Sunday, 15 January 2012

Greek Style Orzo, Spinach and Almond Feta Bake

Well, I couldn't go far into 2012 without a recipe featuring the blessed almond feta could I? :-) This was a complete experiment but turned out so well and is a MUCH quicker and easier way of using the almond feta - no straining and no cheesecloth - you can use it immediately so it doesn't take days to make, just the same amount of time as any pasta dish would. After blitzing all the feta ingredients in the blender you just mix it with cooked orzo and spinach, also some fresh oregano and spring onion, spread it into a buttered casserole dish and bake it, skipping the straining step altogether. Brilliant.

The end result is something that tastes remarkably like spanakopita but with orzo instead of phillo and I almost called this an Orzo and Spinach Quiche as you slice the end result, it's not a saucy pasta dish, more like one of those pasta quiches, sans pastry ;-) Whatever you want to call it it's absolutely delicious and so super easy to make. You get pretty conservative servings out of this, mostly as it's rich and although the almond feta is pretty healthy it's also pretty calorific, so I cut 6 servings out of my 8" square baking dish. That being said both my husband and I were full and satisfied after this.

To balance the richness I served this with a simple fresh side salad, just crisp lettuce and tomatoes with this amazing mustard dill vinaigrette we've been loving lately. It's quite sharp - that's how I like it and goes absolutely perfectly with the pasta dish. 

** Update - this recipe is proving to be very versatile, read the comments to see changes others have made. I just made this again swapping the spinach with grated zucchini and the oregano with lots of fresh basil and it was just as good! I added the raw grated zucchini and basil to the cooked orzo and poured the sauce over then baked as per instructions. A delicious variation, somewhat light and "summery" :-) **

Greek Style Orzo, Spinach and Almond Feta Bake - serves 6

200g or 1 cup orzo, dry weight
200g chopped fresh spinach
4 spring onions, chopped
1 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano

1 recipe Almond Feta:
150g ground almonds or 1 1/2 cups
60ml lemon juice or 1/4 cup
125ml water or 1/2 cup
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/4 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Get a large pot of salted water on the boil for the orzo and cook according to package instructions. Mine said to boil for 17 minutes and I cooked mine for 15, it was just al dente which is perfect as it'll get another cooking in the oven. Good thing about orzo is it seems to be pretty difficult to overcook ;-) When there is just a couple minutes left add the spinach and cook until it just wilts, it'll only take a minute if that. Drain it all together.

While it's cooking make the almond feta by simply placing everything in a blender and blitzing until super smooth.

Tip the orzo and spinach back into the pot and pour over the almond feta, add the chopped spring onions and fresh oregano and stir well. I added a splash more water here to make sure everything was coated and creamy, actually I added some water to the blender and turned it on to make sure I got all the feta stuck to the sides of the blender ;-)

Vegan butter up a casserole dish, any size that will look like the pasta will fit in will do, I used an 8" square dish. Sorry I got no photos of this, it's too dark at dinner time to take photos this time of year - you're seeing the leftovers for lunch here! Spoon the pasta into the dish, level off the top and pop into the preheated oven and bake for about 30 minutes. It won't really change colour but the top will look dryer and it will be 'set', crucially what happens when you bake it is that graininess the almond feta has when first made goes away when baking, otherwise I would say just eat it without baking!

Slice into 6 servings, or less - up to you, but we found this a satisfying serving with the salad and I do highly recommend the mustard dill vinaigrette here, the sharpness and flavours of dill and mustard go so well together.

Mustard-Dill Vinaigrette:

2 1/2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 Tbsp dijon mustard
1/4 tsp salt
couple grinds black pepper
chopped fresh dill or 1 tsp dried dill

Measure the olive oil into a small bowl then slowly add the vinegar whisking all the while until the mixture is emulsified. Add the dijon, salt and pepper and whisk until thick-ish and creamy, there should be no specks of dijon left. Whisk in the dill. 

I opted for simple fresh lettuce here, you want something really crisp, romaine and butterhead would be a nice combination, add some chopped tomatoes and spoon over some dressing. The rest will keep in the fridge for about a week.

Source: Dressing based on Tea and Cookies Blog's brilliant ratio advice.

Nutritional Information - Orzo bake only, 1 slice out of 6
Calories: 341
Protein: 10.5g
Fat: 19.7g
Sat Fat: 2g
Fibre: 4.7g
Carbs: 33g
Sugars: 2g
Sodium: 519mg

You Might Also Like:

SpanakopitaPizza with Almond Feta, Spinach, Black Olives, Spring Onions and Pine Nuts


  1. This looks fabulous. I love nut cheeses and this looks a great easy way to enjoy it without the waiting around and cheesecloth stuff..will definitely be making this one. I made a tahini orzo salad yesterday. It's such a fun pasta shape :)

  2. I'm not exaggerating when I say that my mouth started watering as I read this post. Holy yummmm!! I need to make this asap. Thank you so much for sharing your recipe!

  3. Many thanks for the comments! Hope you all like it...and a tahini orzo salad sounds fab!!

  4. I cannot believe this. Your bake looks so amazing. Your almond feta is the recipe of the year, at least for me.

  5. Aw, thanks Mihl! Although we'll have to give credit to Vegetarian Times magazine for the almond feta ;-) I still mean it when I say that recipe has changed my life!!

  6. I made this tonight for dinner. I subbed kale for the spinach because that's what I had onhand. It was excellent!! I definitely recommend it big time.

  7. I made this for dinner last night too! I used gf pasta and silverbeet and it was delicious. Now I'm looking forward to lunch because I get to enjoy the leftovers :D

  8. Glad you both liked it Meg and Mandee! So glad to know other greens like kale and silverbeet work well and that it can be made gluten free by simply swapping the pasta!

    I'm thinking a rice bake would be nice too :-)

  9. If I wanted to use real feta, how much would you recommend?

  10. Hi! I have actually very loosely based this recipe on a vegetarian version and halved it. The full version called for 2 cups orzo (400g), 450g spinach and then a cheese sauce made with 60g butter, 2 Tbsp flour, 1.25 litres milk, 250g parmesan, 250g marinated feta and 3 Tbsp chopped fresh dill.

    You make the cheese sauce the traditional roux way and stir it into the cooked orzo and spinach but only add 2/3 of the parmesan, the rest gets sprinkled on top. Then bake for 15 minutes or until golden and bubbly.

    This makes more of a creamy than 'set' pasta bake and you get 6 servings out of it but my version was halved and I still got 6 servings out of it.

    I gotta say though, I have served this almond feta to vegetarians and omnivores – everyone loves it :-)

  11. This is exactly the kind of food I crave! I can't wait to try it. It looks great!

  12. My belly is nice and full of this. I am in heaven!! Thanks so much! This was my first "nut cheese" recipe. So glad I tried it!

  13. Glad you liked it Juju - thanks so much for letting me know!

  14. Made this tonight for our dinner and it was amazing. Thankyou <3

  15. I made this with broccoli and elbow pasta because that is what I had on hand, but the almond feta was made to the recipe.

    It baked well but I should have let it cool before serving because it crumbled and the later pieces stayed together better.

    My omni hubby thought it delish and so did I. Thank you. Just found your blog and am looking forward to trying new recipes!

  16. Thanks so much, glad you both liked it :-) It's nice to know all these variations work out!


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