King Prawn Orzo with Tomato and Saffron

Meet my King Prawn Risotto’s easier, lighter and dairy-free cousin. It uses orzo instead of risotto rice and includes tomato and saffron. This orzotto is less high maintenance than risotto in that the stock is added in four stages rather than by the ladleful. It also comes together much faster as the orzo only needs around 12 minutes to cook.

The star of the show remains the homemade prawn stock, which is out of this world! You’ll need to go the extra mile and buy whole, head-on prawns as it’s the head and shells that pack a flavourful punch and add huge depth of flavour to the stock and finished dish.

  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: Pasta



For the homemade prawn stock:

  • 800 g raw whole extra-large king prawns (head and shell on), defrosted if frozen
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1.5 litre water
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1 small carrot, quartered
  • 1 celery stick, quartered
  • 1 tsp whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1 large pinch saffron threads

For the orzo:

  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 350 g orzo
  • 2 tbsps double concentrated tomato purée
  • 150 ml white wine
  • 1 litre homemade prawn stock (approx.)
  • 1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped


To make the homemade prawn stock:

  1. Peel and devein the prawns, reserving the head and the shells.
  2. Heat a splash of extra-virgin olive oil in a saucepan over high heat. Add the prawn heads and shells and cook, stirring frequently, until they turn red and are very fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. Use a potato masher to firmly smash the heads and shells – this will help release their beautiful flavour.
  3. Add the remaining stock ingredients and stir to combine. Bring the stock to a simmer. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
  4. Strain the stock into a clean saucepan – that is, pass it through a fine mesh sieve, leaving the solids behind. Press down on the shells and vegetables to make sure you’re getting all of the liquid. Stir in the saffron threads, cover and keep the warm over very low heat.

To make the orzo:

  1. Heat a splash of extra-virgin olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and season with a generous pinch of sea salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent and softened, around 5 minutes. You want the onion to cook gently without it taking on any colour.
  2. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly so it doesn’t burn, then add the orzo and stir well to coat in the oniony/garlicky oil. Cook, stirring constantly, until the orzo begins to darken slightly, 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Add the tomato puree and cook until it starts to darken, 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Add the white wine and cook, stirring frequently, until the pan is almost dry, around 1 minute.
  5. Add the homemade prawn stock 200 ml at a time, stirring almost constantly and ensuring the stock is absorbed before adding more. Cook until the orzo is tender and the stock is mostly absorbed but the pan isn’t dry, 12 to 15 minutes. You may not need all the stock.
  6. Stir in the prawns and cook until they’re cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes. If necessary, add an extra ladleful of stock to ensure that the orzo isn’t dry.
  7. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Add the parsley and stir well to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning. Divide the orzo between bowls and serve with lemon wedges on the side for squeezing over – enjoy!

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