Rice and Grains

Herbed Basmati Rice and Pasta Pilaf

SERVES 4 to 6 (VEG):  Soaking the rice for our Lebanese pilaf in hot water ensures
that it’s done cooking at the same time as the pasta.

WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS Classic Lebanese rice and pasta pilaf combines rice with pieces of toasted vermicelli that add richness and a nutty flavor. In order to produce perfectly tender rice and pasta, we needed both elements to cook at the same rate. Jump-starting the rice by soaking it in hot water for a mere 15 minutes softened its outer coating and let it absorb water quickly. Once the pasta and rice were done, we let the pilaf stand in the pot for 10 minutes with a towel under the lid to absorb steam. A handful of fresh parsley lent brightness to the finished pilaf. Long-grain white, jasmine, or Texmati rice can be substituted for the basmati.

  • 1½ cups basmati rice
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 ounces vermicelli pasta, broken into 1-inch lengths
  • 1 onion, chopped fine
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2½ cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  1. Place rice in medium bowl and cover with hot tap water by 2 inches; let stand for 15 minutes.
  2. Using your hands, gently swish grains to release excess starch. Carefully pour off water, leaving rice in bowl. Add cold tap water to rice and pour off water. Repeat adding and pouring off cold water 4 to 5 times, until water runs almost clear. Drain rice in fine-mesh strainer.
  3. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 3 minutes. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened but not browned, about 4 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until edges of rice begin to turn translucent, about 3 minutes. Add broth and 1¼ teaspoons salt and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer gently until rice and pasta are tender and broth is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Off heat, lay clean dish towel underneath lid and let pilaf sit for 10 minutes. Add parsley to pilaf and fluff gently with fork to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

VARIATIONS

Herbed Basmati Rice and Pasta Pilaf with Golden Raisins and Almonds -VEG

Stir 2 bay leaves and 1 teaspoon ground cardamom into rice mixture with broth. Discard bay leaves and sprinkle ½ cup raisins over pilaf before covering with dish towel in step 3. Add ½ cup slivered almonds, toasted and chopped coarse, to pilaf with parsley.

Herbed Basmati Rice and Pasta Pilaf with Pomegranate and Walnuts -VEG

Omit onion. Substitute 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger and ½ teaspoon ground cumin for garlic. Substitute ½ cup walnuts, toasted and chopped coarse, ½ cup pomegranate seeds, ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice for parsley.

Herbed Basmati Rice and Pasta Pilaf with Yogurt -VEG

Add ¼ cup plain whole-milk yogurt, ¼ cup minced fresh dill, and ¼ cup minced fresh chives to pilaf with parsley.

Rinsing Rice and Grains

In some recipes, rinsing helps rid rice and grains of excess starch. To rinse, place rice or
grains in fine-mesh strainer and run under cool water until water runs clear, occasionally
stirring lightly with your hand. Let drain briefly.

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