Butternut Squash Orzo with Pine Nuts, Balsamic Drizzle, and Fried Sage

by Erin

I am currently battling some sort of cold. I call in sick to work but yesterday was one of those days. I’ve slept over 12 hours the past two days and I’m still not feeling any better today. However, being sick is kind of boring, especially without the internet, so I actually did run into work quick to get some things to work on at home (and to post this).

Sometimes I don’t read ingredient lists properly. I either screw up writing down the correct amount needed or the ingredient itself. Take this recipe for example: I bought orzo instead of arborio rice. So viola I made orzo intead of risotto, and it still tasted great. The fried sage and balsamic drizzle are must haves for this dish. Never thought that fried sage would be so wonderful. They turn into crispy little flavor wonders.

Butternut Orzo

One year ago: Chicken Pad Thai


Serves 4



1 small butternut squash (or about 2 cups peeled and cubed)

2 cups chicken stock (or vegetable for a vegetarian option)

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 shallots, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbsp chopped fresh sage

1 cup whole wheat orzo

1/4 cup dry white wine

1 Tbsp unsalted butter

Salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 cup grated Asiago cheese, divided


1/4 cup pine nuts

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided

8-10 fresh sage leaves


1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

1 Tbsp brown sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cut squash in half lengthwise. Rub with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange on a foil-lined baking sheet, cut side down. Prick outside skin a few times with a fork. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, or until tender (20-25 minutes if used cubed). Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Scoop flesh out of skin and purée in a food processor until smooth. Measure out 1 cup of purée and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, warm chicken stock in a small saucepan set over low heat. Cover and keep warm.
  4. To prepare garnishes, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a very small saucepan set over medium heat. When oil is hot, add pine nuts, stirring until coated with oil. Toast for 2 to 3 minutes or until nuts start to turn golden brown. Keep an eye on them, they can go from toasted to burnt very quickly.
  5. Remove nuts from pan with a slotted spoon and transfer to a paper towel lined plate. Return pan to heat and add remaining 4 tablespoons oil, or enough to form a 1/4-thick layer in the bottom of the pan. When the oil is hot and shimmering, add sage leaves, 2 or 3 at a time (be careful, they will crackle). Cook for about 30 seconds then quickly remove from oil and transfer to a paper-towel lined plate to cool. Repeat with remaining leaves.
  6. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan set over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic and saute until softened and fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Add chopped sage and cook for another minute. Add orzo and stir until grains are coated.
  7. Add wine and stir the wine has completely absorbed. Add 1/2 cup of warm chicken stock to the orzo, stirring until liquid is mostly absorbed before adding more. Continue to add stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly after each addition. After about 10 minutes, when the orzo is almost done, stir in squash purée. Continue to cook until orzo is creamy and al dente. Season with salt and pepper.
  8. Meanwhile, in a small pan over medium heat, reduce the balsamic vinegar combined with brown sugar until thick and syrupy. Set aside.
  9. Finish orzo with butter and 1/4 cup grated Asiago, stirring until fully incorporated. Divide among serving bowls and top with remaining cheese, a drizzle of balsamic glaze, pine nuts, and sage leaves.

Source: Spontaneously adapted slightly from Love & Olive Oil.


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Joanne April 4, 2013 - 5:36 am

Oh no!! Feel better girl!

It’s nice to know that orzo works here as well since it’s so much less expensive than arborio rice! Definitely a great dish…I’m a sucker for anything that involves butternut and sage.

spiffycookie April 4, 2013 - 8:53 am

Maybe it was my graduate student subconscious that made me buy the cheaper item? I had no idea it was cheaper than the rice.

Tracey April 3, 2013 - 1:35 pm

I hope you feel better soon Erin! Being sick is the pits. Too bad I can’t deliver some yummy food for you :) I adore all things butternut squash, and the balsamic drizzle just takes this to another level. YUM!

spiffycookie April 4, 2013 - 8:55 am

Thanks! I feel a little better today, but still not great. I was bored sitting at home though, two days was too much haha.

Vicki @ WITK April 3, 2013 - 12:57 pm

Aww, feel better! I remember ony getting sick in grad school after I took a vacation, otherwise I was so isolated from other people! Great looking orzo dish, and yes, fried sage is surprisingly delicious.

spiffycookie April 4, 2013 - 8:54 am

I blame all the family/kids I was around for my nephew’s birthday


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