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Egyptian Orzo Pasta – Lesan El Asfour

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This recipe is a twist on a classic Egyptian orzo pasta recipe, called Lesan El Asfour. This savory pasta is so delicious, filling, and comforting. Our mom used to make it for us as kids so this is a very nostalgic pasta recipe for us.

egyptian orzo pasta on a plate with parsley and serving spoon

What is Lesan El Asfour?

If you are unfamiliar with Egyptian cuisine, you may not have heard of Lesan El Asfour before. Technically, the phrase Lesan El Asfour translates directly to mean birds tongue in Arabic. But don’t worry, this dish doesn’t have any real tongues in it.

In fact, the reason why this recipe got its name is because of how similar orzo is to the shape of a birds tongue! We truly love orzo (scroll down to the end for our favorite orzo recipes) so we love that this dish is named for the pasta!

egyptian orzo pasta on a plate with parsley and serving spoon

What is orzo?

You may look at orzo and wonder whether it is a type of rice or a type of pasta. Despite the small, oblong shape, orzo is pasta! Orzo is made from a mix of semolina flour and whole wheat or durum wheat flour. It is then rolled out into long strips and punched into the shape!

Funny enough, orzo translates from Italian to mean barley. So if you thought this was a grain of rice, then you are not alone. We love orzo because it cooks quickly, saving us time in the kitchen. It is also a unique shape, giving our kids something to chat about during dinner!

How to make Lesan el asfour

  1. Melt butter in an oven safe pot over medium high heat on the stove.
  2. Add the uncooked orzo pasta to the pot and stir in the melted butter for about 5 minutes. Toast the orzo until the pasta turns golden brown, then remove from the pot.
  3. Add olive oil, onion and garlic to the pot once the orzo has been removed. Cook it all over medium heat until the onions are translucent.
  4. Mix in the ground beef and red peppers. Cook it all together, and drain off excess fat when needed.
  5. When the ground beef is browned and the fat is drained, add salt, pepper, tomato paste and cinnamon.
  6. Stir everything together.
  7. Add the toasted orzo back to the pot, and pour in the broth. Stir everything together and cover.
  8. Place the pot in the oven at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Based on the texture of the pasta, you may need an additional 5 minutes to reach al dente.
  9. Serve hot, with parsley or your favorite fresh herb garnish!

egyptian orzo pasta on a plate with parsley and serving spoon

A shortcut to make Lesan El Asfour in half the time

We have some great news for you if you want to make this recipe, but don’t have 30 minutes to wait for it to cook. You can make this over the stove top for a speedy version of this recipe! Simply bring the pot up to a boil on the stove after you add the toasted orzo and broth in. Cover and reduce the heat to medium-low for 12-14 minutes, or until paster is tender. It’s so easy and saves a bunch of time.

Orzo dishes that you are going to love!

As we said, we LOVE orzo pasta. It cooks quickly and it is a great texture and shape.

  • Our Creamy Parmesan Spinach Orzo is indulgent in every way – truly a must try! It is so rich and flavorful, but surprisingly only takes a few ingredients. The best part is that the spinach packs a ton of plant based protein, making it a well balanced meal!
  • One pot meals are our go-to for easy weeknight dinners. Our One Pot Mediterranean Orzo Pasta is so yummy and filling, you are definitely going to make it over and over again.
  • If you are in the mood for Mediterranean flavors, but want something a little lighter, then you have to try out Greek Orzo Pasta Salad. It is perfect for cookouts, barbecues and pot lucks!
  • Last but not least, Shorbet Lesan El Asfour is another take on this traditional Egyptian dish. It is a delicious chicken soup, that is so comforting. Our mom used to make it for us whenever we were sick!

Egyptian Orzo Pasta aka Lesan el Asfour

Food Dolls
This orzo pasta is so good and a popular Egyptian dish, made with a tomato spiced ground beef.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 50 mins
Course dinner
Cuisine arab food, egyptian, middle eastern
Servings 6
Calories 493 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 16 oz Orzo pasta
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 diced onion
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red pepper
  • 3 tsp sea salt (more or less to taste)
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 4 tbsp tomato paste
  • 4 cup chicken broth (or choice of broth)

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • In an enameled pot on medium high heat, melt butter. Add orzo pasta. Stir for a 4-5 minutes or until it is lightly golden brown and has toasted. Remove from pot and set aside.
  • Place the pot back on the cooktop on medium heat. Add olive oil, onion, and garlic. Sauté until onions are translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Add ground beef and red pepper and cook. Drain the excess fat.
  • Add salt, pepper, tomato paste and cinnamon. Stir until the tomato paste has coated all the beef. Add the toasted orzo pasta, and broth. Stir, and cover.
  • Bake for 30-35 minutes or until pasta is cooked. Garnish with fresh parsley!

Video

Notes

Note: If you are not a fan of a strong cinnamon flavor, reduce the cinnamon to 1/4 tsp or 1/2 a tsp!

Nutrition

Serving: 6g | Calories: 493kcal | Carbohydrates: 63g | Protein: 28g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 0.4g | Cholesterol: 60mg | Sodium: 1885mg | Potassium: 638mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 674IU | Vitamin C: 21mg | Calcium: 49mg | Iron: 3mg
Keyword easy pasta recipe, egyptian food recipes, middle eastern, middle eastern food, orzo pasta
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

 

Why toast the Orzo pasta? 

If you don’t like mushy pasta, then you have to toast it. It is key! It enhances the flavor by giving it a nutty flavor too.

We used a 4.5 qt Le Creuset enameled dutch oven, find it here

 

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Recipe Rating




29 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I’ve made several of your recipes but this is my first time commenting. All have been fantastic and this one is no exception! I love the simplicity yet depth of flavors. I chose the stove top version and followed the recipe yet added garam masala per a reviewers suggestion. We absolutely loved this! Thank you and keep ‘em coming!

  2. We love this recipe in my house! I usually substitute garam masala for the cinnamon and it’s fabulous!

  3. 5 stars
    Great dish. I found on Pinterest and searched my pantry and found all the ingredients. I used the stovetop method, which worked great. Delicious recipe, Food Dolls!

    1. Hi Ally,

      We love that you tried this using the stovetop method, glad it was a hit too!

      xo,
      Alia & Radwa

  4. 5 stars
    Every single member of my family adored this dish! We were seriously talking about it two days later. Thanks for adding some zip to my recipe book and I am definitely a fan.

  5. After reading all the reviews. I think I will change my dinner plans and make this. All the reviews were good except for one. I like the fact that there is no cheese in the recipe. My daughter is a picky eater and does not like food with cheese in it.

  6. 5 stars
    My family loved this. I will definitely make again. I need to figure out how to do it in the Instant Pot.

  7. 5 stars
    Made this tonight and it was so tasty. I made it as written. The only thing I changed was I only used 1/8 tsp of cinnamon because I’m not a fan. I was worried because it smells vary cinnamonie but it wasn’t. The taste was so delicious and flavorful. I didn’t have a Dutch oven so I used the inside of my crockpot and covered it with tin foil. It worked great but I had to add an extra 10 minutes because of the thickness of the vessel. Thank you for the great meal. I can’t wait to try another one.

  8. 5 stars
    Yum! Super easy to make even when you’re exhausted with two small kids, and quite cost effective. The family ate it all up. Little 7mo had 2 (small) bowls 😂 so we’ll definitely be having it again.
    Delicious ✔️
    Family approved ✔️
    Tired mum approved ✔️
    These girls do good stuff. Keep up the good work because we’re all very much enjoying it. ☺️

  9. 2 stars
    I followed the recipe exactly (except I only did 1/4 tsp of cinnamon – I like cinnamon but it just seemed like way too much). Pasta was overcooked, dry, and flavorless, and I used plenty of salt, and 4 cups of chicken broth (the only broth I had on hand), 4 tbsp of tomato paste and so on. Ground beef from the whole foods – 90/10. Left it in the oven for 35 mins at 350. Will not be making again.

  10. 5 stars
    This is the third fooddolls meal I’ve made and they all have been delicious! I just started trying to make home cooked meals ( I have a newborn and want to one day have some go to recipes ) and it’s been quite intimidating but these recipes have been so satisfying and so easy to make. My husband has loved all of them. Thank you for sharing these great recipes! Please keep them coming!

  11. In the oven right now–smells so good. The directions above don’t mention what to do with the olive oil.

    Also I’m assuming if you are making this dairy free, you can use something other than butter to toast the orzo?

    1. Ohh good catch, we adjusted the instructions. Add the olive oil before you sauté the onions. Yes, you can definitely make it dairy-free by using olive oil to toast the orzo or even toast it in a dry pan without butter or olive oil!
      How did its turn out for you? Let us know how it turned out!

  12. 5 stars
    This was easy to make and the whole family loved it. Thank you for this recipe. I can’t wait to eat some leftovers tomorrow.

    1. We haven’t tried it. I’m sure it’ll work if you do all the steps except for the baking in the oven part!