be served add the tomatoes – which you’ve broken up – and all their juice.
- Add the martini to which you’ve added the dried mint
- Take the garlic out, the flesh should ooze out of the skins. Mash with a little smoked salt
- Add the macaroni
- Add the paprika and cinnamon stick
- Put the roasting tin on the hob to get the liquid simmering
- Put back in the oven (you are slow-cooking the lamb so it’s in at a low temperature – 150ºC – use the aga simmering oven) for 20 minutes, checking after ten minutes that the pasta isn’t drying out. If it is, add a little water or some more red Martini.