You can cook it pasta-style, in copious amounts of water or broth/stock, draining it when tender. Or simmer it in a small amount, until the liquid is all absorbed. In the latter case, it's nice to first saute the dry orzo in melted butter or other fat, until it is golden brown, or darker, before adding liquid. Or saute some of it, then add more at the same time as the liquid, for two-tone orzo. Orzo can be combined with rice for pilaf.
Anything you would do with orzo can also be done with other mini-sized pasta shapes, like acini de pepe and ditalini. But all of these can also be used like any pasta you'd serve with typical sauces like marinara or bolognese.
Rice & Orzo Pilaf
1 cup long grain white rice
1/2 cup orzo
chopped onion or shallot
2 cups chicken broth
2 tbs canola or olive oil
salt & pepper
1. Heat oil in medium size saucepan. Sautee onions until translucent.
2. Add orzo and sautee until golden, stirring often.
3. Add rice and stir to coat kernels with oil. Add salt, pepper & broth.
4. Bring to boil, then cover and reduce heat to bare simmer. Cook 15 minutes. Turn off heat and allow to rest another 2 minutes so all liquid is absorbed.
This is just the basics and can be varied infinitely -- e.g., by using a different type of broth, adding chopped mushrooms at the beginning with the onions (being sure to sautee the mushrooms until they've released their liquid), or adding other chopped vegetables, etc.
I'm not a fan of orzo as a salad - but then, I don't care for pasta salads, period. Also don't care for it with heavy or red sauces.
I do love orzo as a side dish though, & use it frequently as such. I just cook it up & toss it with extra-virgin olive oil, cooked chopped spinach, & feta cheese to pair up with Greek-style fish or chicken.
Or toss with butter or extra-virgin olive oil, chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley, & chopped sauteed garlic & use as a bed for an impromptu "Shrimp Scampi".
Or simply toss with butter & some freshly grated parmesan.
Two quick and easy sides, both tasty but with minimal ingredients:
Broccoli and orzo http://www.skinnytaste.com/2009/03/broccoli-and-orzo.html
Lemon and Rosemary Orzo http://www.eat-yourself-skinny.com/20...
Mediterranean Orzo Salad
1 cup orzo pasta
1 can sliced ripe olives (2 ¼ oz.) rinsed and drained
1 cup diced red bell pepper
¼ cup crumbled feta cheese
1 packet (1/oz.) Hidden Valley
The Original Ranch Dressing Mix
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
•Cook orzo according to package directions, omitting salt.
•Drain; rinse with cold water.
•Mix orzo, olives, red pepper and feta cheese in large bowl.
•Wisk together dressing mix, oil, vinegar, sugar and basil.
•Stir dressing into orzo mixture.
•Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.
• makes 4 to 6 servings