Do you like the taste of boxed Rice-a-Roni but have been looking for a healthier alternative? Do you dislike boxed Rice-a-Roni but would still love a delicious and versatile side dish? Whichever camp you’re in, you’re going to love this homemade Rice a Roni recipe! Naturally gluten free and can easily be made vegetarian and vegan.
I grew up with a very health-conscious mom who made every effort to keep us healthy. That included cooking healthy meals from scratch, avoiding processed foods, and only on rare occasions pulling out the boxed stuff. Among those boxed items that made rare appearances was Rice-a-Roni. But as rare as those occasions were, I remember that Rice-a-Roni well because for pre-prepared packaged stuff it tastes good! It’s been ages since I’ve had the boxed stuff because I’ve been making my own variation of homemade Rice-a-Roni for years and not only is it much healthier, it tastes even better! It’s simple, makes a versatile side dish, and is oh so good!
Feel free to change things up to your taste: for example, you can use pecans or pine nuts instead of walnuts, beef broth for beef rice a roni, vegetable broth for vegetable rice a roni, or different herbs or seasonings of your choice. You can even add veggies and some diced or ground meat or chicken for a complete meal.
What is Rice a Roni?
If you’ve never heard of it before you may be scratching your head. Rice-a-Roni is a brand of boxed food that contains of rice, vermicelli pasta, and seasonings. It is similar to rice pilaf and is made easy and convenient. You brown the rice and pasta in butter, add water and the seasonings packet, and simmer until the liquid is absorbed. First introduced in the United States in 1958 and branded as “The San Francisco Treat”, it’s a quick and versatile side dish.
What to Serve with Rice a Roni
Rice a Roni is a versatile side dish that pairs with a wide variety of main dishes and sides. Here are just a few ideas of mains and other sides to pair with it:
- Beef, Pork, Lamb or Seafood Dishes – like our Slow Cooker Pot Roast, Braised Lamb Shanks, Italian Pork Ribs, Osso Buco, Braciole, Senfbraten (German Roast Pork), or Porchetta.
- Chicken Dishes – like our Smothered Chicken, Hasselback Chicken, Chicken Marsala, Coq Au Vin, Chicken Piccata, Chicken Paprikash, Slow Cooker Greek Chicken, or Chicken Wellington.
- Grilled, Roasted or Steamed Vegetables – like our Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic Reduction, Grilled Eggplant, Green Beans Almondine, Roasted Spiralized Beets, Creamed Spinach, Baked Endives with Ham and Bechamel, or Chilled Asparagus with Lemon-Dijon Vinaigrette.
- Salads – like a leafy green salad, Broccoli Salad, Creamy Cucumber Salad, Pea Salad, German Tomato Salad, Bohnensalat (German Green Bean Salad), Greek Grilled Asparagus Salad, Creamy Coleslaw, Steak Salad with Spinach and Roasted Butternut Squash, or a refreshing Waldorf Salad.
Homemade Rice a Roni Recipe
Let’s get started!
We’re going to use long-grain rice (either white or brown) which is important for the consistency and orzo. I like the shape and aesthetics orzo but you can also use broken up vermicelli or spaghetti.
Melt the butter and olive oil in a skillet and add the rice, orzo and chopped walnuts.
Saute until roughly half of the rice and orzo is browned.
Add the onion and saute for another 2 minutes.
Add the broth, herbs, salt and pepper.
Bring it to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer as you would normally cook rice, 15-20 minutes (longer if you’re using brown rice), or until done.
Fluff with a fork and serve.
Homemade Rice a Roni
- 1 cup brown or white long-grain rice
- 1/2 cup orzo , or broken up vermicelli or spaghetti
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 small yellow onion , finely chopped
- 3-4 tablespoons chopped walnuts or pecans
- 3 cups chicken broth (can also use beef broth or vegetable broth)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat the oil and butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the rice, orzo and nuts and saute, stirring frequently, until roughly half of the rice and orzo is browned. Add the onion and cook for another two minutes. Add the chicken broth, salt and herbs and stir to combine.Bring it to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook as you would normally cook rice, about 15-20 minutes for white rice (longer if using brown rice) or until the rice is done.Fluff with a fork and serve immediately.
Originally published on The Daring Gourmet June 21, 2013