Orzo Mac and Cheese Bar

Menu PartAppetizer/Small Plate
orzo Mac and cheese bar

Complex executive chef Thomas Horner

Westin and W Bellevue


Setting up stations at a catered event encourages interaction. At the Westin and W hotels in Seattle, executive chef Thomas Horner stages a mac and cheese bar, offering a variety of toppings so guests can customize this all-time favorite. He opts for rice-shaped orzo instead of macaroni, and uses the risotto cooking technique to turn the pasta into a creamy base.


Orzo mac and cheese

6 qt. chicken or vegetable stock

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

2 cups finely chopped onions or shallots

8 garlic cloves, minced

4 lb. orzo

1 tsp. salt

1 cup dry white wine

8 cups shredded cheddar or other cheese

Ground black pepper, to taste

Topping suggestions

Sauteed sliced mushrooms

Cooked sausage, slices or crumbles

Rendered bacon lardons

Sauteed rock shrimp

Sauteed asparagus tips

Sliced scallions


1. In large saucepot over medium heat, bring stock to a simmer. Reduce heat and keep warm.

2. In large, wide skillet over medium-low heat, heat oil. Add onions or shallots and cook until softened. Add garlic; saute 1 minute. Stir in orzo and salt, coating orzo with oil as you stir to toast slightly.

3. Stir about 2 cups stock and some white wine into orzo. Slowly stir and cook until orzo absorbs liquid. Continue to gradually stir in stock and wine, letting orzo absorb almost all the liquid, until it is creamy but still al dente.

4. Stir in cheese until melted; season with pepper. Transfer orzo to a warming pan and set out with each topping option in a separate vessel.

Photo courtesy of Barilla

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