The Easiest Couscous Risotto with Tomatoes and Mozzarella

Every week on Food52, Caroline Wright creates simple, civilized recipes for Food52 that feed four -- for under $20, in under 20 minutes.

Today: Caroline shares an unexpected pantry staple -- and a recipe to use it in.

Risotto from Food52

Passata -- puréed tomatoes, usually uncooked -- is one of those ingredients that I always keep in my pantry, and I'm surprised that it isn't more common. It lends that bright, tangy flavor of the quickest sauces made from summer tomatoes, so it feels special, somehow, to eat it on a cold winter's day.

This recipe is a pilaf masquerading as a risotto, using the swiftly simmered Israeli couscous pasta in lieu of rice. The result is warm and comforting, reminiscent of a fine risotto and ripe tomatoes.

Couscous Risotto with Tomato, Oregano + Mozzarella

Serves 4

1 1/2 cup passata (from a 24-ounce bottle)
2 cups chicken broth
6 sprigs fresh oregano, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for serving
1 cup Israeli couscous
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 ounces fresh mozzarella, pulled into bite-sized pieces

  1. Combine passata, chicken broth and a sprig of oregano in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a separate saucepan over medium. Add couscous and garlic and cook, stirring, until beginning to toast, about 1 minute
  3. Add remaining oregano and about a third of the broth. Simmer couscous in broth, stirring occasionally to prevent pasta from sticking, until liquid has almost fully evaporated. Repeat twice with more broth until couscous is tender, about 12 minutes total. Remove oregano sprigs.
  4. Fold in mozzarella just before dividing among serving bowls. Drizzle with olive oil before serving.

Save and print the recipe on Food52.

As a freelance food writer and cook, I first wrote this style of recipe as a column on my blog, The Wright Recipes, as an excuse to cook good food for my friends in a quick and simple way.

Twenty-Dollar, Twenty-Minute™ Meals grew into a cookbook that was published by Workman in May 2013. The recipes found here are original, made especially for Food52 to once again celebrate simple food with friends.

Photo by Caroline Wright

This article originally appeared on Couscous Risotto with Tomato, Oregano + Mozzarella