I was telling my friend Judy how to make this simple pilaf, and she had a lot of questions and wanted more detail. I remembered not everyone is an intuitive cook, and instructions and measurements are essential for many.

This recipe comes from the Middle Eastern restaurant of my childhood, the El Morocco, in Worcester, MA. Saifie, the Lebanese woman behind the stove, was always happy to share her cooking secrets with my dad, who considered everyone his friend. This pilaf accompanied all the main dishes at the restaurant.

Essential Rice Pilaf
Serves 4

1 C long grain white rice (Dad always used Uncle Ben’s, probably the only thing on the market in the 50’s)
1/4 C orzo, or other small pasta, or broken-up spaghetti
2 T butter, or oil (Saifie used butter, but oil works)
1 bouillon cube, chicken or vegetable
1 3/4 C water

Measure out your rice and pasta and water and keep them near the stove.

In a small 1 qt. saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat until it starts to foam.

Add the pasta, I’ve used fine egg noodles here, but would have used broken spaghetti, alphabets or orzo if I’d had any. Saute over medium heat until the pasta turns a toasty brown, about 3-4 minutes.

Add the rice and stir until the grains become somewhat transparent. This will take a minute or two. Pour in the water, it will bubble and sizzle as everything is pretty hot. Add the bouillon cube, wait a minute, smash it against the side of the pan with a spoon, and stir it in.

Cover, turn down the heat, and simmer for about 20 minutes until the water is absorbed. The aroma of browned butter/oil pasta will permeate the kitchen.

I had a bunch of tomatoes to use up, so I sauteed several with onion, garlic and a green pepper and served this on top!