Usually on the same aisle as Hamburger Helper and other highly processed, low budget foods, Rice-A-Roni has been known to find a home in many college kitchens. When I first tried the stuff out of the box I conceded that, for the price, it seemed like a mildly satisfying college meal. Then I took a gander at the nutrition facts. One box contained nearly my entire daily amount of sodium and would set me back over 600 calories! What had come in such a tiny box would take a large toll.
A challenge arose: could I make it myself and cut down on the bad while increasing the good in my own kitchen? Rice-A-Roni has a nice combo going on – rice AND pasta, both common staple foods, make the dish stretch further for cheaper. Rice-A-Roni has the aisle-side appeal of easy, and on sale, but homemade versions will always allow you more control on taste, texture and other additions. In fact, if you want to give your dish some texture diversity then fry your spaghetti in butter until it is golden brown and crisp, then separate and add at the end to your cooked rice for the perfect contrast between crunchy and fluffy. For variations on flavor you can use beef or chicken broth, add other types of veggies, maybe even some nuts.
My rice-a-roni was delicious, buttery and light – a perfect use of the asparagus that went on sale this week. The asparagus was just fork tender so that it still had a little snap when you took a bite. The vegetable broth is the key for depth of flavor in this dish. I made my own, but feel free to pick up your favorite brand of broth on the soup aisle. Overall, it’s an easy, tasty dish that’s a far cry from bland, boring or boxed.
Homemade Asparagus Rice-A-Roni
2 T butter, unsalted
1 oz angel hair, broken into ¼ths
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
½ cup rice
1 cup vegetable broth
¼ lb asparagus
1. Melt butter in medium sized saucepan over medium heat.
2. Once butter is hot, add in angel hair and fry until golden brown and crispy.
3. Add in onions, cook for about 3 min. Add garlic, cook for another 2 min.
4. Add in rice, cook for about 5 min. Add in vegetable broth, bring to a boil.
5. Cover, cook for about 15 min until rice is cooked and liquid is absorbed.
6. Meanwhile, in another saucepan, boil about 1 cup of water; steam asparagus for about 3-5 min or fork tender.
7. Add asparagus to rice. Dig in!
Makes about 2 large portions.