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How We Eat: One-pot pastaJulie Van Rosendaal/The Globe and Mail

One-pot meals – dishes cooked in one skillet, pot or sheet pan – have become this generation’s casserole, minus the 9x13 Pyrex and tins of cream of mushroom soup.

Though forms of all-in-one dishes have technically existed for thousands of years, casseroles were the culinary trend of the seventies and eighties, as processed convenience foods increased in popularity and work and extracurricular schedules put a time crunch on dinnertime. Many things have changed from generation to generation, but not the pressure to get dinner on the table every night, nor the desire to have something quick and easy in your back pocket that isn’t a frozen pizza. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

“Pasta with peas has been a kid-friendly dinner hack in my home since my babies were old enough for solids,” wrote Desiree Nielsen, registered dietitian and host of The Allsorts Podcast, in her new cookbook, Eat More Plants. Though kids tend to be particular about what they eat in their own unique ways, all forms of pasta, noodles and rice – and peas – seem to have universal appeal.

You can get Nielsen’s orzo with spinach and peas on the table in less than 20 minutes, with only one pan to wash afterward. Tiny rice-shaped pasta is not only comforting, but quick to cook; you can adapt the recipe to make use of other veggies, bits of leftovers or whatever needs using in your fridge. You can also use gluten-free pasta (or even rice), and it’s easy to reheat single servings with a splash of water or stock. Once chilled, leftovers can also be shaped into patties, coated in panko, and gently fried in a hot skillet, arancini-style.

One-Pot Orzo with Spinach and Peas

Consider this a flavourful, family-friendly upgrade that’s just as weeknight ready as any of your go-to meals. Orzo, a rice-shaped pasta, is as comforting as it comes, and this one-pot meal is risotto-like in texture and easy to customize to suit picky palates. From Plant Magic: A Celebration of Plant-Based Cooking for Everyone, by Desiree Nielsen (Penguin).

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 large yellow onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

3 cups water

2 cups unsweetened oat milk

2 tsp chicken-flavoured vegetarian stock concentrate

2 tsp garlic powder

1 1/2 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp onion powder

1 lb (450 g) dry orzo pasta

6 cups packed baby spinach, coarsely chopped

1 cup partially thawed frozen peas

3 tbsp nutritional yeast

2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 tsp salt, plus more for seasoning

1/4 cup lightly packed fresh mint leaves, thinly sliced

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, five to seven minutes. Add the garlic and stir constantly for one minute. Stir in the water, oat milk, stock concentrate, garlic powder, thyme and onion powder. Bring to a full boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, stir in the orzo, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover with the lid slightly ajar, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the orzo is al dente and creamy, 10 to 12 minutes.

Add the spinach, peas, nutritional yeast, lemon juice and salt. Cook until the spinach is wilted and the peas are heated through, about two minutes. Taste and adjust the salt as needed.

Divide between shallow bowls and serve topped with the mint. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days. Reheat with a few splashes of water in a non-stick skillet to rehydrate the sauce.

Serves four.

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