home cooked dinners by the season

Roasted Asparagus Orzo

Roasted Asparagus Orzo


My Mother’s Day wishes have changed with every stage of parenting. First it was all about sleep. When our kids were babies the best gift was an uninterrupted night and waking up at whatever time I wanted. The toddler to preschool and first few years of elementary school stage were all about freedom. Having the house completely to myself for an entire morning or afternoon was my idea of a perfect Mother’s day. As the years progressed into the teenage and high school years, a homemade, sentimental card meant the world to me. And now it’s all about the gift of time. With our daughter in college and son just recently graduated, spending an unstructured day together is my idea of a wonderful Mother’s Day.

But through all the years of parenting, the one Mother’s Day request that has remained steady is a day off from cooking, either going to a restaurant or being a guest at my own table.

For dinner, with asparagus in season, I’m suggesting this simple pasta for your kids or husband to put together. There’s nothing like roasting asparagus to bring out its flavor with a little natural sugar caramelization. The white beans add more substance taking the place of meat and the Pecorino cheese and roasted Marcona almonds add just the right amount of richness and sharpness. It’s a meal in one – my favorite kind.

Happy Mother’s Day.


Marcona almonds are native to Spain. They are rounder and shorter than the traditional California almonds. Their texture is softer and their flavor more delicate, almost buttery due to their oil and moisture content. They are commonly found in packaged containers in the specialty foods section of grocery stores, having been roasted in olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt. Typically they are more expensive than California almonds.

Roasted Asparagus Orzo
Serves: 4
  • 1-1/2 lb asparagus
  • 2 tablespoons plus ⅓ cup olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot or green onion
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic (2 medium cloves)
  • 1-1/2 cups cooked Cannelini or Great Northern white beans (15 ounce can, drained)
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 8 oz orzo (1-1/4 cups)
  • ⅓ cup (2 ounces) Marcona almonds
  • ½ cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
  • Red pepper flakes, to taste (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Trim ends from asparagus. Cut asparagus into 1-inch pieces. Toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil and transfer to a baking sheet; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast just until crisp-tender, and lightly browned, about 10-12 minutes.
  2. In a skillet over low to medium heat, cook shallots and garlic in remaining ⅓ cup olive oil just to soften and release flavor, but do not brown, about 1-2 minutes. Stir in beans and lemon zest and turn off heat.
  3. Cook orzo in a large pot of boiling salted water according to package directions for time; drain and immediately stir into the beans in the skillet. Turn on heat and cook just to heat through, about 3 minutes.
  4. Season orzo with salt and pepper, then stir in asparagus, almonds, pecorino cheese and optional red pepper flakes.


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