Labor-intensive risotto takes a detour through easy-town in this delicious risotto variation. Bright lemon citrus pairs perfectly with asparagus, spinach, and Sweety Drop peppers. So easy. So quick. So yummy. So what are you waiting for? Let's do this thing.
Bring a large pan with 3 cups generously salted water to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, add orzo pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, 7-10 minutes. Ladle out 1 cup pasta water. Drain pasta in a wire-mesh strainer. Reserve pan; no need to wipe clean. While orzo cooks, prepare ingredients.
Prepare the Ingredients
Trim woody ends off asparagus and cut into 1" pieces on an angle. Crush croutons into small crumbs. Coarsely chop Sweety Drop peppers. Zest lemon, halve, and juice.
Sauté the Asparagus
Return pan used to cook to orzo to medium-high heat and add 2 tsp. olive oil. Add asparagus and cook until beginning to caramelize, 3-4 minutes. Combine reserved pasta water and vegetable base. Reduce heat to medium and stir in pasta water-vegetable base mix to pan.
Start the Orzo Risotto
Reduce heat to medium-low and return drained orzo to pan. Stir in Parmesan, butter, and half the crushed croutons (reserve remaining for garnish).
Finish the Orzo Risotto
Add spinach, Sweety Drop peppers (to taste), and 1 Tbsp. lemon juice to pan. Cook until spinach wilts and risotto thickens, 1-2 minutes. Remove from burner and add ¼ tsp. salt and a pinch of pepper. Taste, and add more salt and pepper, if desired.
Plate the Dish
Place a serving of orzo risotto on a plate or in a shallow bowl. Garnish with lemon zest, basil pesto, and remaining crushed croutons.