I don't know where he got his inspiration, but hubby had a stroke of genius last week when he suggested a yummy updated to one of our usual side dishes - cheesy orzo. I present to you cheesy orzo with pancetta and peas (and yes, it could use a catchier title, but oh man, it's tasty!). The dish is quick and easy and only needs orzo, cream, cheddar, pancetta, and peas (chicken stock is optional). I don't use measurements for these kinds of dishes, so it's a taste-and-adjust-as-you-go kind of meal.
Start by cooking however much orzo you want - this can be done in just plain water, or half water/half chicken stock.
While the orzo is humming along, you will want to cook your diced (not finely diced, but not too big either - I know, not scientific, but just roll with it) pancetta (thick cut bacon would probably also work, though I haven't tried that yet). Cook the pancetta a little longer than you would usually cook bacon - the crunchy pieces will be a nice texture addition to the dish (be careful, though - I set off our smoke detectors this first time I made this). You will also want to grate your cheddar cheese and cook your peas (canned peas can also be used, but I tend to prefer the consistency of frozen peas).
Once the orzo is cooked (slightly al dente, but very close to fully cooked), drain it, return it to the pot, and add some heavy cream. Then start adding the cheddar, stirring it in as you add it. Once you are happy with the cheesiness of the orzo, just add the cooked peas and pancetta.
This is a super simple side dish that is a wonderful addition to baked chicken, meatloaf, or fish, and can be adapted in so many ways to fit your preferences. Let me know what you think, if you give it a try! I'd love to hear what some others choose to add to the base of cheese & orzo.