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.
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!
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
- Melt butter in an oven safe pot over medium high heat on the stove.
- 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.
- 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.
- Mix in the ground beef and red peppers. Cook it all together, and drain off excess fat when needed.
- When the ground beef is browned and the fat is drained, add salt, pepper, tomato paste and cinnamon.
- Stir everything together.
- Add the toasted orzo back to the pot, and pour in the broth. Stir everything together and cover.
- 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.
- Serve hot, with parsley or your favorite fresh herb garnish!
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
- 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)
- 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!
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.