October 28, 2011

Tempeh Orzilla

by IsaChandra

Serves 4
Time: 45 minutes

I’ve been living some sort of Memento/Groundhog’s Day nightmare in the pasta aisle. Every time I get there, I grab a bag of orzo and think “It’ll be fun to make something with this!” Then I get home and open the pantry door and a whole pile of orzo falls on me and knocks me unconscious. Then I get amnesia, and I head back to the pasta aisle…this goes on for days.

So I thought it was about time I used some orzo. It also happens to be the week where I challenged myself not to use my three most-used spices (cumin, thyme and fennel FYI.) And even though I use anise seed (and got called a cheater on Facebook), it was a learning experience for me because I’ve always been wary of using anise in savory dishes (or fennel in sweet.) But I really dug it here!

The end result was a fun saucy pasta dish full of texture and flavor. Brothy orzo with velvetty ribbons of spinach, succulent bites of sundried tomatoes and garlic. Lots and lots of garlic! I especially loved the texture and flavor contrast with the sausagey bites of crumbled tempeh on top, and the soft saucy orzo below. It was almost impossible to stop eating, and totally perfect for a weeknight meal. Thank the stars I have that pantry full or orzo because I think I’m addicted. I’m calling it Orzilla because Orzo With Spinach And Sundried Tomatoes With Crumbled Anise Tempeh is just too long to type. And because it destroys cities.

8 oz orzo

For the tempeh
8 oz tempeh
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried coriander
1/2 teaspoon anise seed
1 tablespoon soy sauce

For the sauce:
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes (dry ones, not the oil packed kind)
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 cup dry white wine wine
1/2 teaspoon salt
Fresh black pepper
1 cup vegetable broth
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
3 cups baby spinach

To prepare the tempeh:
For time management, I steam the tempeh first, and prep the veggies, then rinse out the pot and boil salted water for the orzo. So, tear the tempeh into bite sized pieces and steam for 10 minutes. Set tempeh aside and proceed with the recipe.

Preheat a small pan over medium heat. Saute tempeh in oil for about 10 minutes, mashing the tempeh into crumbles with your spatula as you go. Add the spices and soy sauce, and saute another 2 minutes, then turn off the heat and cover until ready to use.

To prepare the pasta and sauce:
Boil orzo until al dente, then drain.

In the meantime, preheat a large pan over medium heat. Saute the onion in olive oil with a pinch of salt until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds more.

Add rosemary, wine and sundried tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and turn the heat up to bring the sauce to a simmer. Let simmer until reduced by about half, 5 minutes or so.

Add broth and yeast and warm through. Then add the spinach in handfuls, letting each batch wilt before adding the next. Cook until spinach is thoroughly wilted then turn the heat off, add the orzo, mix well, and serve topped with tempeh crumbles.

  • October 28, 2011 at 12:53 am: Cydney

    2 drops of liquid smoke.

  • October 28, 2011 at 2:19 am: foodfeud

    Oh but fennel would be sooo good in this!! Sounds awesome DESPITE. We have tons of orzo too – all over this recipe.

  • October 28, 2011 at 2:26 am: adriennefriend

    It’s really exciting to hear that such an accomplished cook still learns things. :)

  • October 28, 2011 at 1:32 pm: Farrah P

    I have the same orzo phenomenon….my pantry is loaded with bulk orzo pasta. I will have to make this for certain!

  • October 28, 2011 at 4:24 pm: Ashley Brunner

    HA! “wine wine”

  • October 28, 2011 at 8:23 pm: Stacy

    Tempeh Orzilla smash city!!

  • October 28, 2011 at 10:28 pm: val

    Yum! I love orzo! I will definitely be trying this recipe out in the near future, thanks!

  • October 28, 2011 at 10:55 pm: Kaitlyn@TheTieDyeFiles

    I love how complex this sounds but how easy it seems to put together. I’m on it!

  • October 29, 2011 at 12:26 am: Esen

    I just made this and while I thought it was good, my boyfriend, an omni, pointed out that ‘tempeh always tastes metally’. Then I noticed it as well. Could this be because because I didn’t steam it long enough?
    otherwise was it was pretty good.


  • October 29, 2011 at 2:02 am: Elizabeth

    I made this tonight for dinner. It was so easy to put together! It was so yummy too! Thanks Isa for making a great tasting meal. You rock!

  • October 29, 2011 at 6:17 pm: KZCakes

    Making this tonight! Orzilla sounds so Spanish by the way. I’m into it.

  • October 29, 2011 at 6:55 pm: Katrina

    Mmmm this sounds wonderful!

  • October 30, 2011 at 2:49 pm: violet

    I love love love love PPK! Thank you so much for sharing all your great inspirations!

    Here’s a green request. Is there some way you could alter your website so that I could print out just a recipe? Without the intro and the pages of comments? The way it works now, especially if it’s an old recipe with many comments, we are talkin’ a lotta trees.

    Thank you so much!

    • October 31, 2011 at 2:37 am: IsaChandra

      Yes, I need to get that done. Thanks for the reminder!

  • November 3, 2011 at 5:13 pm: Andrea

    Having just decided to try living a vegan lifestyle for one month (from being vegetarian), I’ve just bought Veganomicon and have discovered your website too – I am very happy :)

    There’s so much I can’t wait to try out and there aren’t enough meals in the day to discover the wonderful recipes you have. My friends are very lucky at the moment – I’m inviting them to dinner to be guinea pigs to test meals out! Looking forward to trying this recipe too.

  • November 5, 2011 at 11:11 pm: Alexander

    How much can you taste the anise in here? Is it a dominant flavour or just one of those things that gives it a sort of depth without really tasting like plain or relatively unadulterated anise? Because that sounds good except I REALLY do not like the taste of anise.

    • November 6, 2011 at 1:49 am: IsaChandra

      It’s subtle, but definitely unmistakable. Do you like fennel seed?

  • November 6, 2011 at 12:03 am: barbara

    Love this recipe! I made it for dinner last night, and the non-veg boyfriend came back for seconds and thirds (he’s usually skeptical of any kind of soy product – no matter how many times I prove him wrong, he’s got this idea in his head that everything soy = bland, mushy tofu).

    I made one change – instead of steaming, I just set the tempeh aside to marinate in the oil and spices for about 20 minutes, then dumped the whole thing into a pan to fry it up. Deelish!

  • November 8, 2011 at 3:47 pm: Kelsey

    Why didn’t I think to look here for a tempeh recipe? I had to use up some and ended up just crumbling it up and using it in spaghetti. lame. Next time!

  • November 10, 2011 at 11:19 pm: Molly

    This was so super yummy…thanks! So happy I found your site, I’ve got 4 recipes picked out for thisvweek already!!!

  • November 15, 2011 at 7:56 pm: Diane

    Made this last night. Huge hit with the husband. First time I ever steamed tempeh before using it, makes a big difference in the dish. Thanks!

  • November 17, 2011 at 5:31 pm: Jill

    I’ve never cooked with wine before–does it make a difference if I use cooking wine (like in the spices aisle) or a drinking wine?

    • November 17, 2011 at 6:10 pm: IsaChandra

      Drinking wine has a better flavor, but cooking wine works in a pinch! Just be sure to use a dry wine, nothing sweet. And I always go cheap, too.

  • November 20, 2011 at 5:01 pm: Sabrina

    Quick question.. Does tempeh taste like tofu? I haven’t had it yet.. I would like to try it, but unsure of the type of brand to get? What brand do you recommend?

    • November 21, 2011 at 4:58 pm: IsaChandra

      It isn’t like tofu in taste or texture. Think of it more as a soybean cake. It has a nutty, yeasty flavor, it’s not neutral like tofu. And I haven’t had a brand that I don’t like.

  • November 22, 2011 at 1:12 am: Ryan

    Would it be total madness to make this using Barley instead of Orzo? I know that would be essentially a different recipe, but I’ve head Orzo used to be made out of Barley, so I don’t know if it would be a dramatic change. Thoughts?

  • November 24, 2011 at 12:43 am: Sequoia

    Ok, we just had this for dinner tonight and it is the bomb!!! The only thing I changed was switching fennel for the anise seed (’cause I was scared : ). Amazingly good; if this is in your next cookbook, I am so going to buy it!

  • December 5, 2011 at 3:23 am: KZcakes

    Can I just say this is maybe the best recipe I’ve tasted in a long long time! My picky-eater boyfriend requests this all the time! So, yeah, you kick a fair amount of ass.. just sayin’..

  • December 7, 2011 at 2:38 am: Lin-z

    Thank-you for this recipe! This is my favorite thing that I’ve made from your website! So delish my “meat-a-tarian” boyfriend requested it again!

  • December 13, 2011 at 3:01 am: Sarah

    This looks awesome!! Nutritional Yeast is really expensive here however. Is it really necessary, or can it be replaced with something else? Also, I’ve never seen sundried tomatoes that aren’t in a jar with oil. If I cant find these dry ones you mention, would the oily ones be ok?

  • December 14, 2011 at 3:30 am: michele

    I have made this twice now and it is amazing:) Both my partner and I love it and will continue to make this recipe!

  • December 14, 2011 at 5:19 pm: lisa

    Loved it!- Quick, easy, and I never knew about simmering tempeh in water before using it to mellow it out! That explains why i liked it out but not at home- until now! Thanks!

  • December 20, 2011 at 5:19 pm: Jessica

    So I SWEAR I had turned my back burner off when I was juggling boiling the orzo and sauteing the veggies, until the manfriend said, “Uhh, what’s burning?” Several obscenities and sniffles later after tossing out the tempeh I’d spent about 25 minutes preparing, I trudged on and added a trusty can’s worth of rinsed garbanzos, along with the anise, coriander, and a splash of soy sauce. And this was still freakin’ delicious! We also added some vegan parmesan and a bunch of red chili flakes. Just FYI for anyone out of tempeh. When in doubt, garbanzos. (I’m getting that tattooed on me.)

  • February 10, 2012 at 12:41 am: Jane

    We LOVE this meal! It’s a little fussy, but gets easier every time. My 11moth old son gobbles this down so fast it’s unbelievable. Husband raves about it too. I’d make it more often if I had tempeh and white wine (suitable for cooking) on hand without having to make a special trip to health food store and liquor store, but when I have both, it’s on the menu! Love your site – very inspiring.

  • February 22, 2012 at 4:07 am: Carla

    I’d like to make this for some friends this weekend. Will it work okay to simply double the recipe?

  • May 9, 2012 at 1:36 am: Twinkier

    Okay, I know that I am late finding this recipe but this is awesome!! Thank you so much for sharing. It was truly a great dish.

  • May 10, 2012 at 1:35 am: Amber

    I just made this tonight after weeks of meaning to. It was worth the wait!!! Thank you Isa!

  • May 30, 2012 at 5:07 pm: El Bat

    My God this looks sooo amazing..you’re making me hungry Isa! I’m so making this asap :)

  • August 22, 2012 at 9:00 am: Bethany

    This was SOOO yummy AND i finally got to use my penzeys anise seeds that have been patiently waiting in the pantry. Perfect meal for a rainy monsoon evening in phoenix! Significant other went back for seconds. Drank the remaining bottle of wine as well…. Thanks for this recipe it made our night an even more enjoyable one!

  • November 11, 2012 at 8:31 pm: Kim

    Hey Isa! have you ever tried cooking orzo like its risotto? I did, got confused and it does do a creamy thing like risotto but retains an interesting texture. My Italian husband is a foody and liked it. Just curious what you might do? LOVE you recipes and have turned friends onto to your site. Thank you :)

  • November 25, 2012 at 9:06 am: Claingbot

    Cooked the sauce with a few olives and poured it over quinoa. The texture and flavour matched the tempeh sauce nicely.

  • February 17, 2013 at 5:11 pm: Sarah

    My husband made this as our dinner entree for Valentine’s Day, and it is DELICIOUS. I don’t often eat Italian dishes because I thought the only vegan protein in Italian food was Tuscan white beans. The spiced tempeh crumbles here are heavenly. Can’t wait to pick up your new cookbook in October, Isa!

  • June 5, 2013 at 12:36 am: Leah

    Just made this…..So Good!! Thanks!

  • June 14, 2013 at 2:57 pm: kara kara

    This was really tasty, but I think it was even better the next day. Makes an awesome cold pasta salad type thing.

  • July 19, 2013 at 7:14 pm: Kimberly

    My teen daughters have trouble with tempeh so I don’t make it often (but want to, as I need to limit tofu and soymilk). This was brilliant, I thought: steaming, then pan-frying till a bit crispy, crumbling and adding spices. My husband and I loved it! Not sure I have the teens on board yet, though. I was more wary of rosemary–used fresh from my garden–than fennel, but neither was overpowering. Wonderful blend of flavors! Great cold leftovers, too, and my husband drew a funny Orzilla picture to label it…

  • July 21, 2013 at 1:00 am: Crystal

    I just made this and think it’s SERIOUSLY one of the best things I’ve ever tasted! So good!!

  • July 21, 2013 at 7:54 pm: Nancy

    This sounds so delicious! I love orzo, not sure about tempeh but want to give it a try. How would it be without nutritional yeast? Would soy sauce or a few shiitake mushrooms be a good substitute source of umami?

  • September 20, 2013 at 3:55 pm: Angela

    made this last night and it was BOSS. subbed fennel seeds for the anise, and it still ruled. THANKS ISA!!!

  • November 28, 2013 at 12:47 pm: Katie

    Yummy! I realized there really wasn’t much tempeh, so I threw in a can of chickpeas with the orzo to bulk it up. Next time I’ll do that and also double the tempeh. This was a good dish for company!

  • January 23, 2014 at 1:34 am: frabjous

    My second time making this, and I substituted farro for the orzo to make it a whole grain meal. Still completely delicious and beautiful, but the farro doesn’t soak up the broth as well as pasta does, so I’ll cut that to maybe 3/4 cup next time. Love it, either way!

  • February 14, 2014 at 6:43 pm: Heidi

    This is a perfect Valentine’s Day dish, too. I add some sliced mushrooms when I saute the onions. Love this recipe!

  • February 25, 2014 at 7:03 pm: Susan

    Made this last night and it was so good! My husband and I kept repeating, “OMG, this is so good, over and over again! How do you do it? You’re recipes never disappoint! This is another winning recipe from ISA Does it! We both LOVE your recipes! It was percect!

  • March 16, 2014 at 12:45 pm: Nicole

    Isa – when you say “dried coriander” – we have coriander seed and ground coriander in our spice cabinet. Should I use the seed?

  • May 22, 2014 at 2:21 am: Diane

    I’m not seeing any sauce in the photo? After adding the broth and nooch, shouldn’t this have created a cheezy sauce?

  • November 17, 2014 at 1:24 pm: Wendy Todd

    Question (this applies to a few different recipes) – when you say ‘broth’ do you mean stock? As in very watery, or do you mean something thicker more like a soup? Sorry – I’m a UK reader/fan and we don’t really use the term broth. I always use stock where you say ‘broth’ but thought it would be a good idea to check!

  • June 18, 2015 at 2:47 pm: Vicki

    Awesome recipe!! We ate the whole thing definitely a keeper .

  • August 21, 2015 at 2:35 pm: Jen

    I made this as directed except excluded the sundried tomatoes as my husband isn’t a huge fan and I didn’t have any anyway. It was outstanding!! I think I will just make the tempeh part on its own it was so delicious! Thanks for a great recipe as always!!